Nobody wants to waste their hard-earned money and time on supplements that don’t work. These are the top reasons why people do not get results. 1. The supplements used do not fit the problem. 2. The information about the supplements used only solves part of the overall problem. 3. The science behind the supplements works well in the lab, but not so well in the real world.
In this article, you will know how to tell the difference between science and hype, and how to know if the supplements you want are the right ones for you.
How to choose the right supplements?
Clever marketing can make poor products seem necessary for a good life – take the battle between Coca-Cola and Pepsi is an easy example. This type of marketing goes in in the world of medicine and supplements too. Typically scientific evidence is used to support the benefits of supplements, but how to know what is good science or marketing hype?
When choosing a business or a product to help you with a problem, you want to know it works, right? You want to trust it is effective, safe to use, and not doing you any harm.
So how do you choose the right product for you?
- You may have had it referred to you by a friend or seen a testimonial.
- You may have seen some advertising promoting its benefits.
- Does it fit your particular needs though, or is it for a general-purpose?
- Is it backed by science or just good marketing? Let’s explore…
Pitfalls of a friend’s referral, testimonial or forum.
Knowing someone has had pregnancy supplements work for them is encouraging. There is an incentive to try it for yourself, especially if you have the same problem.
People, like fertility problems, can be complex and do not always have a “one product fits all” solution. Understanding your problem, and understanding the solutions offered are the way to successfully navigate the maze.
People with a solved medical problem have the benefit of their personal experience. If 1000 people say this product has helped them, clearly, it is an effective product and worthwhile looking into. Does their success mean that it will the same success for you? It certainly could if your problem and the benefits of the supplements match. Knowing if your problem is really your problem, or just looks like someone else’s is a key to success.
There is a big difference between a doctor and a patient making a judgment on a medical solution.
Doctors see thousands of patients. Many patients may have the same diagnosis, but different reasons for the problem. An individual may only be aware of their own circumstances, yet apply these experiences to everyone else. Differential diagnosis is the process of determining the difference between two or more conditions that share similar signs or symptoms. This is what medical professionals do, but patients cannot, respectfully, due to lack of experience and expertise.
Forums are a great place to hear stories from other people. They are also the worst place to get medical advice. Doctors may know 50 shades of a medical problem, and how to treat them, an individual may only know the one they experienced, yet spread this personal experience as a medical certainty for others. This is where the line “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing” applies. Proper research using scientifically presented articles are the best start to separating fact from fiction.
What works for one person may not for another. This is where science is useful.
You may have seen supplements recommended by a friend or publicized by the media or the internet. You may see celebrities promoting the health-giving benefits of a particular product. How many of these promotions are here today and gone tomorrow? Looking at the science behind these claims is the best way to understand a product.
Most people will believe a product if it has science behind it.
- Do you know if the reports of science back up the marketed benefits?
- Do you read the referenced scientific publication?
- Have you clicked on the link to see if the research paper matches the claim?
- How do you know if the scientific research quoted is good quality?
- Do you know how to interpret the data and understand the conclusions of scientific research papers?
How not to be fooled: Understanding scientific evidence made easy.
Things to look for…
- Is the product only tested on mice? Mice aren’t people and when it comes to fertility treatment the two are worlds apart.
- Has science tested the product on people? Real-world results are created on people. Often positive results on mice do not translate to the same effects on people.
- How many people was it tested on? 100 or more people in a study s a good start, anything less than that can be dismissed as scientific gossip and poor research. 1000 people in a study will generally yield real-world outcomes.
This is very important. You are a person, not a mouse.
Many medical models show that testing on lab mice can have real-world outcomes for people. The real test of this is that there is research testing the results on people. This is real-world proof, not lab-world proof. Your average brown mouse will have 4 – 14 pups, 5 to 8 times a year, on average about 100 babies a year. A woman tends to only have one baby every two years at best. The disparity between the mouse fertility model and the female fertility model is a poor comparison, yet this is how most research is concluded. If it works on mice, then it should work on women. Reality tells a different story.
If the product has been tested on people: how many is a good number?
This is where the ‘power’ of a study comes in. Testing a product on 20 people divided into two groups is an ‘underpowered’ study. This means that there are not enough people tested to determine the difference in results. If a study examines 200 people, it is likely to be well powered and the results more accurate. 1000 people in a study will provide accurate results. You can ignore any published science that studies a group of people with less than 100 participants – it is just not enough to create real-world expectations.
Scientists starts with an idea and then research tests how wrong the idea is. This is called the ‘null hypothesis.’ Instead of proving they are right, they try to prove that they are wrong. How wrong they are is reflected in the p-value. P-Value is the holy grail of how true something is likely to be true.
When you see a p-value > 0.05, this means the probability of it being wrong is less than a 5 in 100. If you see a p-value > 0.005, it means there is 5 in 1000 chance of being wrong. The lower the P-value the more likely it is to be true.
Statisticians love P-Values. Reality does not.
There is great value in statistics, but once again the real world comes crashing in. Studies that quote a p-value of 0.05 (5/100) are more likely to be 23 – 50% wrong. A study with a p-value of 0.01 (1/100) falls between 7 – 15% wrong.
You need a high powered study with 1000 participants to get an accurate p-value. Few studies involve these many participants. This does not mean studies of less than 1000 people should be ignored, it is just that the findings are less likely to reflect reality. Studies involving under 100 people can easily be ignored as “science gossip” and represents “tabloid science publishing.”
The easy way to understand what scientists say about their research.
Read the abstract at the start of a research paper. This is a great way to get an idea of what the study is about and what they found. Often it is so condensed that it makes very little sense to the uninitiated. Reading the conclusions can make much more sense. It is best to read as much of the introduction as you can handle, and then jump to the conclusion section. These areas contain why they are doing the study and wrap up the findings. Of any study you read, make sure you read the conclusion – that is where the most valuable information is found.
If the conclusions in the studies match the advertised benefit – you are on a winner. When conclusions say it works for mice, but there were no differences for people – it is unlikey that what you take is going to provide the benefits promoted.
If a study says “there was no significant difference between the people who took it and people who did not,” it does not mean you have a 50/50 chance of it working. What it means is that if you do or don’t take it is unlikely to make any difference. Essentially it is a waste of time and money.
Studies that show positive outcomes in people taking a product should be paid considerable attention. Pregnancy supplements that have only been tested on mice and then sold straight to people should be regarded with caution. They often fall into the category of “no significant difference between the people who took it and people who did not.”
Some supplements earn their place through smart marketing and not good science, you may be wasting your money.
When you come across a product designed to solve a problem – check the research behind the opinion. Make sure the advice is referenced and accessible. Read the abstract, introduction and conclusion. Using this method you will be way ahead of the crowd when it comes to understanding what you are taking and why.
Trust in yourself! You will be able to make sense of the research with a little time and effrot. It get’s easier.
If you can’t find the study on what you want to research on a page you read, go to www.googlescholar.com and put in the title of the article. If you see something like “PQQ the new super anti-aging secret for your eggs! Improve egg quality” then www.googlescholar.com “PQQ egg quality” or “PQQ fertility” and see what comes up. In this example, when you read the website, it looks like there is an excellent product on the market. When you read the scientific publication, you realize the promoter’s conclusions are way off target and a miscarriage of science and marketing. You can see the results of Ovance and RPM, our low AMH solution here.
Dr. Martin has made understanding the science and benefits behind fertilty supplements very easy and designed for the general public to understand. Click here to read more on popular fertility supplementds and their benefits.