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Clicker Beware: Six Warnings if you Buy Supplements Online

Six Warnings if you Buy Supplements Online

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If you're buying herbal or other dietary supplements, the Internet is a dicey place to shop, according to David Schardt, senior nutritionist at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

In the March issue of the group's Nutrition Action Healthletter, Schardt identifies six things that people shopping for supplements online should be wary of.

"Dietary supplements are all too often deceptively marketed, ineffective, and loosely regulated, even when it comes to the pills sold at major brick-and-mortar retailers," Schardt said. "Online, fly-by-night supplement sellers operate with even less scrutiny from regulators, propping up fake stories on fake news sites citing fake testimonials. The charges that will hit your credit card, however, are real."

Three of the six ruses that Nutrition Action flags are:

  • Many testimonials are phony. "Amy" (below), after confessing her initial skepticism, variously offers testimonials for Garcinia Cambogia, Green Coffee Bean, and Vimax. Likewise, "Jennifer" uses much the same copy to promote Acai Berry, "Joseph," to promote Muscle Rev Extreme, and so on.

 

  • "News" sites may be fake. They might bear the logos of CNN, CBS, or MSNBC, but have nothing to do with the real news outlets. Fox News' Megyn Kelly (left) and the BBC's Ellie Crisell (right) are identified on these supplement-promoting sites as "staff reporter Helen Crisell."

 

  • Most "tricks" aren't there to help you. The "one weird trick to stay asleep all night," illustrated with the curiously formed carrot, eventually takes people to a website selling the "highly discounted" supplement Somnapure at $75 a month, or two to four times what it costs at GNC or Amazon. A three-month supply of melatonin—the ingredient in Somnapure with the best evidence of helping reset the body’s clock—costs just $5 at drugstore.com. 

The full article is hereNutrition Action Healthletter has about 900,000 subscribers in the U.S. and Canada and is advertising-free. Print and electronic subscriptions are available at NutritionAction.com.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).