Would you buy a supplement that could fight cancer, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, lower your blood pressure AND relieve the symptoms of hepatitis? It’s outrageous and insulting to the general intelligence that a company thought people would believe them. But many people did, hoping for a shortcut around proven medical care or perhaps not trusting Western medicine.
Worse, those who bought the products possibly didn’t get the proper healthcare that could help them. Most of them may have thought, “It might work, and it can’t hurt.” But supplements can hurt you. You don’t know what’s in them, and you’re giving up your healthcare to voodoo pills and powders (meaning no disrespect to voodoo).
Dietary supplements are not regulated or approved by the FDA. The FDA will intervene only if there are a lot of complaints or a pattern of adverse events. Vitamins, probiotics, dietary supplements, protein powders and virtually all the stuff in GNC are supplements and are not approved by the FDA. Any claims they make on their labels, including what ingredients they do or do not contain, are just that, claims and NOT facts. That’s why I don’t generally use them.
The difference between a supplement and a drug is often small. Most drugs are based on herbs or minerals. If supplement makers wanted to make health claims, they could apply to the FDA and conduct clinical trials, just like drug makers do, to prove the supplements are effective and safe. That’s expensive and time-consuming, so most don’t.
However, there are protein powders, herbal remedies and even vitamins with packaging and advertising carrying misleading statements that make it seem like the supplements have health benefits, but stopping just short.
Research into the actual contents of dietary supplements, herbs, etc. have shown the beneficial ingredient in too low amounts to have any effect. Some products include illegal stimulants or steroids — no wonder you have an immediate and temporary boost from them!
All supplements have a disclaimer on them stating that they are “not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases.” But isn’t that why we take them?
Be thoughtful about the supplements you consider taking. For example, watch for phrases that mean nothing but sound powerful:
- Studies indicate that XYZ may promote (insert health claim here)…
- Taken by those eager to enjoy its health benefits such as…
- May help you achieve…
- Many believe that XYZ is responsible for the high density of centenarians in a single geographic area…
- XYZ has been used for nearly two thousand years in China for its healing properties…
- Supported by scientific studies… those studies may have only 5 or 10 people in them. Or there might not be any studies at all. Not all studies are good quality.
- All natural… any product can use this; it means nothing.
Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission settled charges against 3 Florida-based supplement companies that made false claims about 5 dietary supplements. The companies falsely claimed that:
- Fucoidan Force could fight cancer, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to uninfected people, relieve symptoms of hepatitis and lower high blood pressure.
- Ads for the BioMazing HCG supplement claimed it could “signal the brain’s hypothalamus to burn current body fat stores.”
Important: Any over-the-counter product that has HCG in it is illegal. HCG is often claimed to help with fertility and weight loss.
Another product promising to work wonders against colds and the flu cited “Rock-Solid Science” — which didn’t exist. The FTC settlement bans the companies from making any claims in that vein again without evidence.
If you’re serious about using supplements for bodybuilding or general health, the government has just released 2 amazing lists of common ingredients that explain what the ingredients claim to do, if there is any support for the claim, and what the side effects are. It’s great!