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Swiping Left on Shady Supplements: How to Avoid Vitamin Scams


Stop sign that says "Stop Swipe Left."

Just like in the dating world, the supplement aisle is filled with options that promise to change your life. But not all supplements are Prince Charming material, as I've learned from years of trying every "magical" pill and powder since the mid-'90s. It's like a rollercoaster of hopeful first dates leading to disappointing mornings-after. So, let's talk about the red flags to look out for when navigating this complex world, ensuring that you're not "catfished" by false claims or harmful ingredients.


The Hype and the Hope: What Marketing Doesn't Tell You About How to Avoid Supplement Scams

A woman is holding a shopping basket looking at supplements in the vitamin supplement aisle.

Picture this: You're walking through the supplement section and your eyes lock with a beautifully packaged bottle that promises to "boost your immune system," "enhance cognition," or "melt away the pounds." It's the equivalent of a dating app profile with skydiving photos and a bio that says, "Love adventures and dogs." Tempting, right? While I appreciate the benefits that some supplements can offer, experience has taught me to approach them with a discerning eye, as not all live up to their marketing claims.


Spotting the Red Flags: The Supplement Edition

A woman in a striped suit is peering through a magnifying glass.

1. The Mysterious Label

In dating, if someone's evasive about their life or dodges important questions, that's a huge red flag. Similarly, supplement labels that are vague about ingredient concentrations or use "proprietary blends" should be treated with caution. You deserve to know exactly what you're putting into your body.


2. Meaningless Claims

"Outdoorsy, fun-loving, and spontaneous" may sound great in a dating profile, but what does it mean in reality? Likewise, labels like "clinically tested ingredients" or "FDA approved laboratory" often provide no substantial evidence for their effectiveness.

a glass bottle of pills labelled "magic pill"

3. Too Good to be True

If someone claims to have no flaws and promises to change your life overnight, it's probably too good to be true. The same goes for supplements that claim to cure diseases or provide instant results.


4. Beware the Catfish

Just like you wouldn't want to be deceived by a fake online profile, you should be cautious about counterfeit supplements. With reports of counterfeit products sold on even reputable platforms like Amazon, it's crucial to verify the authenticity of your supplements. Check if they are sold directly by the brand's website or from a storefront authorized by the company. Pay attention to customer reviews for red flags and consider third-party testing as an extra layer of safety.


5. The Overdose Dilemma

Just like in relationships, too much of a good thing can be bad. Some supplements contain far more of an ingredient than is beneficial, or even safe. The dosage game can be akin to sending 50 texts in one day—it's just too much.


6. The 'It's Complicated' Certification

Third-party testing is the supplement world's version of a background check. If the testing isn't done by a reputable organization, you're taking a risk on what you're consuming.


7. High Price ≠ High Quality

Ever dated someone with a fancy job and car, only to realize that their emotional intelligence is lacking? Likewise, a high price tag on a supplement doesn't guarantee high quality.


an image showing the labels for the NSF, USP, and CL

Building a Healthy Relationship with Supplements

Before swiping right on supplements, it's essential to read the fine print and research before making a commitment. To best avoid supplement scams, consult reputable resources, like the NSF, U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), or ConsumerLab.com for unbiased information on product quality.


You also need to ensure compatibility with your body. Start slow, monitor how you feel, and adjust as needed—sort of like the early stages of a promising relationship.


Remember, finding the right supplement is like finding the right partner. It requires time, patience, and a willingness to sort through a lot of frogs to find your prince (or princess). But when you do find the right one, the benefits can be life-changing—in a good way!


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