Looking Outward

Pete Croatto talks to personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist Michelle Brown about how she views the research behind supplements.

2 Min Read
Looking Outward

Once in s a while, I feel it’s important to ask informed outsider—not supplement manufacturers or trade association heads –about the natural products industry. Given this month’s topic of research and science behind supplements, it seemed like an opportune time to ask Michelle Brown, a personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist, for her thoughts.

How much research for a supplement do you require before you take it or recommend it to a client?

Before recommending any supplement to a client I first look into the history of primary literature peer reviewed research done on a particular ingredient and see what independent researchers have concluded about the ingredient. After compiling this literature I look into how long an ingredient has been sold over the counter and how well received and effective it is in the public eye. The last factor that plays a deciding role in my recommendations is if I personally find value in the supplement or ingredient I am suggesting. [That’s done] of course by trying it myself. I usually find 4 to 6 weeks is sufficient in most cases to allow a fair review of a given supplement.

How important is clarity of language for you in evaluating a supplement's benefits and in recommending it?

Clarity is everything and many companies are not clear on their labels. This industry (supplement industry) has recently been a target of the FTC, who oversees labels and advertising in the U.S.--and for very good reason. The history of supplements has been plagued with fancy verbiage, which misleads customers. I do not pay attention to the front of labels much. What I care about is the ingredients, their dosages, and if the company making the product is GMP certified and has a long good-standing relationship with the FDA and their facility inspections. Again, I look into the independent research and what the researchers find. This is not a full trust in research, but it is the safest approach to getting credible non-bias information.

How much research is too much?

There is no such thing as too much research.

When reviewing a supplement's research what gives you pause?

Not enough clinical trials, or not enough participants in a given clinical trial, or all-together not enough research.

What do you want to see from supplement manufacturers regarding science and research? Anything goes.

I want to see proven, patented ingredients being used and suggested at full clinical dosages. I would also be delighted to see an industry with absolutely no proprietary blends. This would help reduce the amount of players in this industry, especially those out for profit through deceiving the customer.

About the Author(s)

Pete Croatto

Contributing Editor

Pete Croatto is a freelance writer in Ithaca, New York. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Grantland, SI.com, VICE Sports, and Publishers Weekly. 

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