Popping Pills for Good Health is a Bad Idea

You knew they were a gimmick. Here's more evidence.

We all want that silver bullet when it comes to our health. We want to burn more fat, weigh less, be romantically satisfied, live longer, be more efficient and become more productively alert.

If you’re still thinking, though, that these improvements can come through a dietary supplement or enhancer, experts are quick to flex their cautionary muscles.

“One of the most confusing parts about the supplement industry is the sheer volume of products on the market,” said Simon Peter deVeer, a personal trainer and owner of Simon Says Fitness in Los Angeles.

He encourages the use of supplements and enhancers, but with care and trepidation.

“I teach my clients to read the labels,” he said.

The first thing to understand is what the product promises. Most claims stray far from the truth.

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[lz_bulleted_list title=”The Skinny on Supplements” ]Americans spent some $21 billion on supplements in 2015.|The FDA spot-tests just 1 percent of the 65,000 dietary supplements sold, according to Healthline. [/lz_bulleted_list]

“Be wary of all these products,” said Felicia Stoler, a New Jersey-based nutritionist, exercise physiologist and author of the book “Skinny In Fat Genes.” “People are looking for a quick fix, and because that stuff is over the counter or from a health store, they perceive the claim to be true.”

Experts say potentially gimmicky enhancers often include additives or synthetic materials, many of which are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Fraudulent drug products are often ineffective in their “claim to treat disease or improve health,” said Lyndsay Meyer, press officer with the FDA. “In addition to wasting billions of consumers’ dollars, health scams can lead patients to delay proper treatment and cause serious — and even fatal — injuries.”

The FDA is concerned and “focused on removing these products from shelves.”

The FDA keeps lists of such products to avoid. These lists are longer than anyone might think. They include products that falsely promote health fixes, as well as treatments for everything from sexual enhancement to weight loss, fat-burning, and body-building products.

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If a product claims to prevent, treat or cure diseases or other health conditions, and doesn’t have an official approval in regard to safety and efficacy, be very wary.

“Steer clear of bold claims, proprietary blends, fat burners and testosterone enhancers. These products have very little value to anyone, athletic or otherwise,” said deVeer. “The products are constantly changing their formulations and packaging, and they are doing so to avoid being rigorously tested.”

“At the end of day, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Stoler said. “Supplements don’t go through the same procedures and rigorous testing that drugs do.”

If you’re wondering about a certain product, the FDA’s lists of tainted supplements can be a good starting point. These lists are robust, but the FDA acknowledges they’re not all-encompassing.

“Even if a product is not included in this list, consumers should exercise caution before using certain products,” the FDA’s Meyer said. “The (FDA) is unable to test and identify all products marketed as dietary supplements that have potentially harmful hidden ingredients.”

If you become aware of a risky product or tainted supplement, the FDA encourages consumers to report the product and the issue through the Safety Reporting Portal. Share any problems or adverse health-related incidents you might have experienced.

In general, however, speak with your doctor before trying any supplement or enhancer. There’s likelier a healthier path to follow. Head to the gym or buy a new pair of walking shoes — each is a much wiser investment.

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