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Fad or Fiction? Don’t Fall for Junk (Food) Science

How do you know if a product is safe and healthy — and if it works?

You may have seen claims for products and diets can help you lose weight and get healthier. Friends and family may have amazing weight‐loss or health stories about something new they’ve tried. How do you know if a product is safe and healthy — and if it works? Here are a few tips:

  • One pill does it all: Very few products can treat multiple conditions at once. Be wary of ones that promise they can.
  • Proof in numbers: Scientific research is based on controlled studies with large numbers of people, not one individual’s experience.
  • Quick fixes: Be skeptical of anything that promises immediate results. Terms like “in days” may actually mean any length of time.
  • Be “naturally” cynical: While “natural” may suggest “safe,” remember that some plants can kill when ingested. Any product — synthetic or natural — strong enough to help is strong enough to hurt.
  • The secret’s not out: If a product were a cure for a condition, that information would be widely reported in the media, and the product would be regularly prescribed by health professionals.
  • “Satisfaction guaranteed”: This phrase is meant to instill confidence, right? However, manufacturers of fraudulent products rarely stay in business long, so they can afford to be generous with their promises.

When in doubt, ask yourself, “Does it sound too good to be true?” If it does, it probably isn’t true. If you’re still not sure, talk to a doctor or health care professional. You can also check with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Better Business Bureau, or local attorney general’s office for complaints.