Consumers, manufacturers, and marketing companies all benefit when well-designed human clinical trials have been conducted on specific dietary ingredients. Results of clinical trials are the preferred evidence for establishing the benefits and safety of dietary ingredient use. This is true of regulatory agencies, the healthcare community, and consumers.
Consumers feel more comfortable that a specific product is shown to be effective and safe, while manufacturers and marketing companies have more assurance that money spent on marketing and advertising is made on a sound basis and that the results of advertising will produce revenue. It also provides them with the substantiation regulatory agencies expect a company to have for any claims made.
If consumers are to make the best use of their health care dollars, they want and need to know that there are true benefits from using the supplements that are being marketed. Clinical trials are the first line of evidence that there is proof of real, and not simply perceived, health benefits from taking a given supplement. Given the recent, overwhelming amount of negative media coverage on dietary supplements, evidence in the form of human clinical trials that show safety and efficacy are essential to win and keep consumer loyalty.
The days of only using in vitro and animal studies as the sole evidence for the marketing of supplements has, I hope, come to an end. Although in vitro and animal studies are interesting and can point to mechanisms of action, they should never be used as proof of supplement efficacy without human clinical trial data. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and imagine reading about rat studies for a product they are thinking of using. The first thought you probably have is, “But I’m not a rat – why would this mean it works for me?” quickly followed by, “They tortured animals!”
Human clinical trials will never get this reaction.
Consumers are more educated today, and have access to far more information than ever before, so manufacturers and marketers need solid proof of safety and efficacy to support sales efforts. It is also a question of ethics to confirm what you assume about your products. Indeed, a manufacturer or marketer can build his reputation better on well-conducted clinical trials. This means that placebo-controlled trials of a sufficient size showing a significant health result are conducted. Sharing this information will benefit everyone involved.
With media-driven questions about the legitimacy and integrity of the products we sell and the industry itself, well-designed human clinical trials are no longer the cherry on top, they are the dessert—and a week of meals.