See the data: bit.ly/snakeoilsupps.
See the static version
See the old flash version

Check the evidence for so-called Superfoods visualized.

Note: You might see multiple bubbles for certain supplements. These is because some supps affect a range of conditions, but the evidence quality varies from condition to condition. For example, there’s strong evidence that garlic can lower blood pressure. But studies on whether it can prevent colds have produced inconclusive results. In these cases, we give a supp another bubble.

This visualisation generates itself from this Google Doc. So when new research comes out, we can quickly update the data and regenerate the image. (How cool is that??)

As ever, we welcome your thoughts, crits, comments, corrections, compliments, tweaks, new evidence, missing supps, and general feedback. Thank you!

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Show Comments ( )

  • Michael Ashley

    Are there any results for wheatgrass?

  • John-Paul Coetzee

    A brilliant resource which I refer to regularly.

    Licorice Root has “coughs” in the bubbles but links to an article on dyspepsia.

  • http://packeton.com cminusminus

    Multiple entries for multiple uses imply difference in color or in shape, please consider it.
    Also, on Firefox labels on the left are cut in the middle of first letter, fix?

  • james moerike

    will you add: ” Marine Phytoplankton ” to information is beautiful?

  • joie

    Your bubble chart are fantastic :) very useful and easy to understand with evidence base supported.
    May I ask some question for more understanding about to learn with this chart?
    1. How often of this chart will updated?
    2. The lasted update was in Mar 2010, Any updated in Aug or Sep?
    3. What is the meaning of color?
    (light yellow, yellow, yellow+green, green, blue and brown)

  • http://www.ara-maa.com Nicky

    Hi There

    Really love this visual and your talk,thanks. Wanted to know what programme your are using to do this ? I work in data analysis but our visualisation is very much Excel based. Have heard a bit about Processing but not sure if this level of sophistication can be accomplished with good data and a standard application (that’s what I’m hoping O) )

    Any thoughts greatly appreciated

    Nick

  • Dianoguy

    I absolutely LOVE this graphic… fantastic presentation of highly relevant data!!

    I must point out one important mistake, though… it is presented that there is strong evidence for the use of licorice root for “coughs”, whereas the linked literature provides evidence for its effectiveness in treating “dyspepsia”, a *very* different ailment. Is there other evidence for its use with coughs, or was dyspepsia the intended ailment?

    Thanks for this fantastic resource!!

    • Anonymous

      Dianoguy points out that the link for licorice root is to dyspepsia, not to coughs. I would also point out that the link is to a herbal preparation, not to licorice.
      I think there’s something wrong with this one.
      Otherwise- amazing resource (and the rest of your work as well)

  • http://www.aleph.se/andart/ Anders Sandberg

    Very elegant and useful. Ideally we should have visualisations like this generated directly on meta-analysis of scientific studies as they get published.

    Personally, I would prefer to see something like number of studies or effect sizes displayed by bubble sizes instead of popularity. Maybe colour would be better used to denote popularity, although using it to indicate a strong trend is a good use.But this depends on whether this is viewed as a diagram over snake oil salesmanship or over state of knowledge, of course.

  • John Holzmann

    I think it’s wonderful that you’ve put this graphic together. It could be a real service to many people. But I’m wondering where we might find the same kind of graph for pharmaceuticals that have been approved by the FDA? What are (or were) the evidential bases for true BENEFITS . . . (not to mention DAMAGES) . . . done by these approved drugs? I’m talking about drugs like

    Posicor/mibefradil
    Duract/bromfenac
    Hismanal/astemizole
    Raxar/grepafloxacin
    Rezulin/troglitazone
    Propulsid/cisapride
    Lotronex/alosetron
    Raplon/rapacuronium bromide
    Baycol/cerivastatin
    Vioxx / rofecoxib
    . . . and so forth.

    Or are such sites as http://www.healthe-livingnews.com/articles/fda_approved_pharmaceutical_drugs_cause_death_.html, http://www.naturalnews.com/028879_censorship_healing_foods.html and so forth just blowing smoke?

    • Lee

      Exactly what went through my mind…
      I’d love to see the information out there on recommended treatments for example for each of bipolar, depression, anxiety etc

  • Amedeo

    Where have the beta-glucans gone?

  • http://twitter.com/BetaGlucans Sarah Dixon

    I am curious about the beta-glucans bubble as it has moved quite significantly in position from the previous chart.

    Your current positioning seems to be based on a single study which doesn’t directly test the evidence for pure beta-glucans – it’s from a study on Laminaria which is Seaweed (Kelp). I’m not even sure if kelp has beta-glucans in it? There is certainly no mention of beta-glucans in the abstract.

    There are studies involving pure beta-glucans and also comparing beta-glucans from different sources.

    Can you check this and explain why the position changed so much?

    Thanks!

  • Liz

    Very cool graphic.

    I’d be curious to know how to account for the quality of the studies though. Also, not all supplements are created equal. An infusion or tincture of a fresh herb is not the same as a stale capsule that’s been sitting on the shelf in a health food store or vitamin shop.

  • Lawren

    When I double-click the licorice root, which says “coughs” and comes up on the anti-viral filter, I geta JAMA article on dyspepsia.

  • Zlatko Rabi

    Yes, right scientific information is beautiful. Our Plenet is beautiful and every human life too.

  • Luiz Henrique

    Just to point out, there are two, separate bubbles for Omega 3 on arrythmias and cardio, one at the bottom and one towards “Slight”. Error?
    I’ve been sending this link to pretty much everyone I know. Awesome job! Evidence rules!

  • Grendel

    Colloidal Silver?

  • Lorin

    This is awesome! I would like to see a tab for “skin” on the side as to that is one of the most popular reasons people buy supps, including myself. Also is the report for Vitamin A for natural Vitamin A or Beta Carotene?

  • ng

    A very important “supplement” that is widely used is olive oil. There are dozens of studies on the efficacy of olive oil concerning many different ailments, still it is not amongst the substances you have included…

  • Katie

    Sorry, I don’t really like this chart, I think it would be clearer if the bubbles size related to the size, or number of studies, or number of people who have been exposed to the substance. I would rather see the bottom axis represent “how many people search for this on google” which kind of seems trivial. At the moment the large bubbles have a big impact but not for any really good reason. And the left to right on the bottom axis means nothing, so technically you don’t even need the bubbles to display the current information and could have used a simple bar graph.
    I also think that you have missed a really important opportunity to let people know that these substances can have very serious interactions with peoples other medications and that it is somewhat irresponsible not to let people know they need to tell their Dr or pharmacist before they begin or stop taking any of these products.
    I think its great however that you have colored the one to watch products differently.

    Thanks for reading this!

  • Katie

    Also, this information is presented as though it is heavily sourced from Cochrane reviews, quite a different thing from an article on Pub med. Only 3 from 162 have Cochrane review references, one of those is 5 years old and one is 9 years old.
    This webpage is a great idea and an excellent resource, I believe it would benefit from tougher editing and more disclosure.

    Thanks.

  • http://alfin2600.blogspot.com Al Fin

    Nice work.

    To fellow commenters: Don’t blame the messenger.

    For a sense of perspective: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Most studies of herbs and supplements lack the power to provide answers to the questions. The money for powerful studies just isn’t in it.

  • natbot

    Agreed this is great- any possibility of adding “weight loss” to the uses? Studies on that are really tough to make heads or tails of.