Having turned four years old last month, and with over a million people visiting us every month, it's time for us to expand our team to make sure we remain your best resource on unbiased information on supplementation and nutrition.
These are all part time positions, but essential to our workflow and great as learning opportunities.
We're looking for additional members to join our research team. The team includes members with a variety of backgrounds, from those with dietetics degrees to biomedical PhDs to those with doctorates in pharmacy. Researchers work with the most nitty gritty details of research, and must be intimately familiar with interpreting and evaluating peer-reviewed articles on nutrition and supplementation.
Copyeditors help translate research into reader-friendly writing. A high level of curiosity and interest in nutrition and supplementation is an asset, and experience as a copyeditor is a prerequisite. The ideal candidate would have enough coursework in science to understand concepts that we cover, in addition to at least a couple years of copyediting experience, preferably with a college or graduate degree in writing as well.
This position is mainly for those with advanced degrees and experience. Reviewers provide an additional layer of expertise for the information we put out, making sure that we don't miss essential points and are as accurate as possible. They should have broad knowledge as well as formal research experience.
The Journal of Drug Testing and Analysis published an article earlier this month concerning an herb being sold today that may warrant U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action. The herb is called Acacia rigidula, and its main bioactive is β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA).
BMPEA was first synthesized in the 1930s, but it was only discovered to come from a natural source in 1997. Acacia rigidula is a source of various amines that may have psychiatric effects, based on their chemical structure. BMPEA, in relatively high doses of 960-60,500µg/g, was also found to have these effects. In fact, it may cause a false positive for an amphetamine drug test.
The published article describes how researchers examined 21 dietary supplements found on store shelves and found that 11 of them contained a bioactive amount of BMPEA, meaning 93.7mg a day or more. The authors of the article called for FDA action because BMPEA lacks safety testing despite being found in multiple supplement products.
The researchers are correct when they say that there is not much evidence for BMPEA’s safety. Searching PubMed for Acacia rigidula reveals only four articles on the topic, none of which include tests in living animals, much less people. Searching for information on BMPEA reveals similar lackluster results. The Examine.com page on Phenylethylamine (PEA) summarizes the research on BMPEA in section 1.4 (where it is called β-Me-PEA) by describing the chemical structure, since there is so little other evidence.
Despite the lack of evidence for Acacia rigidula’s effects and the nonexistence of safety testing, it’s still found in supplements. Supplement manufacturers, particularly companies that sell stimulants, are in a constant arms race to provide their customers with better, stronger, newer supplements than their competitors. That’s why questionable compounds end up on store shelves.
Untested supplements are potentially dangerous, and that goes double for stimulant compounds. Almost every stimulant is harmful if abused or used improperly, but no research means no warning labels. People that shouldn’t normally take stimulants because of a weak cardiovascular system or heart issues can’t know that they shouldn’t take a supplement containing Acacia rigidula, which puts them at greater risk for harm.
Much more research is needed before Acacia rigidula can be added to supplement products. While an FDA ban may be too reactionary, leaving the compound on store shelves when it might hurt people is an equally poor decision.
Supplement manufacturers adding understudied psychoactive amines to their products should read up on case studies concerning geranium, 1,3-DMAA, dendrobium, and AMP citrate, because adding those compounds to supplements will also summon the FDA to your door.
Eating at a caloric deficit for extended periods isn’t just physically difficult, but also mentally. Battling hunger cravings can be frustrating because you’re often fighting both brain and body, trying to convince them that no, you don’t actually want to eat that brownie.
Luckily there are several methods, backed by scientific evidence, that can help curb hunger cravings.
The body naturally produces a variety of peptides and hormones that suppress hunger.
One class of receptors, called mechanoreceptors, are located in the stomach and intestines and are not actually activated by any specific molecule, but by the stretching of tissue. That means that expanding the stomach will result in appetite suppression, regardless of what is causing the expansion.
Eating low-calorie food that results in intestinal bulk is a good way to limit caloric intake while suppressing the urge to eat more. While vegetables with a high water content will shrivel and shrink after consumption, foods high in soluble fiber will ‘gel’ and expand in the stomach. Vegetables high in cellulose, an indigestible carbohydrate, will also result in increased intestinal bulk.
A popular supplemental fiber option is Metamucil. Metamucil is a digestion aid made up of flavored soluble fiber. It can be added to a shake, but just make sure to drink the shake quickly or else the Metamucil will gel before it hits the intestines.
Do not use appetite suppressant products that are not digestible. Sponges, stomach balloons, and other devices are dangerous and can cause intestinal blockage, which is a medical emergency.
Emotional eating is a common symptom of stress and can derail weight loss. Since emotional eating is not a result of physical hunger pangs, it cannot necessarily be controlled through increased fiber intake.
