This blog is somewhat of a challenge to those folks out there who like to read the latest nugget on exercise and nutrition, and in the same light directed towards those who look highly upon research findings and expect the companies that produce their favorite product to conduct research on them. A significant problem with research in the world of health and sports nutrition (and MANY other areas for that matter) is that many companies don’t actually perform their own research and in fact many borrow upon the ideas and results of others to compare their own products. While I don’t expect you to fully understand various aspects of research in the manner that scientists do, I do think it’s realistic for you to be skeptical, patient and to dig a little deeper to find some more answers. For example, a good way to dig deeper in this scenario is to scan towards the bottom of the article, advertisement or web page and see what references are provided. Many times there will be no references or they will be incomplete. This alone is unjustified as claims need to be substantiated; even the federal government requires this of companies, although many blatantly violate this requirement. Another thing you’ll notice is that oftentimes the research being cited was not completed on the actual product, but instead uses studies which examined only a small number of the ingredients contained in the finished product, and as a result you are to assume that the finished product works in exactly the same manner as the study results from those performed on just the ingredients. Many times, they aren’t the same.
Another area where consumers must dig deeper relates to what the effective dosage is for each ingredient. This is no more apparent than when considering arginine supplementation. Arginine supplements are often marketed to contain around 3 grams/serving while the initial data showed a positive effect used 20–30 grams of infused arginine [2, 3]. Infusing nutrients directly into the blood bypasses the entire digestive system is an entirely different scenario than when they are ingested by mouth. For this reason, a great deal of research attempting to find positive effects for arginine have been unsuccessful . This is a perfect example of a situation where companies base products off only a potion of the available data, which is unfortunate and unfair to the end user. There are many other examples of this across the board, which is why it’s so important to dig a little deeper into a companies scientific claims. While I’ll admit it may be a bit of a challenge for you to understand all the nuances of research, information about how nutrients are provided and what amounts can easily be found by performing a quick search through a medical database such as Pub Med (www.pubmed.gov).
1. Phillips, S.M., Physiologic and molecular bases of muscle hypertrophy and atrophy: impact of resistance exercise on human skeletal muscle (protein and exercise dose effects). Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 2009. 34(3): p. 403-10.
2. Bode-Boger, S.M., et al., L-arginine infusion decreases peripheral arterial resistance and inhibits platelet aggregation in healthy subjects. Clin Sci (Lond), 1994. 87(3): p. 303-10.
3. Giugliano, D., et al., The vascular effects of L-Arginine in humans. The role of endogenous insulin. J Clin Invest, 1997. 99(3): p. 433-8.
4. Bloomer, R.J., Nitric oxide supplements for sports. Strength Cond J, 2010. 32(2): p. 14-20.
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