Natural Product Scientific Studies

A plethora of scientific studies have, and continue to be conducted on a wide variety of natural products, supplements, foods and so on. Quite frankly, even for those individuals who make a concerted effort to read and use these studies to make decisions on what foods and supplements to consume — become quite confused.

This confusion is very understandable due not only to the difficulty in sometimes comprehending the scientific jargon and methods utilized. In addition, many studies are contradictory and a times report completely opposite results.

Unfortunately, some of this confusion is the result of inherent biases of scientists — or more aptly put, the biases of the organizations funding the research. In fact, many studies are indeed funded by the very companies who produce the products and supplements themselves (I know this from personal experience). At times, companies even fund studies to directly refute other studies for natural products of their competitors — or products which could replace products the company produces (pharmaceuticals vs. nutraceuticals).

In 2003, the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed results of 370 clinical trials to determine any bias in drug company-sponsored research and concluded that industry-sponsored studies were significantly more likely to reach conclusions that were favorable to the sponsor than were non-industry studies.

I recall a study published in 2012 (which shall remain nameless at this time) which concluded that Resveratrol was not effective in improving the health of otherwise healthy patients — you read that right! That’s akin to saying that a pharmaceutical or drug is ineffective in patients who don’t have a particular disease. And guess who funded the Resveratrol study? I’m sure you can figure that out…

So What’s the Consumer to Do?

Nutra recommends the following for consumers who are indeed looking for scientific studies (which they should be) to verify the reported health benefits of natural products and supplements.

1. Consider the SOURCE of the study — particularly the organization which funded the study and their inherent biases

2. Generally TRUST sources such as Universities and Government-funded laboratories (though surely they have some biases also)

3. Read MULTIPLE studies, and believe the results which most of the studies have in common, and are consistent.

4. Be WARY of studies funded by producers of specific products, conducted on their own products.

Natural Products, Nutraceuticals and Supplements

Throughout the Nutra Foundation website, a variety of terms are used which are in most cases interchangeable.

Natural Products is a catch-all for any product (or food/mineral/etc.) which is produced inherently in nature and has defined medicinal properties and positive effects on overall heath. Some people might also include Organic products in this category, though this term tends to refer primarily to foods.

Nutraceuticals is a relatively new term coined by the natural products industry to connote the fact that in many cases these products can be viewed on a parallel level with pharmaceuticals.

For example, a highly renowned MD and neurosurgeon that I am acquainted with in Pittsburgh, PA treats a considerable percentage of his patients using Fish Oils (Omegas) to reduce pain and inflammation — in addition to, or instead of, using pharmaceutical products.

Supplements generally refer to those products sold in natural product and drug stores for a variety of uses. Vitamins are a sub-category of supplements.

Whatever the term used, they all have the same thing in common — these are products and elements derived from natural sources to treat and alleviate a plethora of ailments and illnesses.