Notice: If you have a serious medical condition, it's
definitely always a wise idea to talk to your doctor
before you begin a supplement program.
the fact that most dietary supplements are advertised
and marketed widely, and many are promoted as "natural"
or "non-toxic," they shouldn't be taken lightly. The
term "natural" may suggest to consumers that the
supplement is safe, especially when compared with
prescription drugs that are known to have side effects.
But natural is not necessarily safe.
Some are potent products that may cause harm and have
dangerous interactions with other medications. Consumers
should be very careful about when and how to use
supplements. They always should discuss the risks and
benefits with their health care professional.
The best advice for patients who take prescription
medicines: If you're considering an herbal product, talk
to your doctor, pharmacist or other healthcare
professional. They have the resources and medical
knowledge to give you the most current safety
Dietary supplements are not required to go through the
same pre-market government review for quality, safety
and efficacy as drug products.
It's unwise to
judge a product's efficacy or safety based only on
testimonials. First, it is very difficult to verify the
accuracy of the account: Some marketers may embellish or
even make up testimonials to sell their product. Second,
you can't generalize one person's experience to others.
Anecdotes are not a substitute for valid science
any health claims with a reliable source, such as the
National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary
Supplements, a public health or scientific organization
like the American Cancer Society or the Arthritis
Foundation, and your health provider.
Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or other health provider
about any medicines you take, as well as any dietary
supplements you're using or thinking about using. Though
some doctors have limited knowledge of herbal products
and other supplements, they have access to the most
current research and can help monitor your condition to
ensure that no problems develop or serious interactions
occur. Retailers or marketers can be good sources of
information about their products and their ingredients,
but bear in mind that they have a financial interest in
their products. If your doctor or pharmacist has a
financial interest in the product, get a second,
Promoters of fraudulent health products often use
similar claims and practices to trick consumers into
buying their products. Be suspicious when you see:
Claims that a
product is a "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous
cure," "secret ingredient" or "ancient remedy."
Claims that the
product is an effective cure for a wide range of
ailments. No product can cure multiple conditions or
Claims that use
impressive-sounding medical terms. They're often
covering up a lack of good science.
histories of people who've had amazing results. It's
too easy to make them up. And even if true, they
can't be generalized to the entire population.
Anecdotes are not a substitute for valid science.
Claims that the
product is available from only one source, and
payment is required in advance.
Claims of a
Websites that fail
to list the company's name, physical address, phone
number or other contact information.
To check a
product out, FDA health fraud coordinators suggest:
Talk to a doctor
or another health professional. "If it's an unproven
or little-known treatment, always get a second
opinion from a medical specialist," Rodriguez says.
Talk to family
members and friends. Legitimate medical
practitioners should not discourage you from
discussing medical treatments with others. Be wary
of treatments offered by people who tell you to
avoid talking to others because "it's a secret
treatment or cure."
Check with the
Better Business Bureau or local attorneys generals'
offices to see whether other consumers have lodged
complaints about the product or the product's
Check with the
appropriate health professional group--for example,
the American Heart Association, American Diabetes
Association, or the National Arthritis Foundation if
the products are promoted for heart disease,
diabetes or arthritis. Many of these groups have
local chapters that can provide you with various
resource materials about your disease.
Contact the FDA
office closest to you. Look for the number and
address in the blue pages of the phone book under
U.S. Government, Health and Human Services, or go to
on the FDA Website. FDA can tell you whether the
agency has taken action against the product or its
marketer. Your call also may alert FDA to a
potentially illegal product and prevent others from
falling victim to health fraud.
For safety and other information on
dietary supplements, see:
Signs of Medical
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 herbal products
or other "natural" treatments:
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.
Examples include words such as detoxify, purify or
energize. Claims such as these are difficult to
define and to measure.
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.
product is supposedly backed by scientific studies,
but references aren't provided, are limited or are
out-of-date. Imbalanced view. The product promotion
mentions no negative side effects, only benefits.
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.