Shop Safe: Over-the-Counter Supplements

Dr. Oz recently aired a show on health scams, exposing a shocking discovery on over-the-counter supplements. Who knew that you could buy a product that may not even contain the ingredients advertised on the label? You may be putting substances in your body without knowing it – and worse, some of these ingredients may be toxic. I knew that there were products out there that misled consumers, but I had no idea that some of these ingredients you could be ingesting may not even be listed on the label.

Posted on | Jodi Sawyer, RN | Comments ()

Dr. Oz recently aired a show on health scams, exposing a shocking discovery on over-the-counter supplements. Who knew that you could buy a product that may not even contain the ingredients advertised on the label? You may be putting substances in your body without knowing it and worse, some of these ingredients may be toxic. I knew that there were products out there that misled consumers, but I had no idea that some of these ingredients you could be ingesting may not even be listed on the label.  

If the claims of a particular supplement seem too good to be true, then guess what? They’re most likely false. Dr. Oz noted tests conducted on Valerian root products that showed that 70% of the products did not even contain Valerian. How is that possible? And this was just one example of many. 

So how do you do your own research? First, read the label. Pay particular attention to asterisks next to the product name on the label. This typically means that the product has been modified.  

Beware of 30-day money-back guarantees, which are typically an auto-pay scam that keeps you hooked into monthly payments. And beware of celebrity endorsements, which may not be legitimate. Dr. Oz found a ton of sites that were using his name and photo to endorse their products and Dr. Oz does not endorse any products.  

If you see a label that says “pharmaceutical grade,” walk away. There is no such thing. If the label says that the product has been “tested in a FDA lab,” put the bottle down. There are no FDA labs, and over-the-counter herbs and supplements are not FDA-regulated.  

Check with your doctor. Look for top doctor-recommended supplements on reputable websites that have no vested interest in the product; many sites claiming to list excellent products are actually run by the manufacturers.  

In the end, you must be your own advocate when it comes to taking these supplements because there are products out there that contain dangerous, cancer-causing ingredients. One St. John’s wort product tested on the show proved to contain cadmium, an extremely toxic chemical element that is actually a soft bluish-white metal. Ingesting this chemical can cause osteomalacia (soft bones), osteoporosis (loss of bone density), irreversible kidney damage, gout, arthritis, cancer and even death.  

Bottom line: Be diligent and educated when you buy supplements, and be especially attentive if you have a health condition. Many of us turn to these supplements to feel better, so we must be certain that they don’t, in the end, make us terribly sick. 

Blog written by Jodi Sawyer, RN
Jodi Sawyer has worked as a registered nurse for over 14 years and was one of the first RNs in Southern California to work with...