You may have read our posts about dietary supplements and already be familiar with our strong support of real, whole foods over pills. In previous writings, I advised moderation for folks who mine for shortcuts in the form of vitamins, bars and powders. Today, I read something that is causing me to make the same suggestion more emphatically. From sciencedaily.com:
While dietary supplements may be advertised to promote health, new research shows a link between consumption of over the counter supplements and increased cancer risk if the supplements are taken in excess of the daily recommended amount.
Overdoing most consumables causes something, but you’d be hard pressed to eat enough blackberries or spinach to induce bodily harm.
Athletes are constantly looking to boost performance and gain a competitive edge. I remember a product still used in clubhouses around the country called Fast Twitch. The supplement, according to GNC, promotes “Explosive Strength Performance,” “Total Body Pumps,” and “Protection of Lean Muscle.”
If I’m a young, naive athlete, I may read those claims and think if one scoop is good, four is outstanding. Mixing more rather than less would be my default in an effort to derive as many of the benefits of this product as possible. Moreover, it’s a caffeinated mix. So, as my body becomes accustomed to the energy boosting properties, I need more to feel its effects. Sound like drugs? Right.
As a Brewer in Milwaukee in 2008, I experimented with this product. I drank it during workouts and before games for a while. It was fluorescent pink. I do not need Science Daily to know that only powerful artificial colors can create that look. Supplement makers know that often times, their powders and pills’ active ingredients has been degraded by exposure to the elements and adding color protects the look. After long shelf lives and truck travel, that baby blue powder still looks “fun.” From Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food:
One of the problems with the products of food science is that, as Joan Gussow has pointed out, they lie to your body; their artificial colors and flavors and synthetic sweeteners and novel fats confound the senses we rely on to assess new foods and prepare our bodies to deal with them. Foods that lie leave us with little choice but to eat by the numbers, consulting labels rather than our senses.
We are consistently educating and being educated around here. We are perpetually hunting for marginal value and discovering new information about what we put into our bodies. But what about the 18 year old making his first foray into the Midwest League, looking for a boost to get through the first month of cold weather? He’s undoubtedly searching for some liquid courage to help him remove the parka and go run his sprints down the first base line. Fast Twitch makes you want to press play when you’re sluggish. That 18 year old may not be reading the label and carefully measuring. Over the years, he may be putting himself at risk.
Fast Twitch (and most dietary supplements) is filled with ingredients both foreign and potentially detrimental to your body’s complex system, particularly if taken in large quantities and over a longer period of time. The following is a long, alarming passage. I’m including it, not to monger fear, but to provide the athlete readers of this blog with an alternative view to the one promoted by some nutritionists, teammates and other folks believing they are providing innocuous advice.
“We are not sure why this is happening at the molecular level but evidence shows that people who take more dietary supplements than needed tend to have a higher risk of developing cancer,” explains Byers, associate director for cancer prevention and control at the CU Cancer Center.
The line of research started 20 years ago with the observation that people who ate more fruits and vegetables tended to have less cancer. Researchers including Byers wanted to see if taking extra vitamins and minerals would reduce cancer risk even further.
“When we first tested dietary supplements in animal models we found that the results were promising,” says Byers. “Eventually we were able to move on to the human populations. We studied thousands of patients for ten years who were taking dietary supplements and placebos.”
The results were not what they expected.
“We found that the supplements were actually not beneficial for their health. In fact, some people actually got more cancer while on the vitamins,” explains Byers.”
Avoiding the shortcuts may seem daunting. The vivid colors are attractive. Act powerfully, examine the motives of the supplement companies and hunt quality food instead.