The best way to fight emotional eating is to buckle down and take on your stress. Though it is impossible to provide a generalized solution that will work to alleviate everyone’s stress, maintaining healthy sleep habits and dialing in your diet are two good lifestyle steps to reducing stress.
A consistent sleep schedule in a quiet, dark sleep environment is vital to reducing stress.
If lifestyle changes don’t alleviate stress and emotional eating episodes continue, considering supplementing an adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbal supplements that cause a mild stress response after supplementation. This response desensitizes the body to further, real stress.
Supplementing an adaptogen will not directly reduce hunger, but it can reduce the hunger cravings sometimes associated with increased stress levels.
Adrenaline also reduces appetite. When the body is stimulated, blood is redirected away from the digestive tract, to help prepare for a fight – or flight.
Stimulants and other supplements that increase adrenaline also have this effect. A low dose of a stimulant can help reduce hunger, but too much can result in nausea and other side effects.
People that aren’t used to caffeine can drink coffee in the morning to reduce hunger. This strategy may not be effective for people that are used to caffeine.
Other, more powerful stimulants, like synephrine and yohimbine, can also reduce hunger cravings, but they may not be appropriate for daily use like coffee is.
Using stimulants to curb hunger cravings at night is not recommended due to their disruptive effect on sleep.
There are also several supplements with preliminary evidence to support appetite suppression. These include Ginger, 5-HTP, and Caralluma fimbriata. Much more research is needed before these supplements can be recommended specifically to curb hunger cravings.
Have you heard of Hoodia gordonii or Garcinia cambogia supplements advertised as appetite suppressants? Both of these supplements had promising animal evidence for their effects on appetite, but follow-up studies revealed these effects didn’t occur when the herbs were supplemented by people. Unfortunately, marketing had already spread these products far and wide.
There are no shortcuts in health and nutrition. Still, many people need some help with hunger cravings now and then. That’s why there are hundreds of products aimed at suppressing appetite. Yet most of the effective strategies listed above don’t even involve supplements!
In other words, don’t waste money on hype. Fiber is way cheaper.
A recent study has been making rounds in the media that investigates supplements (including creatine) and their potential impact on testicular cancer.
The authors of this paper wanted to investigate the relationship between testicular germ cell cancer (TGCC), the most common form of tumor-forming cancer in young men, and muscle building supplements.
In this population-based case-control study, the authors recruited male residents from various hospitals (in either Massachusetts or Connecticut) during 2006-2010. These men were histologically confirmed to have some degree of TGCC, People in the control groups were recruited from the same age demographic, and were also male residents at these hospitals.
Residents were given a questionnaire asking about their usage of “muscle building supplements“ (MBS), where ‘usage’ was defined as “at least once a week for four consecutive weeks.”
The questionnaire asked:
Groin injury, cryptorchidism (about 10% of TGCC cases have a history of this, so it is considered a risk factor) and being caucasian was more common in the TGCC group compared to the control. Alcohol use, tobacco use, and education level were similar between groups.
Researchers found that male residents who reported to have used MBS had an increased risk of developing TGCC (adjusted odds ratio of 1.65 with a 95% CI of 1.11-2.46).
Other findings included:
Studies like these do not prove a causal relationship (taking X causes Y). Instead, they reveal a potential connection, which further research must investigate in order to determine what causes this potential relationship.
As such, this study should not be used as evidence to prove anything. Instead, it acts as a stepping stone to more in depth research.
The main issue with this study is how broad the category of ‘Muscle Building Supplements’ (MBS) is. The authors state that the participant interview included an assessment of 30 different types of MBS powders or pills but disclosed:
Specifically, the article stated that “The interview included an assessment of 30 different types of MBS powders or pills. The major ingredients, including creatine, protein, and androstenedione or its booster, were abstracted according to the product ingredients.”
The researchers also specified that the ingredients were abstracted, or taken at the word of the label. If the label claimed there was androstenedione in the supplement, the authors assumed it was true. There was no mention of analyzing the supplements to confirm this. Confounding ingredients or ‘hidden’ ingredients (those not disclosed on the label) do not seem to be accounted for. This is particularly relevant in the context of the recent revelations of poor supplement quality in the industry.
This kind of ambiguity makes it difficult to connect the results of this study with anything more specific than the general category of muscle building supplements. Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to dissect what this category actually refers to. The only three components disclosed are also very different in terms of their actions in the body.
The breakdown also seems a bit odd, since the major selling point of this article’s abstract is that people who have reported usage of something in this vague all-encompassing category even once, are at higher risk than people who have reported never using something in this category. Consuming a protein powder once a week for a four-week span at any point in your life would count as your ‘one’ usage according to the interviews used in this study.
Since the MBS category is too vague and broad to dissect, no specific recommendations can be made based off of the results of this study. The fact that it is a retrospective questionnaire with odd usage criteria of four times a month doesn’t help.
