This database rates two overall areas in the supplement world: supplement ingredients and supplement products. Supplement ingredients are the foundations of every product. Ingredients include creatine monohydrate, whey protein, taurine, and garlic extract. Manufacturers mix ingredients to form a supplement product such as a pre-workout, post-workout, or sleep aid. This article discusses how the database rates individual supplement ingredients.
The Supplement Database rates a supplement ingredient’s specific claims in two ways: effectiveness and research. These two ratings deal with: 1) how well an ingredient does what it’s supposed to, and, 2) whether there is enough evidence to come to a definite conclusion. You must look at both ratings together for the full picture of an ingredient’s value.
Effectiveness Rating vs Research Rating
Each ingredient is rated based on conclusions found in peer-reviewed journal articles. Researchers look at a variety of claims that supplements make and come to a conclusion. Generally, conclusions are either: 3) the supplement did everything it claimed, 2) the supplement did what it claimed in certain circumstances, 1) the supplement did not do what it claimed. These numbers (3, 2, 1) correspond to the effectiveness ratings in The Supplement Database.
Each study contributes one rating per claim per supplement. For example, The Supplement Database contains 5 studies on: “Does ingredient X increase strength?” Two studies concluded ingredient X significantly increased strength (rating of 3). Two studies concluded ingredient X increased strength only sometimes (rating of 2). One study concluded ingredient X did not increase strength at all (rating of 1).
The database then averages these ratings: (3+3+2+2+1) / (5 studies) = 2.2. The effectiveness rating of ingredient X’s ability to increase strength is 2.2 meaning it sometimes accomplishes this claim; you should see some positive results.
Ingredients have different effectiveness ratings for each claim. In addition to increasing strength, supplement X also claims to decrease body fat. For this claim, there are only two studies. Both studies conclude supplement X does not decrease body fat at all (rating of 1). These two ratings are averaged together [(1+1)/2=1]. The effectiveness rating for ingredient X’s ability to decrease body fat is 1 meaning there is little to no evidence you will see any results.
Research ratings are based on how many studies the database contains on an ingredient’s claims. This rating tells you whether the effectiveness rating has enough evidence backing it up. Is one study enough to change your behavior? It shouldn’t be; we shouldn’t make decisions based on one study. You should only make decisions based on claims that have been thoroughly vetted
Each study contributes 20 points to an ingredient claim’s research rating. A rating at or above 80 (4 studies on a claim) means there is enough evidence to base decisions off of. Four studies are generally a good start when deciding whether or not to act on evidence. The more studies included on a specific claim, the more certain you can be that the effectiveness rating is accurate.
In the above examples, supplement X had 5 studies looking into the claim of increasing strength. At 20 points per study, the research rating for ingredient X’s ability to increase strength is 100. This means the effectiveness rating of 2.2 is valid and can be trusted.
In the same example, the database only contained two studies on ingredient X’s ability to decrease body fat. This translates into a research rating of 40 which is low. A low confidence rating means there is not enough information to ensure the effectiveness rating is accurate. You should not make any decision on using supplement X to decrease body fat until the research rating increases.
The Bottom Line
The Supplement Database rates both ingredients and products. Ingredients are rated for both effectiveness and amount of research on a specific claim. Both the effectiveness and research rating are important when making a decision on whether an ingredient is worth taking. Ideally, you want a high effectiveness rating with a high confidence rating. This means that there is enough good research on a supplement’s claim.