It’s no surprise to most of us that the quest for “total health” is an all-encompassing lifestyle change. You not only need to exercise regularly, but your diet also needs to remain in check, all while making sure that your body is receiving the essential nutrients that it needs to function. It’s a tough balancing act.
(It feels like this; except, when we fall, it’s usually into a pizza.)
When nutritional supplements and vitamins became popular several decades ago, it seemed heaven-sent. For the first time, the average person could control which nutrients are entering their body down to the microgram without having to memorize the nutritional facts of their favorite foods. And, as with all money-making idea’s, the market was soon flooded with frauds and scam artists. Vitamins promising longevity and vitality, nutritional supplements that guarantee super-hero-like muscle gains and weight loss that would make a supermodel jealous, and don’t get even me started on the gas station “natural male enhancement” pills. Nothing is off limits.
Since vitamin manufacturers are not required to follow FDA guidelines, they are self-regulated. Meaning all health benefits they claim, and even the list of active ingredients of their products, should be taken with a grain of salt. So, how do I know if a nutritional supplement is a scam?
Before we offer our advice on recognizing a fraud, you need to understand why this is so important for you …
- The problem is wide spread. Even large, supposedly reputable, retailers have products on their shelves that have proven to have very little to zero health benefits. Take for instance this news article from 2015 that accuses stores such as Target and GNC of promoting fraudulent products (“What’s in Those Supplements” – Article). It doesn’t matter if you shop at a Walgreens, a GNC, or a shady online retailer, if you do not research your nutritional supplements there’s a good chance that it could contain useless ingredients like saw dust.
- By relying on inaccurately labeled supplements as a part of your daily health routine, you put yourself at risk for malnutrition. Malnutrition leads to implications on both your immune system and your body’s growth rates in the short term. In the long term, if you take too much or too few nutrients, you can also experience autoimmune diseases, hormone imbalances, and major cognitive implications.
So, how do I know if my dietary supplements are frauds?
- Do your research … and I don’t mean reading a few blogs or online reviews. The government created the Office of Dietary Supplements for a reason. If you want an unbiased, thoroughly researched analysis of your supplements, take a look at their online fact sheet.
- Keep an eye out for “NSF,” “Consumer Lab,” or “USP” to be listed on the bottle. If your vitamins have any of those titles appearing on their label, then that means that they have been certified by third-party organizations after taking part in rigorous testing. Some nutritional supplements even go a step further and receive certification from third party University studies. For example, Pharmaden Health had a Loma Linda double-blind University-level study performed on their entire line of products which verified all of their ingredients as well as the absorption levels of their supplements.
- Avoid products that make the type of health claims which are usually reserved for prescription medication, or if it sounds too good to be true. IE “Cures Cancer,” “Controls diabetes”, “Loose twenty pounds in a week,” etc.
- Unless they have the research to back it up (IE Pharmaden products ), be wary of any product that offers over 100% of the total daily amount of any nutrient. If a supplement says it has 110% of the potassium you need every day, then chances are either A) It is lying or B) the supplements absorption rates are so low that the lion’s share of that 110% is just passing through your body as waste.
- Use common sense. Avoid the prepackaged stuff at your local bodega or gas station, recognize that 99% of anything you see on an infomercial is total BS, and be skeptical of any advice given to you from someone who claims to be some sort of a Shamanistic Wiccan who heals people using “magic crystals”.
(Pictured: An unreliable source of health-care information)
If you follow these simple tips, you can avoid the “phonies” and get the nutritional support that you need.
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