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Dietitians Dish: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

By By Elizabeth Sommerfeld
June 24, 2014 at 1:24 a.m.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld

Whatever you do, please don't tell a health care professional you believe you should take something because you "heard on Dr. Oz" that it's good for you.

Finally, the Federal Trade Commission has cracked down on Dr. Mehmet Oz. This week, he is undergoing scrutiny for promoting items on his show and indicating these products work and are good for the viewers.

According to the commission, Americans spend billions of dollars on supplements, including those touted to help you lose weight. Very often, these supplement's claims are not researched well enough to provide reliable results.

The commission has filed more than 120 cases against manufacturers claiming false advertisement. Throughout the years, the claims have moved on from supplements and now include products like food and clothing.

Some examples of cases that have been brought against manufacturer claims by the Federal Trade Commission include:

Pure green coffee - It claimed consumers could lose significant weight, body and belly fat in short amounts of time. Oz has promoted this product on his show, and then, the manufacturers created multiple websites, paid for banner ads and used false journals in order to increase sales of their product at a $50 per month cost.

The diabetes pack and insulin resistance pack - A vitamin and mineral supplement marketed as an effective treatment for diabetes and insulin resistance. Sold at $76.70 for a 30-day supply, the company was forced to pay $2.2 million.

Central Coast Nutraceuticals Inc., makers of Acai pure and Colotox. Acai pure was marketed as a weight loss product while Colotox was promoted to help prevent cancer. The manufacturers are issuing more than $5 million in refund checks to people who purchased these products under false claims.

Skechers had to pay $40 million to settle charges against their Toning Shoes, which led consumers to believe that wearing this specific pair of shoes could help increase muscle and provide more weight loss than traditional shoes.

Many other cases can be found at ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/truth-advertising/health-claims.

Some even provide information on refunds if you have purchased some of these products before.

The commission provides these tips to be aware of fraudulent advertisement:

Extravagant claims of dramatic, rapid weight loss or minimize the risk of medical procedures.

Testimonials from famous doctors, researchers or other medical experts.

Dramatic before-and-after photos.

Advertisements that tout the latest trendy ingredient in the headlines.

A footnote hidden somewhere in an ad noting "diet and exercise required." Remember: You can't cure an otherwise misleading ad with a buried disclosure or a fleeting video.

Ads for products that promise to treat baldness, relieve stress, cure impotence, improve eyesight, slow the aging process or offer other easy answers to difficult problems.

Case histories from cured consumers claiming amazing results. Such testimonials also imply that their experience is typical for consumers using the product or service. When you see a testimonial, ask for proof of its typical nature.

A laundry list of diseases or conditions the product cures or treats.

Ads that offer natural treatments for serious conditions like arthritis, diabetes, cancer, heart disease or HIV. Remember, natural doesn't necessarily mean safe and effective.

Remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Keep yourself safe and research before buying into the media hype over products.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld is the bariatric coordinator for DeTar Healthcare System and the nutrition manager at Jackson County Hospital District.

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