Dietary supplements have been making headlines lately, and not in a good way. The issue of the healthfulness and safety of many commercial brand dietary supplements continues to crop up as study after study reveals disturbing truths about their contents. Recently the Harvard Health Blog published an article that fleshed out some of the latest discoveries in the ingredient lists of some dietary supplements.
The article explained how some popular “dietary supplements” for erectile dysfunction contain chemicals that can cause hazardously low blood pressure when combined with certain heart medications. Some of the ingredients in these dietary supplements don’t even exist outside the world of pharmaceuticals. This is but one example of dietary supplements found to be potentially unsafe long after it’s been produced and marketed as anything but.
How can companies get away with producing these sketchy products?
The article also explains how companies can easily design and produce dietary supplements with virtually little or no initial oversight from the FDA. Unlike with conventional drugs and medicines, dietary supplements don’t go through a long and arduous vetting process to prove that they’re healthful. As long as the dietary supplements contain “established ingredients,” they can be sold without worry. If the ingredients haven’t been “established,” the company producing the dietary supplement need only propose how the ingredients should target a person’s health. In other words, a dietary supplement could be approved as potentially healthy long before hazardous side effects ever surface.
But not all dietary supplements are snake oil by another name. Some products out there legitimately exist to improve the health of their targeted customers, and their “all natural” list of ingredients is just that: all natural. But how do you distinguish the snake oil from the real deal? I have two pointers to offer in the way of advice.
1) Be wary of quick solutions to long-term health problems
As a rule, I question the reliability of a pill marketed as a cure-all for serious health problems. For instance, I’m highly suspicious of dietary supplements that advertise as a fast an easy solution to obesity. This is partly because the particulars involved with weight loss are so complex and so specific to every individual that I have a hard time believing that one pill will work for everyone. Normally weight loss or “diet” pills are nothing more than hunger suppressants with negative side effects. But these questionable dietary supplements aren’t limited to diet pills; “natural” sleep aids, extracts that treat depression, and herbal remedies for anxiety are also to be met with caution, simply because they claim to treat such serious conditions.
2) Watch out for aggressive ad campaigns
It might seem counter-intuitive, but products with the most confidant and aggressive advertising tends to arouse the most suspicion in me. The results, not the packaging, should speak for the efficacy of a dietary supplement. If I only know about a dietary supplement because I see billboards featuring their slogan all over the city, I’ll steer clear of it. The same applies if I only know a product because of a catchy radio jingle. In the pseudo medicinal realm of dietary supplements, smart advertising does not make for a smart product.
How do you identify bogus dietary supplements? Leave your comment below.
This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at accredited online colleges about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics.