BOZTEPE: Dietary supplements require regulation

Opinions Column: Kaanotations

Welcome to this week’s, “What Kaan Jon finds wrong now," where I inevitably discuss a flaw that is often overlooked. Today’s topic: supplements. Also known as the holy grail of getting fit quick, from your creatine shakes to your whey protein isolate, yet most people do not realize just how dangerous and short-term these stimulants are. The ordinary pre-workout mix contains high dosages of caffeine, creatine, an abundance of vitamins, silicone and many more ingredients — or so we think. I say this because, contrary to common belief, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate or thoroughly examine if the ingredients on the label of a supplement is even in the bottle. Scared yet? Let us continue. 

Supplements are not considered drugs and due to this odd circumstance they do not have the same requirements and safety measures that prescriptions do. Dietary supplements do not have to be proven safe or effective. According to the American Cancer Society, “In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) defined dietary supplements as a category of food, which put them under different regulations than drugs. They are considered safe until proven otherwise.”  Manufacturers are not required to test the ingredients found within supplements or put them through any clinical trials. That is past a red flag notice, this means that many dietary supplements can be tainted with pesticides, not contain what it says it does on the label, contains less than the amount that is said on the label or worst of all, it might contain ingredients that are not even listed on the label. 

Next let us talk about practicality. Unless your glutamine levels in your body are low, do you really think you need a 5,000 milligram dosage a day of it for the sake of gains through amino acids? The answer is most probably no. You must go to your doctor first and test your nutrient levels to see what vitamin deficiencies you may have in your body. Some supplements do have adequate amounts of essential nutrients, but none of them can take the place of a nutritious diet. Now, a good amount of vitamins are actually FDA approved and sold in pharmacies, so I would like to strictly focus on herbal/dietary/fitness supplements. I say this because the FDA guarantees that they follow good manufacturing practices (GMPs) that help to ensure the identity, purity, strength and composition matches the label of the supplements. 

A majority of pre-workout supplements have a proprietary blend of ingredients that the company says is responsible for the energy boost. Sorry to break it to my readers, there is no magical blend. That boost is caffeine. For example, one of the top selling brands, GNC Pro Amp, contains about 2 cups of coffee worth of caffeine in one dosage. Caffeine, if regulated, can actually be a great stimulant to improve an individual’s metabolic rate, endurance and lessen fatigue. But, too much caffeine, as indicated in the GNC supplement, can lead to over working the central nervous system, which can dramatically deteriorate one’s brain functions, whether it be in an immediate fashion or in long term side effects. 

Supplements in moderation can still be a useful additive to your diet. This paper is just a call to action for my readers. I want my readers to be aware that the FDA does not regulate supplements and until they do, please do extensive research on the manufacturer, the parent company, make sure you purchase them from trusted pharmacies and not online and just be wary. Go to your doctor and test your vitamin and nutrient levels to see if you have deficiencies in any aspect. Just to clarify, you do not need any supplements if your diet is balanced and healthy unless you have a specific ailment that causes you to lack a specific vitamin. 

At times where your diet is not on par, supplements can help replenish some of the vitamin deficiencies you’re currently having, and as I mentioned before vitamins are beginning to become FDA approved and are normally sold in trusted pharmacies. Nonetheless, the workout supplements are not necessary and the proprietary blends used cannot normally be trusted along with the fact that the dosages are normally much more than what your body needs. Want to get fitter and stronger? Learn which proteins to consume, which fibers you need to balance that, the amount of carbohydrate intake you should have daily and play around with the food chain. If one can research a billion different types of supplements an hour, the same can be done with which foods would be most beneficial for your body. Your body is not a testing subject and your health is not worth jeopardizing. 

Kaan Jon Boztepe is a School of Arts and Sciences junior double majoring in philosophy and history. His column, "Kaanotations," runs on alternate Wednesdays.  


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