The Four Point Reality Check
It appears I've upset a few people. Over the years I've written several articles about the rampant deception in the vitamin and supplement industries. Then I did the unthinkable. I made a couple videos that I posted on YouTube.
In one video I explained how researchers discovered that antioxidants taken in pill form would kill you sooner than taking nothing at all.
In the other I talked about several huge studies, involving tens of thousands of people that show multivitamins provide no benefit for the majority of people, and many cause serious harm.
That's when it started. I got phone calls and emails from people who said things like, "I totally agree with you! All multivitamins on the market are bad... EXCEPT the one I sell." They would then go into long explanations about how the pill or treatment they were selling was different from all the rest. All I had to do was listen to their sales pitch and I would see the truth.
My response is always the same. Show me proof. There are four simple things a vitamin or supplement company can do to convince me a product is worthwhile. I call it my Four Point Reality Check.
Four Point Reality Check
ONE: Present a double-blind study, run by an independent third party, conducted on at least 200 subjects for a period of no less than 1 year. (2 years is preferred.) In the study, the subjects should be randomly chosen with half taking your "treatment" and the other half a placebo. At the end of the study, you should document through physical exams and blood tests the direct benefits of your treatment.
Be careful. What companies regularly try to do is give you a clinical study where they track clients through the course of receiving their treatment. They do not compare those to a group receiving a placebo.
Here's the problem. Most people will see improvements in the first 30-60 days of ANY treatment. You need to know that subjects see MORE of a difference from the REAL treatment versus a PRETEND treatment. Without that comparison, you don't know if it's the treatment that's helping or the placebo effect.
In response to this requirement, one person actually said, "Do we really need [a double-blind study] to know whether or not the outcome of a broken arm would be better if we set the break, or leave it as is?"
I found the statement so ridiculous I couldn't stop laughing! This person was comparing the medically accepted procedure of setting a broken bone, proven over hundreds of years of medical practice, to taking a pill of unproven worth?
He was so desperate to make his argument, he wanted us and anybody he dealt with to simply trust the observations of the company that makes the pill and the people who profit from selling the pill. We don't need no stinking clinical trials! TRUST US.
He then went on to justify no clinical trials with the excuse that, "Some authorities believe that only 10 to 20% of medical procedures are supported by the gold standard. Do you equally condemn all medical doctors for the unscientific practice of substituting clinical observation for [double-blind trials] when the possibility of dangerous and even fatal side effects are so much greater?"
YES I DO! I've been warning my readers about that problem since I wrote a series of articles in 2004 called, "Dangerous Drugs - The Over Medication of America." I warned of serious side effects from several drugs and how simple treatments, PROVEN THROUGH DOUBLE-BLIND TRIALS were AS effective or MORE effective than the new fancy pills.
I didn't bother to point out that there have been hundreds of deaths from fraudulent supplements over the years. It doesn't matter if you die from a supplement company that lied or a drug company that lied, the end result is the same. Somebody died.
Any pill, potion or supplement that you put in your body should be held to the same gold standard...because death is never an acceptable outcome.
But I guess when someone is threatening your income, even if what you're selling is unproven and potentially harmful, you'll say anything to rationalize that behavior.
For the record, we also want the study to go on at least a year to verify the change is lasting.
TWO: Have the ingredients in your supplement independently verified (with a seal on the label) by a third party company such as NSF International, U.S. Pharmacopeia / USP or Consumer Lab.
No government agency monitors or regulates what vitamin or supplement companies put in their bottles. As recently as March, 2011 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement that said they, "found nearly 300 fraudulent products - promoted mainly for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding - that contain hidden or deceptively labeled ingredients..." To make sure what they claim on the label is inside the bottle, insist on third party verification.
There were a lot of emails about this too. Some tried to point to the reputation of the company or the salesman as a reason to trust the label. A few even talked about touring the plants where the drug was made. I'm sure the field-trip was fun, but it still doesn't answer the question.
Why won't a company, that spends tens of thousands of dollars (or millions) promoting a product, spend a couple thousand dollars to have an outside company verify that the ingredients listed on the label are inside the bottle? Without that verification...they're hiding something...and you generally don't hide things that are good.
THREE: List the specific populations that would benefit from taking your treatment or supplement.
When drugs are tested, the drug companies figure out who would benefit and who may be harmed. If the supplement or treatment you're considering has done a proper double-blind clinical trial, they'll also be able to tell you who benefits and who doesn't. If they're telling you everyone would benefit, they're lying. There's no such thing as a cure-all.
FOUR: Make sure there are no "benefits" on the label or in the literature that are not clinically proven. Terms like "support" or "enhance" are medically meaningless according to the FDA. If you see vague claims on the label, their only intent is to defraud.
We all want to believe the products being promoted by friends, neighbors and professionals are safe and beneficial. Unfortunately, the majority are not. Insist that EVERY supplement or vitamin you buy meets the Four Point Reality Check. Anything less than all four points and you're wasting money and risking your health.
Don't get mad. Quit buying products from the people and companies lying to you.
UPDATE: Three More Things to Check
Avoid anything with a "proprietary blend." You want an exact list of ingredients and the amounts of each ingredient used. Hiding behind "proprietary" language means they can play with the amounts used in each batch. The manufacturer can include very little quantities of expensive ingredients that may be prominently featured and huge dosages of cheap filler.
The word Standardized should be somewhere on the label. That guarantees each pill has the same potency. If it's not standardized, the strength can vary from bottle to bottle or even pill to pill.
Avoid liquids if possible, they often separate and degrade faster than pills.
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