snake oil or cure all?

From Information is Beautiful. Larger circles indicate popular supplements. Y-axis indicates clinical evidence of evidence. Higher is better.


Written by fabiorojas

July 26, 2011 at 2:47 am

21 Responses

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  1. Thought provoking visualization, though the use of circles on a scale-less X-axis does not appeal to my sensibilities at all. It appears that spending is essentially randomly distributed with respect to effectiveness, but without any kind of metric, it’s hard to say.



    July 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

  2. Oh, Great! I can now exclude vitamin A, copper and methionine from my diet entirely and concentrate a lot on green tea. I would, of course, die if I did this, but I’d at least be obeying this super cool chart!




    July 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

  3. […] From Information is Beautiful. Larger circles indicate popular supplements. Y-axis indicates clinical evidence of evidence. Higher is better. via […]


  4. NEAL JUNK… You’d die if you didn’t take those? I don’t take any of those and I’m the image of health. WHAT GIVES?!


    Teh Kao

    July 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm

  5. Misleading junk, there is little evidence that probiotic supplements offer anything more than the mildest boost in digestive health. Vitamin A, E, C, Copper and various amino acids listed are necessary to live. There is far stronger evidence that vitamin C cures scurvy than there is that cinnamon would possibly cure diabetes.
    –That said, I just checked the actual source and it’s been massively updated


    Major Groove

    July 27, 2011 at 4:02 pm

  6. Some of the ones listed as “strong” – Cranberry juice to prevent UTIs, vitamin D to prevent cancer – are from what I’ve seen vastly overblown, if not completely bunk.



    July 27, 2011 at 4:13 pm

  7. It’s too bad that they don’t plot these based on effect sizes and heterogeneity separately.

    The way I read their explanation, it sounds like their evidence rating (from 1, low, to 6, high) is mostly about the consistency of the evidence, rather than the strength of the effect.


    Lukas Neville

    July 27, 2011 at 7:31 pm

  8. I don’t see “garlic” – it promotes loneliness.



    Frank Cseh

    July 27, 2011 at 8:31 pm

  9. […] is Beautiful via Orgtheory jQuery(function($) { var o = $('div#showHideCommentsWrapper'); var s = […]


  10. @ Neal Junk and Major Groove

    I thought the point was specifically geared toward dietary supplements, like vitamin pills. The chart doesn’t say to cut Vitamin A, Vitamin C, copper, etc from your diet, but rather that taking supplements (vitamin pills) has little effect on your health, because the normal adult diet typically gives you what you need of these vitamins and minerals already.


    Scott Dolan

    July 28, 2011 at 3:17 am

  11. […] snake oil or cure all? « This entry was posted in Society. Bookmark the permalink. ← Fake Apple Store in Kunming, China […]


  12. Neal and Major;
    Worth reading the subtitle “…when take orally by an adult with a healthy diet” before posting.



    July 28, 2011 at 11:18 am

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  14. […] Check out this infographic that essentially summarizes the scientific evidence for a number of popular dietary supplements (via […]


  15. Now I know why my intuition needs some education, especially in neurology.
    I have been taking supplements for 43 years, and look younger every day.



    sri gong

    July 31, 2011 at 3:23 pm

  16. Can anyone see fluoride on the list? Seems it should be on top for distribution and right down the bottom for effectiveness, even below the line since it causes disease!



    August 1, 2011 at 12:32 pm

  17. […] dietary supplements are proven to work and which are not? This graphic shows the evidence. Good: folic acid, green tea, probiotics. Not so good: akai, beta carotene, […]


  18. Well, perhaps there is little evidence of the benefits of magnesium, potassium, and CoQ10 in HEALTHY adults, which they have not specified in this chart, but in patients who suffer from heart failure, and take the corresponding Rx meds, these supplements are crucial.

    If they are going to take the time to trash the benefits of these products, then they should, at least, specify that their findings relate to healthy, and not chronic-care patients.

    It is irresponsible not to do so.


    As If!

    August 15, 2011 at 2:36 am

  19. I’m sorry that your information about Selenium is so vastly outdated: you cannot take it orally and expect any results. Only genuine Lunar Selenium garnered through a careful regimen of moon-bathing will suffice.


    Stark Dickflüssig

    August 15, 2011 at 4:44 am

  20. It’s an interesting chart. I would like to see another that doesn’t try to differentiate between “healthy adults” and treatments for certain conditions (maybe the various conditions could radiate outward?). The line is a bit blurry here — do you really need to improve your blood pressure or treat pain/IBS/depression if you’re already “healthy”?

    In the proposed graph, I’d say Vitamin C belongs a bit higher — if you read through the studies dosage is important and it appears to be very useful for certain situations at certain dosages, and I think it’s being dragged down here by low-dose studies of testing fairly silly things, like whether it prevents cancer at 100mg a day in healthy adults.

    I couldn’t find CoQ10, which I believe is in the top 5 of supplements taken. But maybe I’m just missing it because I need more tyrosine :)



    August 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm

  21. […] The top post of 2011 was snake oil or cure all? […]


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