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FROM THE EDITORS

If a supplement sounds too good to be true, maybe it is


By Brent Bauer, M.D.
Medical Editor, Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine


The Food and Drug Administration and the National Council Against Health Fraud recommend that you watch for the following claims or practices. These are often warning signs of potentially fraudulent dietary supplements or other so-called "natural" treatments:

  • The advertisements or promotional materials include words such as breakthrough, magical or new discovery. If the product were in fact a cure, it would be widely reported in the media and your doctor would recommend it.

  • Promotional materials include pseudo-medical jargon such as detoxify, purify or energize. Such claims are difficult to define and measure.

  • The manufacturer claims that the product can treat a wide range of symptoms, or cure or prevent a number of diseases. No single product can do this.

  • The product is supposedly backed by scientific studies, but references aren't provided, are limited or are out of date.

  • The product's promotional materials mention no negative side effects, only benefits.

  • The manufacturer of the product accuses the government or medical profession of suppressing important information about the product's benefits. There is no reason for the government or medical profession to withhold information that could help people

For more information on how to select a dietary supplement, see the Second Opinion question and answer on Page 8 of our December 2010 issue.

Adapted from "Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine"


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