Consumers waste billions of dollars on unproven, fraudulently marketed, and sometimes useless health care products and treatments. In addition, those with serious medical problems may be wasting valuable time before seeking proper treatment. Worse yet, some of the products they're buying may cause serious harm.
Just because a plant or herb is "natural" or unprocessed does not necessarily mean it's safe. Unlike prescription or over-the-counter medicines, herbs and other food supplements do not necessarily undergo review for safety or effectiveness before they are marketed. Some "natural" products, like herbs, may have powerful pharmacological effects that could present risks for people who take other medications or who have specific medical conditions.
It's not hard to be taken in by a promoter's promises and claim to success, especially when prescribed or over the counter drugs seem inefficient or un-effective. But the fact is that there are usually no endorsed medical tests to determine the effectiveness of these ‘drugs’. Promoters usually rely on ‘success stories’ to sell their products, stories which are sometimes fabricated.
How to Spot False Claims
Remember the first rule of thumb for evaluating any health claim: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, be on the lookout for the typical phrases and marketing techniques fraudulent promoters use to deceive consumers. For example:
· The product is advertised as a quick and effective cure for a wide range of ailments.
· The promoters use words like scientific breakthrough, miraculous cure, exclusive product, secret ingredient or ancient remedy.
· The text is written in impressive-sounding terminology to disguise a lack of good science.
· The promoter claims the government, the medical profession or research scientists have conspired to suppress the product.
· The advertisement includes undocumented case histories claiming amazing results.
· The product is advertised as available from only one source, and payment is required in advance.
· The promoter promises a no-risk "money-back guarantee." Be aware that many ‘fly-by-night’ operators are not around to respond to your request for a refund.
Why Health Fraud Schemes Work
Health fraud is a business that sells false hope. It preys on people who are victims of diseases that have no medical cures, such as HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. It also thrives on the wishful thinking of those who want short-cuts to weight loss or improvements to personal appearance. It makes enormous profits because it promises quick cures and easy solutions to better health or personal attractiveness.
Precautions for Taking Dietary Supplements
Thousands of dietary supplements are on the market. Many contain vitamins and minerals to supplement the amounts of these nutrients that people get from the food they eat. Be cautious about using any supplement that claims to treat, prevent or cure a serious disease.
Some advantages of dietary supplements are unproven and claims about those products may be false or misleading. For example, claims that you can eat all you want and lose weight effortlessly are not true. To lose weight, you must lower your calorie intake or increase your calorie use through exercise. Most experts recommend doing both. Similarly, no body building product can "tone you up" effortlessly or build muscle mass without exercise. Claims to the contrary are false.
Other questionable claims may involve products or treatments advertised as effective in:
· Shrinking tumors
· Curing insomnia,
· Reversing hair loss,
· Relieving stress,
· Curing impotency,
· Preventing memory loss,
· Improving eyesight,
· And slowing the aging process.
In addition to lacking documented effectiveness, some dietary supplements may be harmful under some conditions. For example, many herbal products and other "natural" supplements have real and powerful pharmacological effects that could cause adverse reactions in some consumers, or cause dangerous interactions with other medicines. It doesn't necessarily follow that supplements marketed as "natural" are safe and without side effects.
If you use dietary supplements, it's a good idea to seek advice from a health professional before taking these, particularly for children, adolescents, older people or those with chronic illnesses, and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.