April Fool’s Day is an appropriate time to remind you to always consider the source of any nutrition information before you accept it as true. Food and supplement companies have huge financial incentives to exaggerate or even mislead you about their products and unfortunately the FDA does not have the authority or resources to make sure all claims are true.
Vitamin and herbal supplements are especially known for making dubious claims. Independent testing laboratories have found that many supplements don’t contain the amounts of ingredients listed on the label and, even if they do, most are not proven to be safe and effective. Recent tests have also found that herbs and supplements from China sometimes contain scary contaminants, such as heavy metals and even prescription drugs.
You can generally trust nutrition information that comes from respected institutions, such as well-known universities and medical journals. Be especially suspicious of health information that comes from someone who stands to profit from it—like the manufacturer or seller of the item. Remember that testimonials are often used to sell products that don’t pass scientific muster.
When the truly miraculous health and weight loss supplement is discovered, it won’t be a secret for long. Our doctors, health insurance companies and political leaders will be quick to get us using any cure that helps us see results. Until then, good old exercise and healthy eating are the only sure bets.
Happy April Fool’s Day!