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Dietary supplements Table
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Brief Synopsis of Selected Popular Dietary Supplements*

Type of Supplement

Common Popular Uses (Claims)

Considerations & Concerns

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) Used to increase serotonin levels in the brain to reduce appetite and carbohydrate craving; promote sleep; reduce depression Used instead of the amino acid tryptophan (illegal in U.S. ); potential association with fatal Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome needs clarification via additional research [1]

Acetyl-L-carnitine
(see also: carnitine)

Used to enhance brain function and reduce depression in elderly May benefit certain types of dementia; more research needed [2,3]

Alpha-ketoglutarate

Used to prevent muscle protein breakdown during periods of stress such as recovery from surgery; anticatabolic Can be converted to the amino acids glutamate and glutamine; research supports medical use as anticatabolic; use as sports supplement needs more study; similar to glutamine, may benefit athletes involved in heavy training [4,5]

Alpha-ketoisocaproate (KIC)

Precursor for the BCAA leucine; claims are made for prevention of muscle protein catabolism and reduction of fatigue during exercise May have medical applications; unlikely to provide any ergogenic benefit beyond BCAA supplementation; it is primarily converted to leucine [6]

alpha-linolenic acid
(also see DHA & EPA)

 

Used to Increase omega-3 fatty acid intake; usual sources are flax oil, walnut oil, Canola oil, and soybean oil Not equivalent to omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils; can be converted to the longer “fish oil” omega-3 fatty acids, but conversion may be too inefficient to meet needs for EPA and DHA [7]

Androstenedione

Precursor for testosterone; intended to increase testosterone; enhance muscle protein synthesis Claims not consistently supported by research; may increase estrogen in men more than testosterone; no evidence for increased protein synthesis; may produce positive urine test for nandrolone [8-10]

Arginine

Increase growth hormone; promote muscle protein synthesis; enhances nitric oxide synthesis and relaxation of smooth muscle in blood vessels Significance of increased growth hormone is questionable except for disease conditions; good potential for reducing the risk of heart attack and possibly stroke [11,12]

beta-carotene

Antioxidant; prevention of exercise-induced muscle soreness; enhanced recovery from exercise stress Additional research is needed to understand possible health risks vs benefits of beta-carotene supplementation [13-16]

Branched chain amino acids

Suppress muscle protein degradation; enhance exercise recovery; reduce perception of fatigue during endurance exercise Some research (but not all) indicates prevention of muscle protein breakdown as well as reduced fatigue by inhibiting tryptophan uptake into the brain [17-19]

Beta-hydroxy-betamethylbutyrate
(see: HMB)

 

Promoter of increased lean body mass and strength by inhibiting the rate of muscle breakdown

Research results equivocal; may benefit untrained individuals more than trained
[20-22]

Bromelain

Complex of proteolytic enzymes extracted from the base of pineapple plants; used to aid protein digestion or as an anti-inflammatory agent Use as digestive aid questionable; some of this enzyme escapes digestion and affects eicosanoids in a way that reduces inflammation [23-27]

Caffeine

Stimulates central nervous system; improves reaction time, alertness, concentration; enhances mobilization of fat from fat cells; improves endurance performance Claims are supported by research; diuretic effect increases urine production at rest, but not during exercise; combination with sources ephedrine sources like ephedra (ma huang) may increase risk of adverse reactions [28-30]

Carnitine (L-carnitine)

Used to enhance utilization of fat (fatty acids) as an energy source and improve endurance by decreased reliance on carbohydrate (muscle glycogen) Some studies support claims, however others do not; potential benefit likely depends on dosage, length of time taking supplement, and type of performance being tested [31-35]

Casein

The principal protein of milk and primary protein component of cheese; frequently a component of protein supplements Casein has a lower biological value than whey protein, but casein has been shown to support more sustained protein synthesis due to more gradual digestion and absorption [36,37]

Chitosan

A form of chitin extracted from the shells of crustaceans; used as a “fat blocker” to reduce absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol Can help to reduce absorption of dietary cholesterol but apparently it does not bind enough fat to assist in weight loss [38-40]

Cholecystokinin (CCK)

CCK supplements are taken to stimulate satiety and reduce food intake Injected CCK can decrease appetite and food intake; it is thought that oral supplements of this peptide hormone are ineffective because the peptide is likely digested, however no human studies have been conducted [41]

Chondroitin sulfate
(see also Glucosamine)

 

Used to promote joint health and to treat osteoarthritis; usually combined with glucosamine sulfate Perhaps the most thoroughly studied nutraceutical, generally shown to enhance joint health [42-45]

Chromium picolinate

Used to enhance loss of body fat with maintenance of lean tissue Claims not supported by research; chromium is an essential trace element, but the picolinate form has been associated oxidative damage to DNA and cell membrane lipids [46]

Chromium nicotinate
(chromium + niacin)
Chromium chloride

 

Used to enhance loss of body fat with maintenance of lean tissue Claims not supported by research; these forms of chromium are apparently safe as a source of chromium in a dietary supplement [46]

Chrysin

Used by men to reduce the production of estrogen and increase testosterone levels No studies exist on efficacy and safety in humans

