The supplement industry is no stranger to the headlines. Between the industry’s skyrocketing growth, new influencer beauty supplements and the customized vitamin craze, it’s hard to keep up. But in the last few days, two crucial studies were released that have the potential to shift the supplement landscape.
Here’s what you need to know about the two latest supplement studies, and how they affect you if you’re one of the 71% of American adults who take dietary supplements.
Debunking the women-whey myth, once and for all
A major study from Purdue University confirmed what bodybuilders and protein powder aficionados have known all along: whey protein is just as beneficial for women as men, and it doesn’t cause them to bulk up.
The senior author of the study summed up the findings this way: “There is a public perception that whey protein supplementation will lead to bulkiness in women, and these findings show that is not the case. Whey protein supplementation favors a modest increase in lean mass of less than 1 percent, while not influencing fat mass.”
For the study, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, researchers scoured thousands of articles and studies to conclude that whey protein may help women who are after modest improvements to their body composition.
The myth of bulking up has long prevented more women from lifting weights. Whey protein, meanwhile, has been shown effective in increasing muscle mass, and tends to perform slightly better than many other protein powders on the market.
Some vitamins don’t deliver results
A bombshell report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that multivitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and calcium supplements had no “significant effect” on health. Folic acid and the B vitamins, though, were found to be beneficial.
For the study, researchers analyzed trials from a five-year period to see what effect, if any, a number of popular vitamins had on health. In the study, the authors wrote, “In general, the data on the popular supplements (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C) show no consistent benefit for the prevention of CVD, MI, or stroke, nor was there a benefit for all-cause mortality to support their continued use. At the same time, folic acid alone and B-vitamins with folic acid, B6, and B12 reduced stroke, whereas niacin and antioxidants were associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality. Overall, the effects were small; the convincing lack of benefit of vitamin D on all-cause mortality is probably the reason for the lack of further studies published since 2013.”
What the studies mean for supplement takers
In recent years, dietary supplements have enjoyed widespread use in the U.S. More than 71% of U.S. adults take dietary supplements—77% of adult women, 65% of adult men. A whopping 97% of dietary supplement users take vitamins and minerals, with 75% taking multivitamins. More than 4 in 10 of those supplement takers do so for overall health and wellness benefits, while 30% do so specifically for energy.
What do these studies mean for the majority of American adults who take supplements? For starters, it should make women feel confident in taking whey to fuel lean muscle—not masculine bulk. With the results of the Purdue study, you can expect to see a lot more research into the particular benefits of whey protein powder on women as opposed to men. (Our top-rated whey protein powder is a good place to start if you’re ready to try whey.)
Whereas consumers typically take fitness supplements—protein powders, gainers, fat burners and pre-workout supplements—to help achieve particular goals, a much wider swath of the population takes vitamins and minerals, for a startling variety of conditions. We can get these essential vitamins and minerals through food alone, barring a poor diet or other health issues.
The results from the recent vitamin study reinforce why it’s important to understand what supplements you choose to take and talk with your doctor or nutritionist to see if they’re beneficial to achieving your health goals. The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, and the study showed that the most popular vitamins did not improve cardiovascular health or a variety of other conditions often found in marketing campaigns or product descriptions.
The moral of the story? Read quality reviews, talk with your doctor and ensure you know the true effect of everything you’re putting into your body. (If that includes protein powders, view our top-rated products.)