Spend any time watching TV or scrolling social networks and you will inevitably watch commercials for pills, powders and potions that promise to increase muscle, lose fat, improve your focus and resurrect youth.
Most of us have enjoyed them. According to recent estimates, the National Center for Health Statistics found this more than 50% of all adults in America have used supplements for the past 30 days. The center used data for 2017 and 2018, but more recent surveys suggest that this figure should be closer more than 70%.
Worldwide, the food additive industry has been worth exceeding value $ 140 billion in 2020. In the US alone, this figure is estimated to be approximate $ 36 billion – despite evidence that most of these supplements do not work.
How have products with questionable benefits and expensive prices become so popular? Nutritional supplements are not a new phenomenon. Their history spans at least 150 years, and they have been able to thrive in the U.S. thanks to false promises, fanatical supporters and weak regulation.
Inflammation of appetite for alternatives
Given the bizarre claims that can adorn supplement labels, it’s no surprise that some of the first lovers of supplements were religious figures. Their supplements were not pills but alternatives to food.
Sylvester Graham, born in 1794, was an American Presbyterian minister who preached salvation through a vegetarian diet.
Part of Graham’s teaching focused on moderation and whole grain products. Graham’s followers made and sold Graham’s bread, crackers and flour with the promise that these foods will promote righteous living and eternal salvation.
While Graham did not officially approve of these products, his spiritual successor, Dr. John Harvey Kelag, was an avid supporter of his family’s new product line. A doctor, an inventor and a businessman merged into one, Kellogg ran his own health resort in Michigan – health resort Battle Creek -during the late 19th-early 20th century. Although he did not make cornflakes – it was his brother Will – Kellogg was responsible for selling flour, protein substitutes, granola and peanut butter. Like Graham products, Kellogg products have been linked to improved health and well-being.
Graham crackers and granola may seem relatively benign compared to some health and wellness products sold today, such as detox teas and vitamin-fortified waters. But they were nonetheless important in promoting the still powerful message that underlies most of the supplements we see today: This product will improve your health and life.
Fitness supplements are becoming fashionable
When teaching this topic to students, I retell a discovery made by historians John Ferram and Daniel Hall when they investigated the history of protein powders.
Sometime in the 1940s, American nutritionist Paul Bragg turned to barbell maker Bob Hoffman.
At the time, Hoffman was earning a small fortune by selling his barbell training equipment across the United States. Meanwhile, Bragg has firmly established himself as a leading expert on alternative nutrition. Sensing a potentially lucrative partnership, Bragg wrote the idea to Hoffman.
In the letter, Bragg told Hoffman about a fundamental flaw in his York business: his products were durable. If someone bought a kit with a barbell in the 1930s, chances are they could still use it in the 1950s. Bragg recommended selling supplements that would need to be replaced every two weeks or monthly.
Hoffman decided to partner with Brag, but quickly recognized the potential of the idea. In the 1950s, nutritionist and bodybuilding coach Irving Johnson began selling protein supplements in Hoffman’s Strength & Health magazine. Made from soy, Johnson’s “Hello Protein” powder had tremendous success.
A year later, Hoffman banned Johnson from publishing in his magazine and began selling his own. “Hi-Proteen“Powder. Protein supplements as an industry have increased in size and volume. In the 1960s, soy protein products were eventually replaced by milk protein powders. By the late 1990s, there were several other derivatives ranging from pea protein to collagen powders.
The size and scope of other proposals increased over time. Vitamin and mineral supplements have become popular in the 1950s. Energy drinks and boosters, such as creatine, began to fly off the shelves in the late 1980s – early 1990s. Prohormones – which are thought to build muscle and were eventually banned – were introduced in the early 2000s. Every decade profits increased, as did creativity in product branding.
Unusual promises were commonplace. Vitamin manufacturers have promised cancer medication, protein powders are advertised steroidsand pre-workout supplements — often with methamphetamine- offered boundless energy.
The state authorities did little to stop them.
This was not due to a lack of attempts. The supplement industry and the federal government have long been playing the cat and mouse game.
When Hoffman and others began selling supplements, they were technically subject to the policies of the Food and Drug Administration. But during the 1950s the FDA was poorly equipped to regulate dietary supplements. However, some bizarre claims by manufacturers and unhygienic practices began to attract the attention of the regulator, which soon sought to gain more control.
By the 1960s, Hoffman – who regularly claimed that his products had gained pounds of muscle in a short time – had become an FDA target. The secret of his Hi-Proteen powder? A a large mixing vat in which he mixed Hershey’s chocolate powder along with soy protein powder using an oar.
Hoffman was regularly censored but never stopped. During the 1960s and 1970s, the FDA regularly associated horns with manufacturers because of their weak production methods and distrustful claims.
The problem was that the FDA was never able to fully regulate the industry.
From 1968 to 1970, Congress has held several public hearings on FDA plans to regulate applications. Legislators, trade associations of supplements, manufacturers and citizens discussed restrictions and bans on certain foods, such as a ban on the sale of nutritional supplements with nutrients that exceed 150% of the daily consumption recommendations.
Public and private resonance has stopped such plans. The FDA has been forced to regulate light touches. In 1975, a court ruling allowed the supplements to be advertised as natural. A year later, Rogers Praxmeer Law has banned the FDA from imposing restrictions on the amount of vitamins and minerals in supplements.
The FDA has reserved the right to make unfounded or misleading claims, but this has slowed the industry down a bit. The number of products continued to grow.
Simply put, it was impossible to control what was included in the products. This also explains why so many supplements contain a note stating that they are not FDA approved or approved.
In the early 1990s, the FDA resumed its efforts to regulate the food additive industry. In particular, the agency wanted to increase its own enforcement powers, while making it illegal to advertise therapeutic claims on supplement labels. Once again, private lobbying and public outcry have weakened the agency’s powers.
In 1994, Congress passed the Health Supplements Act, which completely changed the nutrition landscape. Supplements are now classified as foods, not drugs or dietary supplements. By classifying dietary supplements as foods rather than drugs, this act reduced burden of proof for manufacturer’s claims.
The legislation has also expanded which products can be classified as supplements – and therefore do not fall under the FDA’s remit.
Today, manufacturers are responsible for self-regulating their potentially harmful products. It does expose manufacturers to litigation, but it can be a long and protracted process for consumers. In fact, supplements are marketed before careful testing. So many products are sold despite the content prohibited substances.
The only promise wrapped in a pill
Since the mid-20th century, dietary supplements have been promoted in various ways in the United States. But, recognizing the differences in product, taste and price, they are usually sold on the basis of one promise: this product will in a sense improve your life.
True or not for a single product – some supplements really help creatine is one example – it has become problematic on a wider scale. The US federal agency has been constantly prevented from properly controlling the market. Private lobbying and public response to what the government wants »take away vitamins“encourage rule violations and dangerous messages.
Mel Gibson urges people to “call the U.S. Senate and tell them you want to safely take vitamins.”
A study since 2018 found 776 cases of unauthorized pharmaceutical ingredients that were added to dietary supplements in the U.S. from 2007 to 2016. Many of these supplements were relatively harmless. But several ingredients – from steroid compounds to banned weight loss drugs – were missing.
Supplements can promise a lot. But really most of them are faith.
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