Myths Busted - Do Supplements Work?
My name is Paul Clayton, I have a PhD in clinical pharmacology and for the last half a century I have been studying the pharmacological effect of foods and food extracts, and how these can be used to improve your health, reduce your chances of illness and to make you feel and function better.
Dr. Paul Clayton, PhD - Director of Science, LYMA
What’s your view on the present state of the supplement market?
Lack of regulation: There are a lot of problems with the supplement industry in its current form. The regulation I think is extremely poor. Most of it is focused on preventing manufactures of supplements saying exactly what their products can do. The burden of proof is excessively high and at the same time there are no regulations in place to prevent the large numbers of very shoddy and dysfunctional products being put onto the market.
What are the benefits of vitamin supplements to the average, healthy consumer?
Generic supplements are tailored to remedy deficiencies, but that’s not relevant in the developed nations where diet is good. In general nutrition is all about fats, carbohydrates and proteins. The world of supplements tends to move around that, although there are sports supplements which tend to contain medium chain triglycerides and proteins. The world of supplements generally works with vitamins, minerals, some essential fatty acids and fibre peptides, none of which are particularly well substantiated, at least not in an averagely healthy population. They’ve been shown to remedy deficiency states of course, but that simply doesn’t apply to most markets in developed nations today.
What to look for when selecting an effective supplement?
A lot of supplements are formed by companies who don’t know and who don’t care what they’re putting in their products. They can get away with this as consumers don’t understand what they are buying. I don’t have a lot of time for the supplement business. A lot of supplements are formed by companies who don’t know and who don’t care what they’re actually putting in their pill bottles. These products are bought by people who don’t really understand what they’re buying. This is no way to run a business. It’s a shame because the potential benefits of well-designed nutrition are real and very significant. So, what should you look out for? I think that if all you want is a nutritional foundation, your basic vitamins and minerals that’s fine and legitimate. Make sure they’re presented in the right form dosed at the right level and buy from a reputable supplier. There are plenty of them around that are using shoddy and substandard materials.
What should consumers look for when selecting an effective nutritional product?
Select nutraceuticals that use patented, trademarked extracts. Go for transparency. If you’re interested in improved functionality then go for the supplements or nutraceuticals which have used genuinely validated extracts. These are extracts that have been intensively researched, they’re expensive so it beholds the company involved to patent their extracts. Look for products which contain trademarked compounds like these, where there is a peer reviewed literature behind them that proves their preclinical and clinical functionality. Go for transparency.
What is a nutraceutical?
Nutraceuticals are shown in preclinical and clinical trials to work. Nutraceuticals are moving the framework of the supplement debate a little wider. Firstly, these tend to consist of food extracts or herbal extracts which have been shown to have very specific actions on markers such as stamina or chronic inflammation or mood; and which have been shown in preclinical and in clinical trials to work, and where we have some idea of the mechanism of action. In short, nutraceuticals are a plausible story; starting with the full structure of the molecule, its characterisation, safety and toxicology. This provides assurance of any potential health problems, and demonstrable effects over and above standard nutrition.
What makes LYMA stand out in the market?
LYMA is the first of its kind and setting the standard for the next generation of evidence-based nutrition. LYMA isn’t exactly a supplement, at least not in the old-fashioned sense. The key aspect of LYMA that I find very interesting, and I believe is a step in the right direction is that it uses exclusively actives which have been validated. These aren’t your standard run of the mill vitamins and minerals. These are typically food or herbal extracts which have been shown in clinical and preclinical studies to have a specific effect. This kind of research is very expensive, so in many cases there is strong intellectual protection. These extracts are patented and for the first time you have a generation of products like LYMA. The first of its kind, which do what they say on the can. Which have a substantial body of evidence behind them and set the standard I think for the next generation. This is evidence-based nutrition.
What is a patented ingredient?
Patented ingredients are compounds or extracts which are backed by considerable financial investment and characterises molecules in a way no one else has done before. In the nutritional business there are plenty of ingredients that are generic. That is, they are found in nature, everybody uses them, there is no licencing aspect. Conversely there are some compounds and extracts which can be patented, because a company has invested a lot of money and has characterised the molecule in a way that no one else has done. Or they have perhaps first discovered and first identified the molecule. Patenting ingredients tend to come from these kinds of angles.
Why are clinical studies important?
When you put together a generic list of ingredients you haven't be able to prove your claims as that particular combination hasn’t been tested before to confirm any interactions. In most supplement brands you will see a fairly generic list of vitamins, minerals or certain phytonutrients. The supplement manufacturer makes some kind of rather vague and fairly meaningless claim that its formula will give you more energy, or you feel a sense of wellbeing etc. And you have to be able to prove that because that particular combination hasn’t been tested before. You don’t know what the interactions are between the different actives? Are they all doing the same thing? Do they cancel each other out? It makes sense to have them tested.
Why doesn’t LYMA need a clinical study on its final formula?
LYMA doesn’t require a clinical trial on the final formula as each of the actives in LYMA have been fully validated and proven not to interfere with each other. Each of the actives in LYMA have been fully validated. Because they’re all doing different things and because the molecules themselves are of different kinds, they don’t interfere with each other. One doesn’t stop the absorption of the other, because they go to different parts of the body. The whole is the sum of its products. There is no real need to test the final LYMA formula because each of their constituent parts the data is there for anyone to see.
Is it best to go for all-natural organic supplements?
You have to look at each ingredient on an individual basis. There are foodies and people who take supplements who swear that everything has to be all natural all of the time. Organic I do have some sympathy with, but the reality is you can be a little more granular. There are some nutrients such as vitamin C, where it really doesn’t matter whether what you’re taking is vitamin C cherry extract or a synthetic form, because the molecule is so simple that it’s identical. There are some of the molecules which have what they call stereoisomerism; in other words, you can have molecules which are either right or left handed. They both look the same but they’re not, they’re certainly different. This is true in the tocopherols tocotrienols in the forms of vitamin E, and therefore I would always recommend using the natural, rather than synthetic form because all the strains are different, and they have different effects in the body. So, you have to be specific and look at these item by item.
Dr Paul Clayton PhD, Fellow of the Institute of Food, Brain & Behaviour (Oxford), former Senior Scientific Advisor to the UK’s government’s Committee on the Safety of Medicines and Director of Science, LYMA.