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Do we really need so many dietary supplements?

The industry is growing exponentially, but critical thinking is needed

Do we really need so many dietary supplements? The industry is growing exponentially, but critical thinking is needed

You know that video of Bella Hadid where she diligently showcases all the supplements she takes every morning in the form of pills, drops, and drinks? It's a full 53 seconds of dystopian content where the model and web personality - with a big smile on her face - drinks, chews, ingests capsules by the handful, swallows spoonfuls of undefined stuff (which, of course, has been meticulously listed and recommended by dozens of articles inviting us to try the girl's wellness routine) and pours dark drops from pipettes into glasses of liquid that she downs in one gulp. This video - the latest in a long series of supplement routines circulating by the hundreds in the depths of TikTok - has fueled the fire of the wellness industry and specifically of dietary supplements, adding to the debate surrounding it. Let's start with the numbers and try to reach some common-sense conclusions about the use and abuse of supplements and the like.

The Numbers Behind the Dietary Supplement Industry

A study sponsored by the National Center for Health Statistics in the USA found that Americans spend billions of dollars each year on purchasing dietary supplements that promise to improve nearly every aspect of life and health. 60% of adults take vitamins, minerals, fish oil, herbal capsules, melatonin, probiotics, and other types of supplements. 15% of them report taking more than four at a time, simultaneously. Among teenagers, it's around 35%. Even children between 2 and 5 years old are given 2 or more supplements every day. Consequently, it's not surprising that the supplement industry is growing at a dizzying pace worldwide. According to's forecasts and projections - based on the fact that revenues from vitamins and minerals amounted to a global total of $31.93 billion in 2024 - this market segment is expected to grow annually by 6.71% from 2024 to 2029.

Do Dietary Supplements for Skin and Hair Really Work? And Do We Need Them All?

Now that we've tackled the numbers - establishing how more and more people of all ages are taking something to improve the health and appearance of their hair, skin, and more, and how, as a result, the wellness and supplement industry is growing at dizzying rates - we can finally address the real issue. Does this stuff work? Do we really need all of it? Does it make sense to take handfuls of it? The answer, as usual, is nuanced, but tends towards no. With some exceptions, such as supplements prescribed by a doctor to address deficiencies, like magnesium in the summer, CBD to relax muscles, melatonin for sleep, and the like, we can say without fear of contradiction that the rest is, if not downright useless or harmful, at least partially placebo effect. Not to mention the prohibitive costs of some of these products, often driven by social media influencers as part of large influencer marketing campaigns that make them go viral. As if that weren't enough, according to a study conducted by Pediatric Research on 16 probiotic-based supplements, only one actually contained what it claimed to contain on the bottle. Furthermore, research on 30 dietary supplements promising to help the immune system showed that 17 of them listed substances on the label that they didn't contain, and many had ingredients not listed on the label. In short, not all of them work and not all of them are honest and effective, and therefore not all of them are necessary, quite the opposite.

The wellness craze plays on our anxieties and obsessions, promises us things that are difficult to measure, feeds on insecurities and the need to be healthy, which remains superficial. There are no rules, and this works in its favor. Often, if these supplements don't do us exactly good, they don't visibly harm us either. And so we continue to take them, without really realizing their effects or lack thereof, just to hold on to a wellness ritual, a moment of self-care, hoping that in 40 years we'll be a bit less old, less ugly, less droopy, with stronger and longer hair and nails, a leaner but also healthier stomach, and unbeatable immune defenses. Perhaps, it would be better to ask our doctor or nutritionist, committing to supplementing what we lack (and only what we lack) through nutrition, without overdoing it with pills, powders, and drinks.