In our country, you can see many eyebrows being raised whenever you talk about taking protein supplements. A large part of the population is still strongly against the use of protein in supplemental form.
Though these are the same people who have absolutely no idea what you mean by healthy and unhealthy when it comes to supplements, as they have been getting falsely convinced by companies selling cheap sugar filled drinks for children and entire families, since decades, without ever questioning what’s inside them.
But why do they do so? There are many reasons for this:
- Proteins are relatively new – pure & high quality protein supplements are a relatively new phenomena in India, especially when it comes to consumption of proteins by non-athletes or by common people.
It may have been over a century, when Eugene Sandow, addressed as the ‘Father of Modern Bodybuilding’marketed ‘Sandow’s Health and Strength Cocoa’; a milk drink which supposedly was the first protein supplement on the market. In the 1930s when pharmacist called Eugene Schiff developed a method of processing whey from milk for human consumption. Schiff created ‘Schiff Bio-Foods’, and sold protein isolates to the drug stores. But it was bodybuilder & scientist Irvin Johnson who changed his name to ‘Rheo Blair’ developed the first dissolvable protein in the early 1950s. “Johnson’s Hi Protein Food” was a milk and egg-based concoction.
But in India, as far as I remember, use of protein supplements happened in the late 90s, when hardly anyone knew about it, and only couple of athletes showed interest their consumption. Even back then, while I was doing competitive athletics, protein supplements were looked down upon even by sportsmen, as they thought it to be something unnatural. Weider, ON etc. were among the first brands to enter the market.
Slowly the market opened up as more information about the benefits of consuming high quality supplements spread among the masses. But even after two decades, the true information about the benefits of such supplements in the market is scarce.
The government still hasn’t understood the scientific benefits of supplemental proteins by the entire family, and the protein supplement packs and boxes still come with the warning ‘not to be consumed by children & pregnant women’, where the same government is promoting the most substandard drinks filled with sugar and preservatives since decades.
- The Mindset is Stubborn – because of the domination of cheap drinks for children and family, and the huge amount of money these companies spend on advertising to woo the customers, the mindset of Indian customers, specially parents has hit a sort of a roadblock.
These cheap drinks started dominating the market much before the high quality protein supplements came in the Indian market. With false and attractive marketing, multiple offers & schemes, and extremely cheap prices; these companies were able to get into the very subconscious minds of the Indian families and establish their brands.
This is so much so, that despite of the facts that a lot of awareness is being spread by some informed and concerned people against the use of such useless drinks for the families, specially the children; the elders in the family simply refuse to even accept the open lies in front of their eyes.
For e.g. all the products in the market have to clearly mention in their nutrition label, all the ingredients they have added in the product. But they also know that most Indians have never read and probably will never read the nutrition labels. Even if they do, they won’t be able to really understand what’s written.
So, despite of the fact, that the labels openly show the presence of huge amount of sugar, maltodextrin, wheat flour and tons of additives, colours and preservatives, it really doesn’t concern the companies or the consumer.
- The Knowledge is Limited – there are tons of clear research studies about the amazing benefits of consuming high quality protein supplements like Whey, not just for sportsmen, but for medical cases like diabetics, heart patients, HIV & Cancer patients, arthritis cases etc.; pregnant women, children and infants; elderly, and virtually everyone.
Despite of that, the awareness about these benefits is scarce. For most people, false advertising is more impactful than true knowledge. That’s why it is easy to fool the larger part of the population, as you can convince them, or in simple terms, fool them, quite easily.
Remember, with ignorance comes ego. That’s why education and knowledge are so important. When you see the reality, you become more aware and the ego doesn’t have a place there. Most people have falsely inflated egos, thinking that they know it all, and no one can teach them, unless they face the bitter truth, and then their egos go tumbling down the drain.
- The Trust factor is Missing Bigtime – because of a number of unfortunate incidents, the trust which these high quality supplements could have built, is missing, and the rising number of such incidents, being highlighted in the media, is just adding oil to the fire.
Over the years, a number of Asian countries, including India, have become infamous for the notorious activities related to food production and consumption.
When it comes to use of protein supplements , media is full of cases where rackets are being busted about underground factories manufacturing fake supplements. Not just factories, but many gyms, trainers and supplement shops have come under the radar for being part of such scams.
Because of this, thousands of people have been harmed, specially youngsters who have been convinced or forced to take such fake supplements and even anabolic steroids, that too at exorbitant prices.
On the other hand, parents who doubted the use of such supplements, turn even more against when they come to know about such incidents. Now, convincing them to use supplements for the entire family, becomes totally out of question.
- Doctors & Media Add Fuel to Fire – instead of convincing the parents and their families about the truth and real research, most doctors & the media, perform the best duty of adding fuel to fire.
This can be also due to the scare spread because of the disturbing incidents, because of which the doctors become sceptical of advising their patients about the right use of supplements to fulfil their daily nutritional requirements. But there are couple of other reasons to it, and some of them involve a hidden motive.
Another reason, when it comes to medical professionals is the fact that studying supplement science or exercise science is not their subject. Most of them are too busy and overworked to get into understanding these subjects. So, rather than being informed, they are happy convincing their patients against the using such supplements.
Though the research is very clear and most of the doctors worldwide are now convincingly advising their patients to consume supplements for their nutritional needs, the case with the Indian medical professionals is quite different.
But as I said, there is always some hidden motives behind such actions. When it comes to doctors, we all know about the scams in the pharma industry and how doctors are paid huge commissions for advising their patients medicines of specific brands.
Same is the case with many other products like health drinks and multivitamin supplements. Unless convinced and paid good incentives, most doctors aren’t interested in recommending products, even if they know it’s better. But then, neither are protein supplement companies venturing into such line, as we discussed that for the Indian government, protein supplements are still not for families. And unless they regulate it, medical community won’t accept it well.
When it comes to media, it’s the masala which matters, more than the truth. They are happy publicizing news on fake supplements and the side effects people are getting as a result of consuming them, rather than the benefits of original and good supplements and how millions have benefited from them.
Why? Because the entire world media operates on the concept of ‘negativity bias’. This is because humans are more prone to negativity since evolution. That’s why media is always full of news on scandals, fights, terrorism, and everything negative. They will show you why people are getting divorced and the bitter fights between couples, than the beautiful life many couples are living since decades. For them, showing the benefits of such supplements is the last priority, that too when there is some profit motive involved.
Acc. to me, these are the major reasons why most Indians are still scared to consume protein supplements. There may be many other individual reasons too, but these by far top the charts.