Supplements: Misguided Marketing

If marketers want to persuade me to take a dietary supplement, they are going about it the wrong way.

A typical recent email said I could fight aging, boost immunity, and feel energized with doctor-endorsed NMN supplement Elevant. They even offered to send me free samples. Probably worth the price! 🙂

The claims:

  • “For today’s lifestyles filled with stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, and pollution, replenishing our cells’ energy and health is a must.”
  • Elevant is a science-backed and unique NMN supplement for healthy aging and longevity support
  • NMN (nicotimamide mononucleotide) is a revolutionary molecule that powers the roots of your health: your cells. It is a direct precursor of NAD+, a molecule every cell of an organism needs to power hundreds of processes in our bodies.
  • After age twenty-five, we have progressively less NAD+.
  • Endorsed by the well-known Dr. Frank Lipman.
  • The first and only pharmaceutical grade NMN in the market.
  • A unique form of NMN, called NMN-C, is purer, safer, and more efficient at raising NAD+ levels than other precursors.
  • Vegan, gluten, and major allergen-free, non-GMO, with no synthetic fillers.

My questions:

Who is Dr. Frank Lipman? What is he well-known for? Should I trust him?

A little Googling revealed that he holds some very questionable beliefs, some of which have been tested and proven false. He is from South Africa, where he became interested in homeopathy and herbal medicine. After moving to New York, he became an acupuncturist. He practices functional medicine and integrative medicine, neither of which sticks to good science and both of which have been harshly criticized on the science-based medicine website. He sells supplements and recommends everyone take these four: multivitaminvitamin Domega-3, and probiotic. He believes in detoxification and does several cleanses a year. He says, “Gluten and sugar are the devil.” He takes all his patients off gluten, claiming it causes inflammation. He writes for Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous GoopHe has been criticized for giving out false information about swine flu and about the prevalence of magnesium deficiency. In short, I have no reason to trust him, any more than I trust Dr. Oz.

Is it true that NAD+ declines with age?

Maybe not. A 2021 study in Nutrientsreviewed the evidence and found it very limited, especially for humans.

Do users feel better?

Some say they do; some don’t. Amazon customer reviews range from “I feel more tired than before” through “never noticed any difference” to “increased energy, sleep better, feel younger.” How can we know if these are placebo effects? Nocebo effects? Only a properly controlled trial could tell.

Aren’t there other ways of combatting stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, and pollution? How do they compare with taking NAD+?

If NMN-C is purer and safer, does that mean other NMNs are less safe or less effective?

Does increasing NAD+ levels translate to measurable, clinically significant outcomes?

Is there any actual evidence that NMN increases longevity?

Vegan, gluten, and major allergen-free, non-GMO, with no synthetic fillers? So what? Is there any evidence of improved clinical outcomes?

Conclusion: A Lot of Marketing, Not Much Science

None of this tells me what I really need to know. I would gladly take your dietary supplement if:

  1. You could show me good scientific evidence from controlled studies that had been independently replicated, showing that clinical outcomes were consistently and measurably superior with your product compared to other alternatives. I’d like to see POEMS (Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters), such as lowering BP enough to prevent cardiovascular events rather than just reducing it by 1–2 mm with no evidence of reduced risks.
  2. Reliable evidence from independent, good, controlled studies showing that the product is safe.

The typical dietary supplement marketing is misguided. Until they can do better, I’m not buying.

This article was originally published in Skeptical Inquirer.

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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