Supplementing Your Health

Supplements_Walmart_20100329_LAH_1219Do you take vitamin pills? How about herbal supplements or cures?

There’s so much hype about the benefits of this or that bottle of pills, it’s hard to know what actually helps and what is a waste of money. I was so glad to find this source of scientifically vetted information. This website isn’t trying to sell anything. Rather, it presents “just the facts, ma’am.”

Information is Beautiful summarizes information, then presents the data graphically. The site’s various graphs are works of art; you won’t find a single pie chart. If you’re curious about the underlying sources, simply click on the link at the bottom of the page.

Since I was interested in the value of nutritional supplements and herbal cures, I navigated to the page titled “Snake Oil? Scientific evidence for popular health supplements….” It was just what I was looking for.

Listed under the menu heading “visualizations,” this page portrays the various supplements as bubbles of different sizes and colors, with the most effective “floating” near the top of the screen. It was fun to explore, and I learned a great deal. For example, if you have a cold, echinacea is probably a waste of money, while licorice root might actually help. Yet, how often do you see licorice recommended as an antiviral? (And is this why my black-licorice-loving dad never seems to catch anything?)

One very helpful feature is the “worth it line, ” drawn across the middle of the page. Of course, that’s a subjective opinion, but it’s based on a real cost/benefit ratio supported by research. With the high price of many supplements, it’s nice to have some guidelines on where to spend what dollars you have.

I’d never heard of some of the supplements they mention, such as red yeast rice and beta glucan. Yet, they were at the top of the chart, indicating that taking them is probably a very good idea. Other very popular pills—vitamin C being a good example—were well below the “worth it line.” Anti-oxidants, at least in pill form, were far down the page, with added note that they simply don’t work. (Recent studies have shown that you have to get your anti-oxidants in food, not pills, to gain the benefits.)

Since this site is constantly being updated as new studies are published, I’ll be checking back frequently.

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2 thoughts on “Supplementing Your Health

  1. Wow! What a helpful website! Some things surprised me… I thought that zinc was good for colds. But, I am happy to see that cocoa is great for us!! YAY!

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