Consumer Alert
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | January 7, 2003

"Reverse the aging process with HGH!"

"Calcium cures cancer!"

"Lose 20 pounds this weekend!"

Every day, we get hundreds of questions at Better Life Unlimited about products people saw in an infomercial, read about on a website, or received information about in the mail or e-mail. We're always glad to answer those questions, but we want you to know how we assess the claims made about health products. We do that by asking the following five questions (and you should, too):

1. What is it?
Every product should have a nutritional label and a list of ingredients. If it's not provided, or the company won't provide access to it through some kind of media, leave it alone. Any reputable firm will be glad to show you the nutritional label so you can see the active substances in the product. The list of ingredients also will tell you if it has substances such as preservatives or food dyes that you might not want to put in your body. You may not understand everything on the label, but you should at least have access to that information.

2. Who is the manufacturer? How long has the company been in business? Does the company own its plants or contract the work out?
What we've found is that companies that offer a good product will provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision. If they won't, we recommend that you pass--no matter how attractive the hype on the product is.

3. Where is the science behind the product?
While many products talk about research, they should provide the scientific citations for you. That means they give the name of the author(s), the title of the article, and the scientific journal in which it was published--volume, issue, pages, and year of publication. Simply saying "as reported in medical journals" tells you nothing.

If the product is based on research and science, it's in the company's best interest to let you read it. At Better Life Unlimited, if we can't find the research on the active ingredients in a product, we simply don't recommend you take it.

4. What is the hype behind the product?
Here's an old rule that still applies: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If the product touts cures for diseases, or weight loss that seems too fast, let it be. Often there are fantastic testimonials to support the hype. Ask yourself "Does this sound reasonable?" When you don't feel well or are concerned about your health, these promises sound good. But get past the emotion and examine the product logically. Your instincts are better than you think if you'll just listen to them.

5. Is there a conspiracy theory alluded to in the product promotion?
Something like "This is a product that the pharmaceutical industry doesn't want you to know about!" or "Big business is concerned about profits--not your health." That just doesn't make sense.

Are drug companies competitors? You bet. Will they put their best foot forward? Absolutely. Will they point out the weaknesses of their competitors' products in advertising? Of course. But is there a conspiracy of the pharmaceutical industry to keep secrets of cures for diseases because they can't patent them? No way--they already earn billions of dollars selling medications. And don't forget the profit motive--if there's money to be made, some legitimate company will find a way to offer the product.

On the other hand, are we a society that is over-prescribed medications? Yes--but that's not necessarily the fault of physicians or the pharmaceutical industry. Keep in mind that we live about twice as long as our distant ancestors, and that's more time for things to go wrong. But let's be honest--most of the blame falls on us. Every day, we have the choice of exercising or not, of eating a low-fat diet or not, of smoking cigarettes or not, of eating more fruits and vegetables or not. If we don't do all we can do, we can't blame the industry that manufactures products that allow us to reduce our risk of disease while keeping our unhealthy lifestyle. They're just filling a need that we've created.

If you don't like to take medications, the solution may be to change your lifestyle. If you do all you can reasonably do with diet, exercise, and supplementation, then you may have to take medication--but probably not as many.

Remember these five questions.
Make a mental checklist and if the product you're considering doesn't pass this initial screening, leave it alone. If it seems to make some sense, then ask us. That's why we're here, and we're probably already checking it out. Be a smart consumer in your goal of attaining optimal health.
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