What’s the controversy around the Andrew Huberman podcast supplements promoted by a genuine neuroscientist? How responsible is his audience, and how credible is he?
Andrew Huberman has gained huge popularity with his science podcast, The Huberman Lab. There, he shares his expertise, research, and science-based tips for optimizing human biology.
What is surprising is that Huberman, with his vast knowledge, promotes some poorly regulated dietary supplements. It raises questions about how he might have assessed the scientific research on these products.
Why does Andrew Huberman endorse these nutritional supplements?
Closer Look At The Huberman Lab Podcast
Aesthetics and Appeal
The Huberman Lab podcast features a masculine minimalism approach, with Andrew Huberman dressed in black, and sitting in front of a black background.
Andrew Huberman is a professor of Neurobiology & Ophthalmology at Stanford Medicine.
His credentials and list of publications are both very impressive (see the publications his Huberman Lab at Stanford produced).
He always emphasizes his podcast The Huberman Lab is separate from his role at Stanford University.
Onscreen, you see a calm, authoritative, and convincing person, and everything seems fine.
He discusses cortisol, neurotransmitters, and other hackable aspects of human biology. His audience appreciates his clear-headed and eloquent style.
Sponsorships and Products
From an early time, The Huberman Lab has been sponsored by companies offering products that raise questions from the perspective of science-based modern medicine.
These companies sell products ranging from daily supplement powders and personalized “smart drugs” to blood and DNA testing services.
The World of Andrew Huberman Podcast Supplements
Misconceptions and Risks
Dietary supplements are often marketed as a form of health insurance, yet most people do not need them. Let’s repeat that: Most of us do not require nutritional supplements or vitamins.
The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends against taking certain vitamin supplements without a tested deficiency. Plus, the study of probiotics, which are included in some supplements, is still riddled with questions.
Huberman’s Recommendations: Fact or Fiction
Huberman regularly recommends various supplements, including herbs like ashwagandha and substances like myoinositol.
However, the scientific evidence supporting these recommendations is often weak or inconclusive. Many of the supplements and herbs he mentions have not been thoroughly researched, leaving users at risk of potential side effects or harm.
Impact of Podcasts on Health and Wellness Enthusiasts
Unspoken Rules of Success
Podcasts in the health and wellness space often follow a specific formula to achieve success. Long episodes build trust with listeners.
Huberman’s regular episodes are 1-2 hours long, though we often get to see some Shorts and Reels.
All this outreach draws large audiences, which then attract more sponsors. This financial incentive can often lead to podcasters promoting poorly researched, controversial, and sometimes “New Kid On The Block” products.
Indulgences of The “Youtube” Scientists
The world of podcasts has less regulation than academia, allowing for the promotion of hype and pseudoscience.
Podcasts are often “echo chambers” and podcasters and their guests are more buoyed by fans and followers than peers and fellow academics.
Now, when Andrew Huberman endorses any supplement, his credibility as a neuroscientist inadvertently lends authority to the endorsed products.
As a result, many of his audience rush to check out or buy the products he mentions on The Huberman Lab.
One viewer of the ADHD & How Anyone Can Improve Their Focus episode interprets his words as “rapid blinking increases dopamine.” Looking through PubMed, you find this 24-year-old study: “Spontaneous blink rates correlate with dopamine levels in the caudate nucleus of MPTP-treated monkeys” (Taylor, Elsworth, & Lawrence, 1999).
Andrew D. Huberman is a bona fide scholar and gifted educator. Read one of his latest research: Brief structured respiration practices enhance mood and reduce physiological arousal, 2023.
His tweet on April 8, 2023, which received over 190k views, reads as follows:
“Where a study is published matters. But also who did the work. And the prior and long arc of the lead authors, and a lot more. Gauging the value of a paper almost always requires reading a lot of other papers in that field. No one factor prevails. They all matter. Lineage too.”
And his podcasts carry a disclaimer:
“The Huberman Lab Podcast is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from this podcast is at the user’s own risk.”
That said, Andre Huberman has helped thousands understand and improve their health conditions.
What may strike as odd is how his influencer position has given credibility to some suspect supplements and weakly backed “bio-hack science” concepts.
I wouldn’t say Huberman is a bad influencer. Without a question, his legacy as a well-liked educator will outlive him, and justifiably so.
His listeners may do well to critically evaluate the information presented and check the validity of his recommendations instead of rushing to place their orders.
Of course, healthy practices like a balanced diet, exercise, and proper sleep will always take priority over any dietary supplements.
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Author Bio: Sandip Roy — a medical doctor, science writer, and happiness researcher, who writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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