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How to Evaluate Health Claims - Spotting Health Scams

Tips for consumers - How to recognize exaggerated or false health claims


Updated July 18, 2008

Can you spot a health scam? With so much contradictory information regarding health or performance benefits of many nutritional supplements, it's difficult for an individual to wade through the research and make an informed decision about what actually works. In order to quickly see through the smoke and mirrors, there are ten red flags you should recognize immediately. When you see a health claim that falls under one of these categories, you'd be wise to keep your hand on your wallet while you do more research.

Ten Clues to False or Exaggerated Health Claims

  1. Recommendations that promise a quick fix
  2. Claims that sound too good to be true
  3. Simple conclusions drawn from a complex study
  4. Recommendation based upon a single study
  5. Dramatic statements that are refuted by a reputable scientific organization
  6. Recommendations based upon studies without peer review
  7. Recommendations based upon studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups
  8. Dire warnings of danger from a single product
  9. Lists of "good" and "bad" foods
  10. Recommendations made to help sell a product, or by the manufacturer itself

Recommendations for Choosing a Nutritional Supplement

  • Look for products that have a 'UPS' (United States Pharmacopeia) stamp on the label
  • Look for products that are eligible for Consumer Lab seal of approval
  • Look for products that are made by nationally known food and drug companies who already have tight manufacturing controls in place

More Tips and Cautions

Because supplements are something added to the diet to make up for a nutritional deficiency, before going out and buying the latest 'magic pill in a bottle,' an athlete would be wise to evaluate his or her diet. Everything an athlete requires for energy and high performance can be gotten through a proper, balanced diet.

Read more about proper Sports Nutrition.

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