Dietary Supplementation Gives Users Illusion of Greater Health

Many previous studies have shown that dietary supplements can adversely affect your health. The present study hypothesized that adverse effects of nutritional supplements are because of a false sense of invulnerability to diseases. This false sense stimulates individuals to indulge in activities that are detrimental to their health. The study authors concluded, “This experiment suggested that use of dietary supplements licensed participants to demonstrate more desire for hedonic activities, less desire for exercise, and stronger preferences for a buffet over an organic meal.”

There has been a remarkable increase in the use of nutritional supplements in recent times. This is mainly because of the advertisements and publication of articles, which encourage the use of dietary supplements. About half of the U.S. population uses some form of nutritional supplementation. However, an increase in the use of nutritional supplements is not associated with a corresponding increase in the overall health in the community. An earlier study has shown that dieters had more liking for calorie-rich tasty bars over calorie-poor healthy snacks. This study was conducted to examine the effect of consumption of health supplements on various health-related activities, such as avoiding exercise and preferring specific type of foods.

* The participants were told that this study was being conducted to find out the health benefits of a multivitamin tablet. They were divided into multivitamin and control groups. However, all the participants received placebo pills.
* The first experiment involved 82 participants. After providing pills to both the groups, all the participants were asked to describe the perceived health benefits of the consumed pills. Later, they were given questionnaires to note their preference for various spare time activities. They were also asked about the type of exercises they would like to do. After this, the participants were asked to choose either buffet meals or low-calorie organic meals.
* The second experiment involved 68 participants. First, they were told about the beneficial effects of walking on health. After providing pills, they were given a pedometer, which measures the distance covered by the participant. Then, they were asked to walk around for one hour as they wish.

* The participants in the multivitamin group felt that the tablets were effective in preventing diseases. They preferred to indulge in more lazy activities and do less exercise.
* The results showed that 71 percent of the participants in the multivitamin group chose buffet meals compared to 44 percent in the control group.
* In the second experiment, the participants in the vitamin group walked significantly less compared to those in the control group, in spite of knowing the beneficial effects of walking.

In the United States, more than 70 percent of adults aged over 70 years consume nutritional supplements. The total sale of these products in 2005 was about $20.3 million. This study has brought out an ironic and interesting finding that nutritional supplements may in fact produce adverse effects on health. They give a false impression of protection to the individual consuming them. Owing to this, the individual gets involved in more health-risk behaviors, such as lack of physical exercise, preference for buffet food, and lack of walking. “Hence, people who rely on dietary supplements for health protection may pay a hidden price: the curse of licensed self-indulgence.”

For More Information:
Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation: False Sense of Protection against Diseases Created by Dietary Supplements Promoting Health-Risk Behaviors
Publication Journal: Psychological Science, 2011
By Wen-Bin Chiou; Chao-Chin Yang; National Sun Yat-Sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan; National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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