Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Make It Your Resolution: Don't Fall For Supplement Scams

With the new year approaching I know many people will be making resolutions, and often times those resolutions involve being healthier ("it's a new year, I'll start to treat my body with respect!"). For those who are thinking about starting a new supplement of some sort, this post is especially important. But let's be honest, this post is important for everyone considering dietary supplements/herbals are a $5.2 billion/year business!

I recently read an article in Nutrition Action Newsletter (written by the Center for Science in the Public Interest), which disclosed some tips on avoiding supplement scams, particularly for supplements sold online.

source: iStockPhoto

Here are some of the tips;

1. Ignore the pedigree. If you see an ad for a supplement on a website that you believe to be reputable, don't assume that means the website host agrees with the product or supports use of the product. Most sites sell their space to ad networks without even knowing which ads they are running. You've probably seen it on blogs, right? How many times have you read a blog about "healthy body images" only to see an add for a weight loss supplement on the bottom? I hate that.

2. Don't fall for before-and-after photos. Come on, you're smarter than that. It's 2011 and you know that by now technology can do so many things! One of those things is the ability to take a photo and manipulate it to make it look "better". Oh, and most of the "doctors" and "physicians" you see on the television are actors. Don't be fooled.

source: iStockPhoto
3. Beware of "free" trials. This is often just a way for the company to gain access to your information and credit card number. You may get charged each month, such as with this "Acai Berry Scam".

Don't blindly trust "review" websites. The websites is an example of a scam review website. If you read the fine print of their disclosure you will learn that they do not claim accuracy for their reviews, and that they are paid commission on the pills they sell.

Look for a street address. A website that only has a toll-free number or e-mail address as their contact could easily be offshore and out of reach if you run into a problem with their product.

6. Check for complaints. Many online consumers will post complaints about products on websites such as,, and

If you want to learn more about dietary supplements, in general, check out this post I wrote last year.

QUESTION: Do you have other tips for avoiding online supplement scams? Have you ever been scammed?

And on a completely different's the weather where you live? It's way too warm here to be Christmas. I wish winter would get here soon, so it can go away sooner than later (we are just putting off the inevitable here in C-bus) and it can actually feel like Christmas!! Ugh.


  1. This is a great post, Gina!
    I really need to subscribe to Nutrition Action is such a great little magazine.
    I look for a third party seal on my supplements, USP. I buy from companies I trust and always, always, try to get my vita's from food first!
    What do you think of Advocare? Just curious...heard of it, have a friend selling it (MLM), trying to research it a bit...
    Warm here too (IA) but I secretly love it!!! :)

  2. I was a supplement addict for a while-- loved buying new ones, trying them all out, etc. Then I realized that they weren't doing a dang thing, ha!

  3. complaint info is good to know. I also think any pill that allegedly will help you loose weight is either going to be a laxative, diuretic or speed. If you take weight loss supplements away, there's not much left.

  4. I agree - where's winter? I do hear they're predicting a white Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in C-bus, though. I am hoping for the same in Chicago!

    I kind of hate supplements because they're so gimmicky. It's such a lacking area of education and people believe everything they see. Sadly, most supplements on the market aren't safe. It's scary!

  5. Thanks for the tips Gina. I get especially frustrated when I get a charge for a product that I was supposed to receive on a trial basis.

  6. Haha it's been warm here and I love it. I don't care at ALL if it's cold or snowy for Christmas- I hate winter and if it was sunny and 80 degrees I'd be happy! I know it will eventually get cold here too but I doubt it will leave any earlier regardless of what it does now so I feel like less winter = better!

    Great tips about supplements. I don't really do supplements but in general if I'm worried something is a scam I google it and also the word scam, something always comes up!

  7. This is really good post...especially with everyone making their new year resolutions. Today I got in a cab and the lady driving it was 180 lbs; she already had lap band surgery and was going to have the bypass because she thought it would help her. I literally said "ARE YOU CRAZY?! go to the gym and eat right, you don't need ANOTHER surgery"

    oooops I totally went off topic but you get what I mean lol

  8. Hi friend! I took your inquiry off my facebook wall...I'm super sorry!! :( I didn't want to send the message to my friend (one trying to sell it to me) that I was asking about it behind her back...even though I kind of was...wanted to get some more professional feedback.
    Anywho...Advocare, Supplement company with sports endorsements from non paid sponsors. They has an impressive panel of scientists and physicians who support it. Google it. I might try a couple of their supplements. I like Vit. D in the winter, fish oil, protein but don't have that 'one line' that I favor...ya know?

  9. Such a great post! I have to ask Zach again about the database he used to subscribe to - they run independent tests on supplements and post the actual lab results. It's shocking how many supplements actually don't contain what they say they contain - even certain brands of "normal" vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin D! Zach has only one or two brands he trusts now...

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Wishing you and Nick a joyous holiday!! I can't wait to read all about your healthy holiday feasts! :-) Let's meet up in person again in the new year, perhaps?? :-)

  10. Great information Gina! There are certain supplements I use and recommend, but I agree there are many scams on the Internet. I subscribe to Consumer Labs to stay up to date on product safety and efficacy, and I have an account with Emerson Ecologics which is where I purchase most of my supplements. They have a quality assurance program for a wide variety of product lines and provide great customer service. Weather here in San Diego? All over the place...mid to low 60's during the day, and dropping to the low 40's at night. As long as the sun is shining though I am smiling :-)

  11. Don't really trust any weight loss supplement. I wish the FDA would regulate better. I also look for 3rd party testing labels like NSF. What are your high temps? Oh my goodness we are freezing here, how about we swap weather? ;)