Maybe a friend told you she lost 10 pounds with a new herbal product and no extra effort, or you saw something about it while perusing your social media feed. The website looks legit, there’s even a scientific study mentioned, and the product has a money-back guarantee. You order some, because why not? What do you have to lose?
With health scams? More than you may imagine. When it comes to magical herbal remedies, cure-all supplements, and other miracle treatments marketed online, “losing money is probably the biggest harm,” says Deborah Cohen, D.C.N., R.D.N., an associate professor in the department of clinical and preventive nutrition sciences at Rutgers School of Health Professions. “But some of these products can be harmful because they could have prescription drugs in them.” Others have been found to contain contaminants like salmonella, heavy metals such as lead, or active pharmaceutical ingredients—including anti depressants and blood pressure and anti-seizure meds—that aren’t disclosed. This is scary, and a combination of factors are working against us as consumers to let this happen.
Why it’s hard to identify a scam
If a product is on the market, it must be safe, right? Actually, supplements aren’t regulated like prescription drugs are. “It’s almost like the Wild West. These companies can claim a lot of things that we don’t know are true,” says Kimberly Gudzune, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of medicine and director of the