Evaluating Supplements

The following guidelines may help decide whether a product has legal performance-enhancing properties or is just marketing hype.

  1. Are the claims based on sound physiological or biochemical principles? Speak to a reputable coach, Health and/or Physical Educator, Dietician, Doctor or Exercise Scientist. If you are taking medications for a medical condition a visit to your doctor is a must to ensure no interactions of the supplement with your medication(s).
  2. Are the claims based on scientific fact or testimonials of high-profile athletes or individuals?  If it’s testimonials alone, be sceptical. Check out the scientific claims by a web search. In particular, check out whether the claims have been scientifically validated and written up in scientific journals (check out: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi/ that is the National (USA) Library of Medicine website and free to access. If papers in this database support the claims, have faith of the claim’s validity.
  3. Is the supplement safe, ethical and legal? Check out the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) website (www.asada.gov.au/) for information on most drugs/supplements.
  4. Who operates the website or produced the marketing? If it is a non-profit organization such as the government, a University, reputable organization rather than a for-profit business, it’s more likely unbiased.
  5. Did someone with a qualification (e.g. PhD or degree in medicine or dietetics) produce the marketing blurb? If so, it’s more likely the information is correct.
  6. Are the claims too good to be true? If so, it probably is!
  7. Check out the labels on the products and if there is not enough information there, contact the manufacturer on the telephone or by mail and then evaluate the information as above.

An excellent paper on evaluating supplements is available at the United States Food and Drug Administration for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition website at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/ds-savvy.html