Each week, registered dietitian Abby Langer sees at least half a dozen women in their late 20s and early 30s with the same complaints: they’re stressed with dull-looking skin and a few pounds like they’d like to lose—but mostly they’re just SO. EFFING. TIRED.
Enter Goop’s new line of supplements.
Packaged in chic single-serve pouches branded with clever names like Why Am I So Effing Tired?, High School Genes, The Mother Load and Balls in the Air, Paltrow has called them the “gold standard of supplements.” And people are buying it. Big time. One- and three-month supplies of Why Am I So Effing Tired? and High School Genes have already sold out.
So what exactly are you getting? Why Am I So Effing Tired? packs a high dose of B vitamins and promises to “re-balance” an overtaxed system. Balls in the Air is weighed down with broccoli extract and antioxidants like beta-carotene, hard-to-absorb glutathione and vitamins C. And then there’s High School Genes, said to be a metabolism booster with free radical fighters, omega-3s and decaffeinated green tea.
It all sounds too good to be true.
“And it likely is,” says Langer. The Toronto-based RD, who runs Abby Langer Nutrition, regularly reviews trendy diets and supplements on her blog. She wasn’t impressed with Paltrow’s blends.
“I can’t even,” she says. “Her website angers me so much.”
With the release of Paltrow’s supplements—arguably inspired by L.A.-based cult-favourite Moon Juice and its whole manner of cosmic provisions, including alchemized Sex Dust, beauty milks, spirit truffles and brain-activating adaptogenic drinks—it’s safe to say that Langer has been busy poring over ingredient labels (and using reliable sources like examine.com to evaluate their claims). Here’s what she told us.
Supplements aren’t real food replacements
“It’s actually possible—and not all that hard—to get all the nutrients you need from food alone,” says Langer. “And while a lot of people are missing certain key foods, I wouldn’t look to supplements to replace those antioxidants and compounds.”
Supplements may seem like perfect quick fix, but as Langer argues, humans haven’t quite perfectly replicated the antioxidants and phytochemicals that are in food: “Always go for whole foods if you can.”
Some of Goop’s claims seem irresponsible
The marketing raises red flags for Langer. “The promises really prey on your emotions, and that’s problematic for me. ‘Oh, you’re tired and can’t lose weight?’ I hate seeing these clichéd stereotypes. Of course you’re tired. No one is getting enough sleep. And a dust or a milk or a packet of vitamins isn’t going to fix that.”
Langer also takes umbrage to the idea—as touted on Goop—that taking too many vitamins is “extremely rare.”
“Here’s the thing. It’s easy to take too many. Just looking at the fat-soluble vitamins in her mixes—vitamins A, D, E and K, the ones stored in your liver—and those can be harmful in high doses,” she says. “I think it’s important that people know you can overdose on supplements without realizing it. It can be totally dangerous. Anything is toxic is high enough doses, including fat-soluble vitamins.”
A little asterisk appears on all Goop supplements, and if you read the fine print it says that none of the statements on the labels have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. While the risk of toxicity is minimal, the doctor behind High School Genes says it’s a good idea to run the supplement packs past your own doctor and to make sure none of the ingredients could harmfully interact with what you’re already taking.
There doesn’t seem to be any direction on Goop’s website about whether it’s safe to take two supplements at the same time—if, say, you wanted to stop feeling so effing tired and also fit back into your high school jeans.
In the notes section for each of the supplements, a slew of studies is cited, but it’s worth actually clicking the links. One study, for example, involved just 60 people; another had a sample size of 40. The meta-analysis on plant extract berberine, included in High School Genes’s “Gut Therapy” tablet, involved more people (2,569 patients, with type 2 diabetes), but it didn’t necessarily offer definitive results—in fact, it called for larger controlled trials to further quantify the effect.
You’re likely paying for some pretty expensive pee
Yep. You read that right. It’s very difficult to completely absorb the vitamins in most supplements.
“We talk about expensive urine all the time in my practice, mainly in regards to water-soluble vitamins like C and B. If you take too much of those, it’s not necessarily dangerous, but they run right through you,” says Langer.
All of this said, some of the antioxidant extracts are great
The glutathione in Balls in the Air is delivered in more absorbable form, “so that’s great,” Langer says, but she still argues there is no definitive research to prove it works.
And the broccoli extract? “I’d rather you chew your food, than rely on a pill,” she says. “There may be some benefit to taking supplemental antioxidants, if that’s what you’re into, but I don’t think you need to pay nearly $100 for them.” In fact, you could find many for a fraction of the cost at most health-food stores and pharmacies.
Stop trying to make “adrenal fatigue” happen
Seriously. It’s never going to happen. Adrenals are the glands that sit on top of your kidneys and produce a variety of hormones, including the stress hormone.
“You may be stressed or tired, but adrenal fatigue isn’t the culprit. There’s no such thing as adrenal fatigue,” says Langer. “Your adrenal glands don’t get tired. Any doctor will tell you that.”
Even the doctor behind Why Am I So Effing Tired admits that while he designed his Goop supplement regime for people with “adrenal exhaustion, or adrenal fatigue,” the concept is, to use his words, “not commonly used or even recognized by most modern medicine doctors outside of extreme cases.”
Start cooking already!
One the first pieces of advice that Langer gives to her clients is simple: start batch-cooking. Do it on Sunday, so you’re prepared for the week. She’s all for scanning meal-prep Instagram posts, too. (Check out Langer’s Insta and one of her fave accounts for inspiration.)
Always consider your source
Langer says there are two things to keep in mind when assessing a supplement. First: who’s promoting it? What makes your source credible? Is it a physician, and if so, are they affiliated with a major university? Who stands to gain from you buying his or her stuff?
And then, look at the label to make sure there are enough active ingredients to actually be absorbed—but not too many to hurt more than help. That means being especially wary of proprietary blends, where the ingredients are noted, but not in their exact concentrations, making it impossible to truly know how much of what’s inside.
“In my business, we say don’t go looking for zebras when all you see is horses,” says Langer. “In other words, don’t immediately go to handfuls of supplements when really you’re probably just missing the basics: sleep, regular activity and proper food.”