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How to identify false nutrition claims


By Nancy Ernst, CD, CDE, RD, Gundersen Nutrition Therapy

Knowledge is the best protection against becoming a victim of false nutrition claims, aka quackery. How can you tell a real expert from a deceiver? Use these guidelines to help evaluate nutrition claims as legitimate or fraudulent.

  1. Does it sound too good to be true? A promise that a diet, vitamin/ mineral supplement, herb or special food can "cure" a chronic illness or provide "dramatic" relief or promising results is a red flag. No single nutrition product can miraculously take care of a health condition. So, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Testimonials, often by celebrities, that are used to "prove" a product works. Only the result of carefully controlled scientific experiments count as evidence of a treatment’s effectiveness.
  3. The claim is made that "everyone" needs this product.
  4. The practitioner who recommends the supplements or products also sells them. Credible physicians and registered dietitians may recommend supplements on occasion, but they don’t profit by selling them.
  5. Is the product recommended for stress, or being promoted as "natural," claiming it will "detoxify," "revitalize" and "purify" your body? The body cannot tell the difference between manufactured vitamins in a lab and so-called natural vitamins extracted from food. Your liver will help rid your body of toxins.
  6. A promise that weight loss will be effortless, immediate or guaranteed results. The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in. Eating less and being more active are realistic weight loss goals and the only way to keep it off is maintaining these lifestyle changes.
  7. The person selling the product has credentials and degrees not recognized by the scientific community. Look for nationally accredited and recognized professional credentials, such as a registered dietitian (RD).

Most people advertising nutritional products believe in what they are selling, so resisting the pitch may be difficult. Remember, the main goal of the salesperson is to make the sale, not to improve your health.

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