Play Ten Questions continued

  1. To sort valid medical terms from hype, ask a credible expert to decipher any confusing terms or phrases. A supplement can't increase your strength, immunity, stamina, or energy level, either. For more about supplements promoted to athletes, see "Ergogenic Aids-No Substitute for Training" in chapter 19. "Ergogenic" means the potential to increase work output; a supplement can't do that!
  2. Fact: Nutrition is a science, based on fact not emotion or belief. Be skeptical of case histories and testimonials from satisfied users-if that's the only proof that a product works. Instead look for medical evidence from a reputable institution or a qualified health expert. Without scientific evidence, a reported "cure" may have other causes. Sometimes the ailment disappears on its own. The "cure" actually may be a placebo effect; its benefit may be psychological, not physical. The person may have been misdiagnosed in the first place. Even chronic ailments don't always have symptoms all the time.
  3. Fact: Everyone does not need a vitamin supplement! Most healthy people can get enough nutrients with a varied, balanced eating plan from MyPyramid. Quacks rarely say who does not need a supplement. See "MyPyramid: Your Healthful Eating Guide"in chapter 10.

For most people, there's no added benefit from taking more than 100 percent of the DVs for most vitamins and minerals. Except for a nutrition deficiency, there's no proof that nutrients alone prevent or cure anything. So ignore the hype! On the contrary, taking too much may be harmful. See chapter 23, "Supplements: Use and Abuse."

  1. Fact: No nutrition regimen, device, or product can treat all that ails you. And they can't cure many health conditions, including arthritis, cancer, and sexual impotence. Even when they're part of credible treatment or prevention strategies, nutrition factors are typically just one part of overall healthcare.
  2. Fact: Most health-promoting approaches take some effort. Claims that sound too good to be true probably are. Quacks know that's what people want to hear. Quackery thrives because people want simple cures and magic ways to change what's imperfect.
  3. Fact: Quacks often belittle the regular food supply, government regulation, and the established medical community. They even claim that the traditional health community is suppressing their work. Instead they call for "freedom of choice". . . and describe unproved methods as alternatives to current, proven methods. However, alternatives promoted through quackery are typically untested and may be ineffective or even unsafe. Among well-researched methods, you'll find choices.

By discrediting traditional approaches, quacks are attempting to funnel your healthcare dollars toward their own financial gain.

  1. Fact: There's nothing magical about supplements promoted as "natural." From the standpoint of science, the chemical structure of natural and synthetic dietary supplements is essentially the same. And the body uses them in the same manner. (There's one exception: "natural" vitamin E is more potent than its synthetic form.) Herbal products aren't necessarily safe just because they're "natural." Even substances found in nature can have natural toxins, with potent, druglike effects.
  2. Fact: By law, a medication must carry product information on its packaging. That includes the product's ingredients, use, dosage, warnings, precautions, and what to do if adverse reactions occur. However, products or regimens sold through quackery may not report all this information, including potential side effects or dangers.
  3. Fact: Quacks are typically salespeople. Rather than offering accurate advice, their bottom line is to sell you something. Be wary when someone tries to diagnose your health status, then offers to sell you a remedy, such as a routine dietary supplement.

Be wary of the methods used to assess your health or need for supplements. Many invalid tests may be hard to distinguish from legitimate clinical assessments. Those often used by quacks include hair analysis, iridology, and herbal crystallization analysis, among others. Computerized questionnaires can't supply enough information either to determine your need for a supplement. Get an opinion from a qualified health professional before getting these assessments or making changes based on the results.

Quackery underlies many regimens focused on weight loss or gain, too. To judge programs for their effectiveness and safety, see "Questions to Ask... About Diet Programs" in chapter 2.

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