The use of food supplements by the general public is poorly quantified, and little information on this subject is available in the medical literature. We surveyed 12 recent issues of popular health and bodybuilding magazines (1) to quantify the number of advertisements for food supplements, the number of products advertised, and the number and type of ingredients in these products; (2) to identify the purported health benefits of these products; and (3) as a preliminary effort to identify areas for future research. We counted 89 brands, 311 products, and 235 unique ingredients, the most frequent of which were unspecified amino acids; the most frequently promoted health benefit was muscle growth. We also found many unusual or unidentifiable ingredients, and 22.2% of the products had no ingredients listed in their advertisements. Health professionals may not be aware of how popular food supplements are or of a particular supplement's potential effects or side effects. In addition, patients may be reluctant to discuss their use of these products with traditional medical practitioners. We recommend that routine history taking include specific questions about patients' use of food supplements and that any possible adverse effects or side effects be reported to public health authorities.
Philen RM, Ortiz DI, Auerbach SB, Falk H. Survey of Advertising for Nutritional Supplements in Health and Bodybuilding Magazines. JAMA. 1992;268(8):1008–1011. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490080082029