Miracles Or Mirages: Checking Out Supplements
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | April 17, 2001

Almost every day, we get inquiries from people who ask about a supplement they read about that can cure or treat specific diseases. They want to know if there could be any truth to such claims. With the expansion of the Internet, more and more information appears every day, and separating fact from fiction is challenging for the layperson. While we examine as many products as we can to see if there is good science behind the supplement, you are your own first line of defense against hollow promises or dangerous substances. Here are some questions you should ask and seek answers for:

Who is making the claim? Many products are written about in newspapers and magazines in a format that appears to be an article. In reality, they are ads made to look like articles—watch for the word "advertisement" in very small type. Be cautious of this approach. Why do they need to cloak their ad? On the Internet, information can be posted quickly promoting products. The info can disappear just as quickly.

What are the claims being made? The word "cure" cannot appear in any ads. Scientists and physicians would never use such a word because they know it's not responsible. If you see the word "cure" or anything like it, be suspicious.

Why would information be suppressed about this product? When you read things like "Information your doctor doesn't want you to know" or "The drug companies don't want you to find out about this product," it's best to ignore it. Regardless of your feelings about people in the medical profession and pharmaceutical firms, they would leave no stone unturned to help their patients. Think about it logically—a living patient is a future customer.

Finally, and most importantly, where is the research? This can be tricky because all products say they have scientific research, all "double-blind, placebo-controlled" trials published in "scientific journals." Some even give you a citation in the journal. They're assuming you'll never look it up. Either the research is non-existent or the article may not really say what the research shows. Another approach is that the journals are not really medical or scientific journals but newsletters of unknown origin. All reputable journals can be found in Medline, the U.S. government's database of scientific knowledge. If it isn't there, be careful of what's being reported.

Food supplements can be a blessing because they can address micronutrient deficiencies, and herbs and other supplements can support the body. Just remember that there is no vitamin, mineral, herb, or any other food supplement that ever cured anybody of anything. All a supplement can do is help your body to help itself—the miracle lies within you.
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