Richard G. Petty, MD

Predicting Responses to Supplements

The other day I was being asked about the use of S-adenosyl methionine (S-AME) for depression and the same day somebody was asking me about some of the supplements – mainly creatine – being taken by body builders.

The research data for each of these is patchy. When S-AME is injected, it seems to help with mild to moderate depression. But oral S-AME is a different issue, because the compound is about a soluble as sand. Not that much is absorbed, which is why we give fairly large amounts so that some gets into the body. Some research has been positive and some not. Similarly, when we look at creatine, there is a limit to how much can be taken up into the intestines or into muscles.

These are not nit-picky observations: When we take a supplement, it is good to know the chances that it will help. You don’t want to waste money on something that has little chance of getting into your body. It is always possible that a supplement works by some unknown mechanism, and we don’t want to dismiss that possibility: if you take a large dose of Vitamin C, most of it will be out of your body and into the plumbing within two hours. But that does not exclude the possibility that during those two hours it is doing something useful inside your body.

This is why we look at five things:
1.The research data, and also who did the research? With pharmacological agents as well as herbs and supplements, there have been countless examples of research funded by the manufacturer, generating glowing testimonials that don’t hold up to independent scrutiny
2. Individual accounts of benefit. Though they don’t carry the same weight as controlled studies, they can’t be minimized
3.The origin, purity, dose, concentration and expiration of the supplement. With many herbs and supplements there is a great deal of variability in quality control from one company to another and sometimes even from one batch to another
4.The plausibility that a treatment could be helpful. If a medicine cannot get into the body, it is not that likely to be helpful.
5.The possibility that a herb or supplement may be acting by some entirely novel mechanism

Rest assured that when we write our articles, we always check out all of these five things, as well as analyzing all the data in the reports of the research. I have mentioned before that when I read a paper, I sit down with a notepad and calculator so that I can check everything in the study. Many journals now post all the raw data online, and we check through that as well.

There are countless magazines and websites that try to bring you all the latest and greatest information. When you read their material it is a great idea to see if they have checked all of these five points as well as analyzing the data in the studies. Many of them do, but not always.

Some of us have been pulling our hair out every time that we see a well-known marketer present more of his infomercials. He is one of that band of people who quote research without really understanding it, perhaps in the hope that nobody will check up on them!

If you are interested in some herb or supplement, let me know and I shall see if I can help you. And if I do not know, I promise that I shall tell you!

Technorati tags:

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

logo logo logo logo logo logo