Research Supplements, a "How to" Guide

Article Summary:
This is a simple, but reliable, method to identify supplements that do not have scientific support for their alleged benefits.


Step 1:

Go to;

PubMed is a National Library of Medicine (United States) website where searches for articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Researching on PubMed is beneficial because the National Library of Medicine carefully selects only high-quality journals that offer value to medical scientists around the world.

Step 2:

Once on the PubMed web site, search for the generic (scientific) name of the supplement in question. Supplement manufacturers must list the scientific name for their supplement's ingredients on the label and in advertisements. Supplements often contain many ingredients but usually only a few provide the purported benefits. Those are the ingredients you want to evaluate--they are often the same ones the manufacturer highlights in advertisements.

This is the step some supplement companies don't want you to know.:
Before you click on the "Search" button at, limit your search to studies that utilize the right research methodology with the right population.

The right research methodology is a randomized controlled trial (the double-blind, placebo control group design fits under this category) and the right population is human beings.

Specifying human subjects is important! You want to know if the ingredients in a supplement have been shown to produce the advertised benefits in real live human beings; not just in rats pressing levers for food pellets or in a "case study" with one person.

This is not to say that basic science research, which is often conducted initially with animals, is unimportant. On the contrary, such research usually serves as a crucial building block for subsequent clinical research with humans. Just remember; basic science research does not provide scientific evidence for a supplement's beneficial health effects on human beings. Only research with human subjects, using randomized controlled trials, can offer such evidence.

NOTE: Selection criteria are detailed on this web page:


On the search page, click on the "Limits" tab located under the "Search" box. You will see several drop-down menus.

First, click on the Publication Type menu and then select Randomized Controlled Trial.

Next, click on the drop-down menu labeled, Humans or Animals and click on Humans.

If you have any problems there is an easy tutorial.

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