Ultimately, this study does not offer enough evidence for current MBS users to change their supplementing habits at all. However, this kind of study will spark interest in the topic of MBS and testicular cancer, spur more research and hopefully, result in a better questionnaire that can be used to predict relative risk of various cancers.
This study does not provide practical evidence to answer the question, on a personal level, “will this supplement I’m using give me testicular cancer?” It is, however, always a good idea to look up each ingredient in your dietary supplement in Examine.com’s database to see if any provide individual cause for concern. For example, you can see that the body of existing research finds creatine to be safe.
At this moment in time, there is no reason to fear ‘muscle building supplements’ as a group.
Our sixth issue of the Examine.com Research Digest is out and this month, we’ve investigated the health benefits of berries, curry and… Yakult?
April’s sneak peek delves into how BPA in canned drinks impacts your blood pressure. So put that soda can down and click here to learn more about BPA and your health!
Serious about nutrition? Subscribe now for the latest in nutrition research.
It’s been an amazing four years and we can’t begin to describe how much we appreciate your overwhelming support. As you know, our mission at Examine.com is to be useful and provide you with the best in nutrition and supplement research. We wanted to celebrate this April 1st with a product everyone can use, whether you're a professional or a layperson.
The #1 request we've had from our users since our founding has been to sell them supplement stacks they can trust. We already know more about supplements than anyone else in the industry, so who better to come up with the perfect combination? We have Stack Guides that tell you what to do, but why not make it even easier for you? Why not offer the very products our stacks recommend?
In an effort to make supplementing even easier for our readers, we’ve decided to ditch our unbiased approach to help you get the tools you need for better health!
For the past two weeks, our team has been collaborating with Florida’s best food bloggers and China’s top manufacturers to develop Re-Brain™. We've applied decades of our staff’s collective research and knowledge to create a formula that will not only boost your brain power if taken daily, but can also reverse signs of aging, such as memory loss and trouble focusing, thanks to the power of hormone-infused omega-3 fatty acids.
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Examine.com offers a placebo-effect guarantee. If any purchased supplement product fails to provide benefits after supplementation, the placebo effect is guaranteed to improve your health in place of the product.
To make decision-making even easier for you, we only offer Re-Brain™ in a neutral vanilla flavor - mimicking our own neutral approach to research!
Pre-order Re-Brain™ now and you’ll earn VIP access to our upcoming product launches. Even better, we’ll include samples of our entire Examine.com Supplement Catalogue with your order:
Nothing is as frustrating as poor sleep. Even though we practice sleeping every night, practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Keeping track of where and how you sleep will reveal what factors are at the root of poor sleep. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning a good night's rest.
Light affects sleep quality in the hours leading up to bedtime. Feeling sleepy is the result of Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Bright light can disrupt melatonin production. To avoid impaired sleep, do not bring your mobile devices to bed or use the computer immediately before attempting to fall asleep.
If you can't turn off your mobile devices or typically glued to your computer screen just before bed, consider installing f.lux, a program that gradually reddens the light emitted by computers screens after the sun sets. Warm red light is better for melatonin production than the harsh blue light typically emitted by screens.
Unlike eyes, ears don’t close. A quiet environment provides the best sleep, since loud noises can disrupt sleep even if they don’t wake you up.
If you live in a noisy neighborhood, consider earplugs or a white noise machine. If you fall asleep to music, make sure to set a timer to turn it off or lower the volume.
Going to bed at approximately the same time every night helps improve sleep quality and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. People who work from home or travel regularly should take particular care to adhere to a consistent sleep schedule (if possible).
Caffeine has two main effects after ingestion:
Ingesting more than 200 mg of caffeine a day will result in tolerance after a week of use, which will prevent caffeine from increasing your adrenaline levels.
That being said, people who aren’t used to caffeine definitely shouldn’t drink coffee before bed. Even though coffee veterans claim to be able to fall asleep after drinking a pot of coffee, the caffeine will still block some adenosine receptors, which results in impaired sleep.
For the best sleep quality, avoid caffeine and other stimulants for at least four hours before bedtime.
People that are having trouble with sleep latency, or how long it takes to fall asleep, can try sedative supplements such as melatonin or lemon balm.
Melatonin is a popular non-addictive sleep aid that is safe for daily use. Dim light will increase melatonin production, but oral supplementation is also effective. Melatonin is also popular among frequent travelers because it can help fight jet lag.
Lemon balm is another sedative supplement. It should not be taken during the day, but can be used on an as-needed basis to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. People with intrusive thoughts can try lemon balm to prevent their overactive mind from keeping them awake.
Non-sedative sleep aids
Glycine is an amino acid. About three grams of glycine before bed can improve sleep quality with no sedative side effects.
