Amir Chaudhry

thoughts, comments & general ramblings

Scientific evidence for health supplements

This is an update to an earlier version of this infographic, which I came across two years ago. It was interesting at the time since it did a good job at displaying the myriad supplements in a way that indicated both their likely efficacy, according to research papers, and how popular the search term was. For example, the previous image showed ‘strong’ evidence for licorice root as an aid for coughs, but it had a much smaller search volume than the equivalently effective fish-oil for blood pressure. I also really liked the concept of the ‘Worth it Line’.

The graphic has been updated a couple of times now, with the most recent change a few weeks ago. There are quite a few differences as garlic didn’t feature so prominently on the previous image and it looks like a number of things may have been removed (e.g licorice root).

Vitamin D, as beneficial to general health, is still way up there. I decided to try Vitamin D3 supplements over the winter, under the theory that I’m not getting enough sun so a supplement may be useful. I was quite surprised at how much better I felt after a day or so of taking it, to the point where I tried looking up work on Vitamin D and mood*. Scanning the research seemed to indicate that there may be links between Vitamin D, serotonin levels and depression but the extent isn’t clear and conclusions were mixed. Of course, that mostly supports what the infographic is saying and it puts it above the ‘Worth it Line’ (for depression specifically but not general ‘mood’ per se).

I encourage you to go visit the site as there’s an interactive version, where you can highlight a bubble to get more info and be transported to the main study it references. If you like, you can also dig into the spreadsheet itself.

Scientific evidence for health supplements


* I'm well aware that I may be experiencing nothing more than a placebo effect :)