Supplements are becoming increasingly popular around the world, with the industry's $32 billion worldwide revenue in 2012 expected to increase to $60 billion by 2021. That may sound like good news if you buy into the myriad health claims they offer, but the truth about dietary supplements is much more complicated.
Here in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration — which regulates, well, food and drugs — does not require supplement producers to obtain approval for their products before marketing them. While manufacturers are supposed to police themselves, the FDA often has to step in when companies aren't honest about what's in their products. But that threat doesn't prevent malfeasance.
Beyond the sourcing and safety issues is whether or not supplements even work. In the absence of strict regulation, manufacturers can make pretty much any claim about their supplements, from saying they'll make you happier, stronger, calmer, and generally healthier in every imaginable way.
There's a good deal of research out there on whether supplements — when they're pure — are effective. The problem is getting all that information in digestible form.
Data journalist and information designer David McCandless, author of the book Knowledge Is Beautiful, published an interactive graphic on his website, Information Is Beautiful, that compiles scientific evidence on supplements into visual form. The best part is that he includes a "worth it" line so you can better judge which supplements could actually provide some benefit.
Below is a static version of the graphic, via Business Insider. Let us know what you think!