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How to Spot a Nutraceutical Rip-off

This article originally debuted in the May’11 issue of HIM Magazine

It’s a pretty safe bet that many of us have seen the flashy magazine and internet advertisements depicting an overly-muscled body builder sporting abs that look like they were carved from stone. Incredibly, they apparently achieved this by taking a nutraceutical (dietary supplement) that’s conveniently pictured in the same advertisement…yeah, sure.

Unfortunately, ridiculous advertisements like this lure many consumers into purchasing a product that does little to nothing except pad the pockets of these scam artists. I’m going to teach you how to avoid the psychological grip of marketing scams, which will subsequently help you make better informed nutraceutical purchasing decisions.

Common “Red-Flag” Words and Phrases

It’s best to avoid products that include phrases synonymous with:

  • “incredible scientific breakthrough”
  • “miracle ingredient discovered”
  • “lose x-amount of pounds in x-days”
  • “gain x-amount of muscle in x-days”
  • “most effective supplement ever”
  • “doctor recommended”

Also typically avoid products that include words synonymous with:

“amazing”, “award-winning”, “best-ever”, “drug-like”, “explosive”, “extraordinary”, “extreme”, “freaky”, “free-trial”, “guaranteed”, “hardcore”, “incredible”, “mind-blowing”, “proven”, “rapid-results”, “superior”, “top-rated”, “ultimate”, “underground”

Where to be Especially Scrupulous

Marketing propaganda is just about everywhere, but there are certain areas that are notorious for high-volume nutraceutical marketing scams. These include:

  • Body building and fitness magazines
  • Nutraceutical retail web sites
  • Pop-up Ads on high-traffic web sites

Beware of Athlete Endorsements

Endorsement and sponsorship contracts can easily become the most lucrative part of an athlete’s income. Would you ever pass up the opportunity to pocket $200,000 simply by endorsing a nutraceutical company for a year? This type of payout is real and some top-level athletes are taking even greater amounts home yearly in just endorsements alone. Even lower-level athletes are constantly hired to promote various nutraceutical companies regardless if they use the products or not.

Nutraceutical endorsements by athletes should never be trusted since they are simply a marketing strategy employed to enhance sales. Many professional athletes have very strict nutritional regimens structured by top-tier dietitians, and would most likely not risk jeopardizing their progress with the “latest and greatest” nutraceutical depicted in an advertisement.

FDA’s Advice for Consumers

The FDA released a Consumer Health Information update for March 2011 which provided advice for consumers when using or consuming dietary supplements. The FDA suggests that you:

  • Ask yourself if it sounds too good to be true.
  • Be cautious if the claims for the product seem exaggerated or unrealistic.
  • Watch out for extreme claims such as “quick and effective” or “totally safe.”
  • Be skeptical about anecdotal information from personal “testimonials” about incredible benefits or results obtained from using a product.

Good Nutraceuticals outweigh the Bad

Many nutraceutical manufacturers provide high quality products that can truly benefit our lives. However, these can often be manufacturers that do very little advertising but consistently provide far more value to consumers than the over-hyped companies that you see plastered in print and electronic media. Cut this article out and refer to it anytime you shop for dietary supplements, it could save you from purchasing worthless products.

A Quick Note from Sean Casey

There are a few words that I’d like to add to Brian’s List of “red flag” words…

“Jacked”, “Rage”, “Ripped”, etc …. basically anything contains testosterone fueled language often falls short when you break down the ingredients and the active amounts contained within it.

Also I’d also like to refer you to the articles in the Consumer Savvy portion of this site that Brian Putchio and I wrote that discuss how to evaluate supplements, the placebo effect and other things to help guide you on your journey.

Click Here to find out "Why we do, what we do."

Written on May 24, 2011 by Brian Putchio
Last Updated: May 25, 2011

This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice.Please check with your health care providers prior to starting any new dietary or exercise program. CasePerformance is not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based off the information presented in this article.

About the Author: Brian Putchio is owner/operator of NUTRI-BODIES, LLC in Dubuque, Iowa. Through his extensive knowledge and experience in the nutraceuticals industry since 1999, Brian offers a unique perspective to his blog readers. Brian's refusal to simply flow with the marketing strategies of the industry conveys a strong sense of credibility that helps consumers successfully navigate the nutraceutical minefield.