Tag Archives: david-mccandless

The Evidence For (and Against) Health Supplements: a Visualisation

After collating the results of over 1,500 studies and meta-studies (only “large, human, randomized placebo-controlled trials” were included), Information is Beautiful’s David McCandless collaborated with Andy Perkins to produce a comprehensive data visualisation mapping the the effectiveness (or not) of a wide range of health supplements (there’s a static image and interactive Flash version available).

Some of the findings:

  • Green tea has been shown to lower cholesterol in a large number of studies, but there’s no sign of cancer prevention properties.
  • There’s strong evidence showing Omega 3‘s cholesterol-lowering abilities and good evidence indicating it can help improve some ADHD behaviour and lower blood pressure. In terms of preventing arthritis and cancer, and in relieving depression, the evidence is conflicting.
  • Fish oil has been shown to help lower blood pressure and the risk of secondary heart disease, but the evidence for it improving general health isn’t strong (but is promising).
  • Vitamin D is fantastic: great for all-round general health and cancer prevention.
  • Vitamins A and E aren’t beneficial for much at all, while Vitamin C studies are somewhat conflicting.
  • Beta carotene‘s position surprised me: there is little-to-no evidence of any health benefits. The same goes for acai and goji berries, ginkgo biloba and copper.

The raw data used to generate the visualisation is available–along with citations–in a Google document that is occasionally being updated.