Lavender can also improve sleep through aromatherapy. Dabbing lavender oil on your pillow (men can apply directly to mustache) or near your bed can improve sleep, while taking 80-160mg of the oil orally can reduce anxiety, which can indirectly improve sleep. Prolonged skin exposure to lavender may result in irritation, so don’t put too much lavender oil on your pillow.
Bonus tip: Rutaecarpine is a herb that can be supplemented to speed up caffeine metabolism. If you accidentally drank regular coffee instead of decaf, or are really regretting the decision to pull an all-nighter, rutaecarpine can be used to alleviate caffeine’s sleep impairing effects. Do not use rutaecarpine daily.
‘Superfood’ is a popular buzzword. Whether the latest fad is imitating Native American corn preparation techniques or eating way too many bananas, most superfoods are just another failed silver bullet, disappointing everyone that bought into the hype in hopes of discovering a shortcut.
The Examine.com editors have come up with a short list of foods that may actually qualify as superfoods, based on existing evidence.
Older people can take dark berry supplements or eat dark berries to improve memory. Though the mechanism behind this effect – increasing a growth factor called BDNF – could potentially work for young people as well, more research is needed to confirm this effect.
Studies suggest supplementing spirulina can increase bile acid blood levels, a characteristic of Gilbert’s Syndrome. People with Gilbert’s Syndrome are at lower risk for diabetes and obesity, as well as cardiovascular and neurological disease. Animal research suggests spirulina may also be neuroprotective, but studies on people are needed to confirm this effect.
Unfortunately, spirulina is the worst-tasting supplement on this list.
Nitrates also improves blood flow by dilating blood vessels. Eating nitrate sources daily will help lower blood pressure over time.
Avoiding fads and hype will save you money in the long run. Instead of looking for a shortcut, pick a couple real superfoods to add to your diet, and slowly make changes to your lifestyle habits over time.
If Examine.com was a dog, we'd be entering our adult phase now. And that's exactly how we feel.
Four years ago, we launched with little fanfare. Unlike most Internet organizations today, we didn't plan a massive "launch party" or have influencers trumpeting about how we were gonna change the game. That's just not our style.
We went live, and we focused on what we did best - research. Looking at the evidence. Selling you nothing but the truth.
From day one, we've seen this as a partnership of responsibility. We've stayed independent (no advertising, no sponsorship, no donations ever) to earn your trust, and you guys have supported us more than most organizations can dream of.
Just a few weeks ago, we announced that we hit 1,000,000 visitors in a month. That's all been driven by your word of mouth - with over 15,000 tweets and over 250,000 Facebook likes, you guys have spread the word.
You've helped us battle terrible headlines, exposed people plagiarizing our research, and helped us be financially independent so we can focus on what we do best -- producing quality unbiased research.
At the start of this blog post, I mentioned how we feel like we're entering our adult phase now. We have over 25 experts contributing to various parts of Examine.com and our Examine.com Research Digest. Next month we're going to put out a call for more experts. But for now...
As a way of thanking everyone for their immense support, we're having a quick 60-hour sale. Our Stack Guides (for the layperson), our Supplement-Goals Reference (for the enthusiast), and our Examine.com Research Digest (for the professional) are all on sale until Thursday midnight EST.
And to make this sale extra juicy, everything is on sale from their original price. That means up to 40% off.
In the world of supplements, you can find an endless array of shelves promising everything from muscle growth to pain management to libido enhancers. Although the industry caters to all walks of life, there seems to be a shift in marketing (and research funding) towards supplements that focus less on aesthetics (muscle building or hair growth), and more on health goals such as depression and pain alleviation.
With spring approaching and as people start exercising more, a lot more of our readers have been asking us specifically about joint health supplements. So here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular supplements in the market, and a potentially promising one.
There are four main groups of people who belong in this particular niche:
When it comes to dietary supplements however, research for joint pain among the aging and the obese is quite common meanwhile research for stress-related joint pain in athletes and laborers remains limited.
If you’re suffering from joint pain, here are a few supplements worth considering:
Although these commonly used supplements may be helpful for joint pain, they were primarily studied using people suffering from arthritis, with little to no focus on indidividuals from athletic or laboring groups. This makes it difficult to recommend any of these products for athletes experiencing joint pain.
Fortunately, other supplements, like Cissus quadrangularis, show some promise when it comes to treating work-related injuries. However, while the commonly praised benefits of cissus for athletes may make it seem like the go-to supplement for joint pain, with only a single study backing its benefits on joint health, the lack of research behind cissus makes it hard for us to strongly recommend its use for stress-related joint pain.
Supplementing for joint pain takes some prudency and patience to find what works for you, and we at Examine.com can only do so much to narrow down what the most promising and likely options are for you. Our best recommendation? Do your homework before supplementing (for any health goal) and always use supplements alongside good diet and exercise for the best results.