The scene is set. It is 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, and the final heat of the Olympics is about to commence. The sprinters have been training their entire lives for the opportunity at hand, and the outcome of the most important event of their lives is going to come down to mere milliseconds. With a gold medal on the line, these athletes will be looking for any advantage they can get, whether big or small. One direction these athletes turn for an advantage is supplements. Supplements have emerged as a way for athletes to increase their performance, yet their use is very controversial. Supplements, varying from simple multivitamins to complex chemical supplements, are used by almost every athlete, whether recreational or professional, looking for a way to gain an advantage. Although the advantages gained from these supplements are controversial and risky, supplements have become a mainstay in athletics.
Humans have been striving for optimum health since the beginning of organized civilization, and one way humans have attempted to accomplish this ambition is through supplements. Sumerians living in present day Iraq began this practice, and the tradition has carried throughout history to present day. What began with primeval organic supplements, such as thyme, licorice, and the mustard plant, has progressed to sophisticated manufactured supplements available for purchase. (1-1) Understanding of why supplements were effective advanced in 1746 when sailors recognized consuming citrus fruits cured scurvy. This was the first recorded time in history when humans obtained knowledge about the concept of vitamins, and it completely changed history. After the revelation, humans began to discover numerous vitamins and minerals. This newfound knowledge allowed humans to gain an awareness of what was beneficial for their bodies, and eventually led to the first commercially marketed multivitamin supplement in 1940. Intelligence about nutrients was later accepted in 1943 when the United States government released the first Recommended Dietary Allowances, or RDAs. Recognition of nutrients has continued to progress to the current level of understanding. (2)
Supplements are defined in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (SDHEA) as:
“a product, intended to supplement the diet, that contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients: a vitamin, a mineral, an herb, or other botanical; an amino acid; a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake; or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any of these ingredients; 2) is intended for ingestion in tablet, capsule, powder, softgel, gelcap or liquid form; 3) is not represented for use as a conventional food or as a sole item of a meal or the diet; and 4) is labeled as a dietary supplement.” (3)
Supplements have become very popular in the United States. Americans want a cure-all for their health...