What in the Hell is the Human Effect Matrix?

Enter Sol Orwell, Founder of Examine.com

I’ve worked in a lot of industries, and the crap that gets thrown around is mind boggling at times. The hucksterism that you see happen is both impressive (the genius required to pull off such things) and also saddening (anything and everything for a quick buck). Yet they all pale in comparison to the fitness industry. As my buddies Dick Talen and JC Deen both surmised lately, it’s a cesspool of sharks preying on the gullible. Fitness is one of the few industries where credibility can be based entirely on your outward appearance – “Dude’s jacked! He must know what he’s talking about.”

And I was one of those suckers. I went from fat to fit, but god damn did I waste my time along the way. And nothing wasted my time and money more than supplements. Dude’s got a PhD, he must know what he’s talking about! Turns out, no aspect of fitness is dirtier than the supplement industry.

Thankfully I’m one driven mofo, and as I learned more, I started to write out what I learned. Yadda yadda yadda, a nutritionist and I created Examine.com.

We’ve been at it for over two years now, and a few weeks ago we had our major update: The Human Effect Matrix (AKA “we’ve solved 90% of supplement confusion”).

For every supplement in our database, a handy table will tell you what effect each supplement has and how noticeable that effect is.
Does Supplement X help with Y? Now your know!
Want to know which supplements impact inflammation? Done!
Do any supplements help you add muscle? There are a few!
What we’ve done is removed all the mysticism, hyperbole, and marketing-speak used to talk about supplements. It’s all tabulated and organized for your perusal, and it’s all backed with citations with human-studies.

A Closer Look at the Human Effect Matrix

We’ve been looking into supplements for a while now – we have (as of writing this) 17,936 unique references. The HEM consists of 2000+ human studies, and it’s our attempt at connecting a supplement with its actualized results (the next time someone tells you glutamine helps you build muscle, either they’re lying or they’re dumb … send them to the HEM).

This wasn’t easy to do. And conveying the amount of information across was a bitch. Let’s take a gander at creatine (because it works) and see how it breaks down.

  • Level of Evidence: Not all studies are created equally. Be it type of study (eg cohort vs double-blind), length of trial, number of participants, and so forth, the quality of proof presented can be hard to gauge. We’ve automated the process – based on the studies we input, we give an A-D grading on the evidence accrued. Getting an “A” is pretty hard – but it means you can reliably trust the results. Anything with a “B” could be wrong, and “C”s and “D”s should be taken with a grain of salt – it doesn’t mean they are wrong, it just means the level of evidence is lacking.
  • Effect: The effect being investigated. Eg total cholesterol, appetite, stress, fecal moisture (yes that’s real), etc.
  • Change: Does supplementation increase/decrease/have no change on the effect? In our example of creatine, we can say that weight is increased, hydration is increased, muscle damage is decreased, so forth. Occasionally we can have things that both increase and decrease (eg alcohol can temporarily increase your testosterone levels, but then they decrease past baseline).
  • Magnitude of Effect Change: In my opinion, the most important part. Just because a supplement can cause an increase or decrease doesn’t mean it’s notable. Technically, increasing your income by 0.1% is an increase – but do you really care? Magnitude tells you how strong the effect change is. Using creatine again, we can say that there is a strong increase in power output (awesome), but only a minor increase in lean mass.
  • Scientific consensus: How much in agreement is in the actual literature?
  • Comments: This is actually very important. For example, fish oil actually has a notable effect in decreasing depression; but, only in those that are suffering from major depression. This gives you important context to any assessment.

2+ years of work … summarized into tables so people can get the info they need. Not only can you see what effects supplements have, but also what supplements affect a goal (eg blood glucose).

For those still dubious, you can find out why I do what I do, and also take a look at our advisory board that helps keep us in line.

The HEM is your one stop shop on getting the general gist of a supplement. Tooting my own horn, nothing else like it exists. It’s our attempt at shifting the balance of power from the hucksters and marketers and back into the hands of consumers.

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