Have I been had?

How to spot quackery and avoid fraudulent health products.

All of us have seen the ads – on television, the internet, and even through the mail – about how to lose weight, to feel younger, to look younger, to grow more hair or to have more energy! These products offer a quick cure for just about anything. But are they the real deal or could they be harmful? 

Despite information of all kinds being easily available. Quackery is still alive and well. “Doctors” and “Nutritionists” abound when an opportunity to make money presents itself. Remember that you don’t have to have an accredited degree to write a book or hand out a pamphlet. This type of material can offer false information and unproven health claims. Just because these alternative “cures” have a flashy marketing campaign doesn’t mean that they couldn’t end up doing you real harm.

Before diving in and purchasing any product, ask yourself if it seems too good to be true. If you answer “yes” then it probably is. Check out these tips to help recognize a fraud or fraudulent product:

  • If a quick cure is offered.
  • If they have a “magic formula” or “secret ingredient.”
  • If they belittle recognized treatment.
  • If they discourage you talking to your own doctor.
  • If they rely on testimonials instead of research data.
  • If they claim multiple health benefits.

If you can’t find out what is in the product you are going to use or consume, or if you don’t know what it even is, how do you know it is good for your particular health problem? If you are taking prescribed medications, it is especially important to know the details of a product or involved in a treatment, as dangerous interactions may occur.

So what can you do before spending your money on something you are unsure about? There are resources you can use to check the information you have been given. The Better Business Bureau, Consumers Union, National Council against Health Fraud, and the American Council on Science & Health can all help you find information on a company before you purchase. Most importantly, Michigan State University Extension recommends that you always contact your primary physician and/or pharmacist to check if the “magic supplement” will interact with any medications you are already taking. Your physical safety may be at risk by taking a tonic; don’t take supplements lightly.

Everyone is looking for a quick cure, but eating safe and healthy foods every day, and staying active are proven to be effective. Think before you act.

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