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Health Hype Alert
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New fitness videos, diet books, and health products are continually flooding the marketplace. These materials promise us a lot more than they deliver. They suggest how we can enjoy better health. They promote ways to fight disease, slow aging, help you live longer, promote weight loss, increase your energy level, or enhance personal beauty. Why wouldn’t you be interested?

Self-proclaimed health experts and over-zealous promoters often make exaggerated and unsupported claims about health, and promise miraculous cures and panaceas. The consumer has to be very cautious, lest they will end up spending time and money on unproven gimmicks, gadgets and gizmos. Health conditions that took years to develop cannot be simply reversed by a few applications of some miracle cream or a few doses of some fantastic powder or juice.

Testimonials often appear on television in very convincing fashion to authenticate a particular product. Many of these things are simply schemes to make money, a mirage that distorts reality and the truth about health. Health proponents often prey on the fears of the public. Vulnerable groups, such as the ill, the elderly, and the overweight, are too often victims of health promoters. Fraudulent health claims may cause a person not to seek appropriate medical care in a timely manner. In addition, false claims can end up confusing the public about what constitutes good health.

A word of caution

It is estimated that over one-third of Americans go to the internet for medical information. Furthermore, almost one-half of internet users admit this information influences their decisions about their health care and medical treatments. It is well to remember that web publishing is unregulated. The internet enables consumers to obtain both good and misleading (and possibly harmful) information on any health topic. Recently, there has been erroneous information circulated on the internet about soy, canola oil, coral calcium, aspartame, and other topics.

A careful scrutiny of information and a healthy dose of skepticism are essential assessment tools. One must always check on the source of the information on the internet, and ask if it is reliable, and if it has been verified by an expert? We should be wary of any web site that has a link to a vendor selling health products recommended by the initial web site.

Web sites that are sponsored by health professional organizations, government health institutes, accredited universities, and recognized medical clinics such as Cleveland and Mayo clinics, can all be trusted to have reliable health information.

Finally, there are a number of red flags which can alert the consumer to question any health claims. These include recommendations that promise a quick fix or a miraculous cure, recommendations that help sell a product, health claims that sound too good to be true (they usually are), and recommendations based on a single research study.

By Winston J. Craig, R.D. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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