Be Smart About Supplements

Unregulated products pose threat to consumers

Herbal remedies, weight loss medications, and other nonprescription products that are imported from other countries and that target certain minorities may be scams, says the Office of Minority Health at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency is warning consumers that products sold at ethnic markets, on TV or online with familiar ingredients and labeled in your native language may be unregulated in the US. Some of these products contain dangerous ingredients with serious side effects, including heart attacks and strokes. Others claim to contain drugs, such as antibiotics, but don’t. 

The FDA offers these tips for being supplement-smart:

  • Be wary of products that say “all natural.” Even plant-derived products can be toxic or lethal at high doses.
  • Remember that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
  • Be suspicious of claims that a product is a “miracle cure.”
  • Quick fixes are too good to be true. For instance, don’t believe the claims of a weight loss product stating you can “lose 30 pounds in 30 days.”
  • Watch out for labels that say “made in the USA” when they may come from other countries.
  • Ask your doctor if a product you’re considering is safe for you to use.