Supplements have a complex relationship to the healthcare industry. Officials do not regulate them like drugs or food. The FDA regulates supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, a framework allowing the agency to remove supplements from the market if they prove dangerous. Despite this, the supplement industry is a market worth tens of billions of dollars (and growing), according to the market research firm McKinsey & Company.
Supplements in General
The term “supplements” carries several different meanings—everything from a daily multivitamin to personalized formulas used by bodybuilders. They become more popular as consumers have become more conscious of their health. This is, in part, due to an aging population, as well as a trend towards preventative health measure. In other words, rather than waiting until heart disease strikes, consumers often take omega-3 fatty acids to help ward off heart disease. RnR Market Research found that, although there was a general trend toward natural products and food-based health decision, people still turned to supplements for specific health needs.
Because consumers view supplements as a means towards a healthier lifestyle, and because they think more about their health than ever, consumers make their own choices about what they need, as well as what they put in their bodies more often. This was another insight in the McKinsey & Company study. These shifts in focus create an unpredictable economic landscape for companies involved in the healthcare industry. New Hope Network, a group of wellness industry consultants, writes that one of the primary consumer goals driving the growth of the supplement industry is the desire to lower healthcare costs. This does not mean that the two industries compete. The two are, in fact, symbiotic.
About the Benefits of Supplements
The pace of science and research means that companies continue and develop and refine new formulas. However, this development and refinement often owes a debt to the healthcare industry. Take, for example, the case of Synadrene. Synadrene is a synthetic weight-loss supplement developed by Hi Tech Pharmaceuticals. It is a successor to Synadrex, a discontinued weight-loss supplement the FDA banned. Synedrex had a stimulant known as 1,3 DMAA. Once they banned that, the supplement went through several other formulas, including some that replaced the DMAA with more caffeine, before they dropped it for good. Synadrene is a further development of this supplement. Rather than DMAA, Synadrene has DMHA (also known as octodrine). Many people use it as a pre-workout. DMHA’s chemical makeup is like, but distinct from, DMAA. Companies developed it as a decongestant in the 1950’s; however, no one still uses it for that purpose. Synadrex, in fact, owes its existence to healthcare industry research.
Still, most supplement makers differ from the healthcare industry in big ways. First, as we mentioned earlier, officials regulate them under different laws. Also, because most supplements have no patents, and companies make them from generic, often-inexpensive ingredients, supplement companies spend less on research, development, and patenting than drug manufacturers.
For the individual consumer, the most reasonable advice for taking any supplement for your health is the most common-sensical one. Adding a supplement is not an easy health fix. It’s like owning a high-performance car: You can fill the tank up with high-octane gas, but if you never change the oil, you’re still mistreating the engine. Any supplement should be paired with a healthy diet and exercise in order for you to realize its full benefits. By understanding the supplements you take, checking what you eat, and knowing the workout that works for you, you can achieve your health goals.