Citrus aurantium – bitter orange (source of synephrine)

 

Used as a thermogenic to increase resting energy expenditure; contains synephrine and N-methyltyramine Can increase blood pressure, especially in combination with stimulants like caffeine; interacts with several drugs [47,48]

Coenzyme Q-10 (ubiquinone)

 

Used to enhance energy metabolism and exercise performance; also used for various medical purposes Does not clearly affect exercise performance in normal healthy people; may benefit some disease conditions, but can have negative interactions with several drugs [49,50]

Cola nut

Common herbal source of caffeine See: Caffeine

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

 

Used for fat loss and cancer prevention; most common food source is milk fat This is a trans fatty acid that is likely beneficial to health; effectiveness in fat loss and cancer prevention requires further research [51, 52]

Creatine

 

Used to enhance high intensity exercise performance Generally effective for enhancing maximal power/strength exercise performance; apparently safe for short term use; safety of long term use not known [53, 54]

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
(also see alpha-linolenic acid & EPA)

 

 

Long chain omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oils and some algae oils; used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and age-related macular degeneration, protect brain function, and reduce plasma triglycerides DHA is the major fatty acid in the brain and the retina; deficiency may adversely affect mental function and vision; supplementation combined with “blood thinner” drugs requires medical supervision [7]
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone)

 

 

Used to increase levels of steroid hormones that may increase protein synthesis; slow changes associated with aging Potential benefits and risks require additional clarification; use only with medical supervision; some preparations can give positive drug test [55-57]
EPA (eicosahexaenoic acid)
(also see alpha-linolenic acid & DHA)

 

Long chain omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oils and some algae oils; used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease EPA has important functions and can be elongated to DHA; supplementation combined with ”blood thinner” drugs requires medical supervision [7]

Ephedra
(ma huang)

 

 

Used for weight loss (usually combined with a source of caffeine), enhancing athletic performance, and treatment of allergies and asthma Causes slight increase resting meta- bolic rate; banned substance for sports competition; may be unsafe for some people, especially during exercise [58]

Ginkgo biloba (leaf extract)

 

Major use is to enhance mental function in elderly who have limited blood circulation to the brain Do not use during pregnancy, lactation; people with blood disorders and those on medication should avoid use without medical supervision [59]

Glucosamine

 

Used in combination with condroitin to treat joint problems like those associated with osteoarthritis; to prevent development of age-related joint problems Generally considered effective for adjunctive treatment of osteoarthritis [60]

Glutamine

 

Used for a variety of purposes such as gastrointestinal support, prevention of muscle wasting, immune system support Non-essential amino acid produced by muscle protein catabolism; used by gastrointestinal tract and immune system as energy source; supplementation beneficial for some conditions [61,62]

Green tea extract

 

Used for weight control and general health promotion; has replaced ephedra as key ingredient in many weight loss products Potentially beneficial for intended uses; can interact with many drugs; avoid use with medication without medical supervision [63,64]

HMB (hydroxymethylbutarate)

 

Used to reduce protein degradation and promote muscle protein accretion during resistance training Likely beneficial and apparently safe; possibly effective for enhancing recovery of damaged muscle [65,66]

HCA (hydroxycitric acid)
(Garcinia Cambogia is a natural source of HCA)

 

 

Used for weight loss by enhancing fat oxidation and reducing appetite Some research supports appetite control and enhanced fat oxidation effects; possibly enhances endurance; fat loss not supported by all studies [67-71]
Inositol Used as a lipotropic substance to enhance liver handling of increased fatty acid levels during weight loss Human research is lacking to support the claims; potential benefit to some mental disorders [72,73]

Leucine (L-leucine)
(see branched chain amino acids)

See branched chain amino acids Leucine is one of the three branched chain amino acids
Lipoic acid (alpha lipoic acid) Used as an antioxidant and by people with diabetes to lower blood glucose and prevent complications Some research supports antioxidant claims; fairly high doses are required to benefit diabetes [74,75]
Ma huang (see ephedra)    
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) Used to facilitate weight loss and to enhance endurance performance Possible weight loss benefit requires substitution of MCT for other dietary fat which is generally impractical; use for endurance controversial[76-77]

Pyruvate (pyruvic acid)

Used as a weight loss aid and to enhance eudurance performance Claims are not consistently supported by research; very large amounts were used in studies showing benefit [78]
Taurine Used for management of diabetes, heart problems, and miscellaneous other health problems Non-essential amino acid that is synthesized in the body and is not essential in the diet; limited research to support claims [79,80]

Valine
(see branched chain amino acids)

See branched chain amino acids Valine is one of the three branched chain amino acids

Vanadyl sulfate

Used to enhance control of blood sugar level and enhance muscle development with strength training Claims of benefit in normal healthy adults are not supported by current research [81]

*The information in this table is for instructional purposes only to describe the major purported uses of these components of dietary supplements. Many of these substances are powerful chemicals and should be used only with medical guidance and proper dosage. Caution is especially important for anyone using medication, for children, and for women during pregnancy and lactation. Always consult with your physician and pharmacist before taking any dietary supplement.

References

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