We love this helpful infographic on the evidence supporting different kinds of nutritional supplements from David McCandless at Information Is Beautiful. You might be surprised to see that very few supplements have strong evidence supporting their benefits. In other words, you probably won’t change much about your health by loading up on goji berries or even ward off a common cold with extra vitamin C. But you might be happy to see that there’s strong evidence that dark chocolate is helpful for maintaining healthy blood pressure. Don't forget to consult a doctor before taking supplements; there may be negative interactions with medication or side effects that you should know about before you add a supplement to your diet!
The infographic shows:
what condition the supplement is supposed to improve
the strength of the evidence supporting the effectiveness of the supplement
the popular interest in the supplement (based on Google hits) or scientific interest (based on the number of studies)
which supplements have been the subject of few studies, but show promising results (like vitamin B12 for treating canker sores!)
Check out the infographic and see for yourself if any of the supplements you thought might be helpful to you are actually not proven to have benefits.
Don’t miss the interactive version, which allows you to filter by the health condition (supposedly) affected by the supplement or by the type of supplement (enzyme, mineral, herb, etc.), and to change the appearance of the image by looking at popular or scientific interest, or organizing the supplements alphabetically.
Regarding the research behind the visual, McCandless writes:
“We only considered large, human, randomized placebo-controlled trials in our data scrape – wherever possible. No animal trials. No cell studies. Many of the health claims made by the $23 billion supplements industry are based on non-human trials. We wanted to cut through that...We looked at the abstracts of over 1500 studies on PubMed (run by US National Library Of Medicine) and Cochrane.org (which hosts meta-studies of scientific research). It took us several months to seek out the evidence – or lack of.”
Take a closer look and don’t be fooled by trendy supplements that haven’t actually been proven beneficial.
Design/Concept: David McCandless/Information is Beautiful
Research: Miriam Quick
Additional design from Fabio Bergamaschi
Code: Andy Perkins
Research: Pearl Doughty-White and Alexia Wdowski