According to experts, one-half of the population uses dietary supplements. For most of us, we believe this is a method of improving our health status.

However, a new research effort suggests this supposed health-enhancing behavior may in fact cause poor health practices.

Taiwanese researchers led by Wen-Bin Chiou, Ph.D., designed a study to determine if frequent use of dietary supplements had unintended consequences for subsequent health-related behaviors.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“After reviewing the literature of the prevalence of dietary supplement use, it seemed to show that use of dietary supplements is increasing, but it does not appear to be correlated with improved public health,” says Chiou.

Two different experiments were conducted using a diverse set of behavioral measures to determine whether the use of dietary supplements would encourage subsequent health-related behaviors.

Participants in Group A were instructed to take a multivitamin and participants in the control group were assigned to take a placebo. However, all the participants actually took placebo pills.

The results from the experiments and survey demonstrated that participants who believed they had taken dietary supplements felt invulnerable to health hazards, thus leading them to engage in health-risk behaviors.

Researchers discovered participants in the perceived supplement use group had less desire to exercise, consumed a less healthy diet and walked less than the control group.

Chiou believes people who use dietary supplements to improve their health “may pay a hidden price, the curse of licensed self-indulgence.”

Individuals need to realize that taking dietary supplements alone, without embracing additional health-enhancing behaviors, is not beneficial and, in fact, can lead to poor health decisions.

Source: Association for Psychological Science