The Secret Side of Supplements

A fitness and health craze has taken over State College and the Penn State community over the past few years. New fitness studios like F45 and Orangetheory have moved into town alongside new restaurants that boast menus overflowing with healthy choices.

In a town of college students where many people focus on their fitness and health during the week in order to look their best on the weekend, many turn to supplements to enhance their results.

Common supplements many have tried include proteins like whey, soy, pea and more. Whether you’ve used them yourself or know of someone who uses them, protein powders are a convenient and quick way to replenish nutrients after a workout.

While supplements can be a way to do just that — supplement your diet — many people overlook the potential negative aspects of them.

A fact that may come as a surprise to many is that most supplements are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that the supplements you consume on a regular basis may contain ingredients not listed on the label and vice versa.

Dr. Kevin M. Holthaus, medical director at North Florida Medical Clinic in Jacksonville, studies internal medicine and has been involved with sports at both high school and college levels.

Supplements are widely used by athletes and regular gym-goers for their recovery benefits, but they can contain unwanted substances. Hormones like DHEA can sneak their way into supplements and can be taken by people who have no need to consume excess amounts of it in order to maintain hormonal balance.

“Some of the additives besides protein have adverse effects on your blood pressure,” Holthaus says regarding protein powders. “DHEA may be put in the supplements which can affect testosterone levels.”

Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA, is a hormone that is naturally produced by the adrenal glands, where other hormones like testosterone and estrogen are also produced. However, according to Mayo Clinic, as a person grows older their natural levels of DHEA drop. Thus, older people might consider using supplements containing the hormone to maintain the benefits of DHEA.

Protein powders are commonly taken to strengthen muscles and bones after a workout, but DHEA can do just the opposite if included in a protein supplement. Research conducted by members of the Endocrinology unit at Maggiore-Bellaria Hospital in Bologna, Italy have studied how that DHEA does not at all increase muscle mass or muscle strength.

Not all supplements are bad for you, and while many can be very beneficial, how can you tell if your supplement is safe to consume when there are brands out there sneaking potentially harmful hormones and chemicals into their products?

The FDA has a list of guidelines on how to be a safe and informed consumer of supplements. It urges people to be wary of headlines and not to assume a product is healthy simply because it is marketed as such. Consumers are also cautioned to be aware of and to look out for the ingredients in supplements that can be harmful or toxic.

Many people ignore the labels that advise you to consult with your physician prior to consuming a new vitamin or supplement. However, it’s actually very important to talk to someone with credible knowledge on the nutritional value of certain ingredients to ensure that the supplement that you’re adding to your workout regimen is the right one for you.

Supplements can be a helpful way to get those gains you’ve been really working for, but only if you do your research and choose the right type for your body.


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