How can I be sure the supplements I buy are safe?

Tod Cooperman, MD
Health Education
To ensure that the supplements you buy are safe, pay close attention to the ingredients and don't buy anything with unfamiliar properties. In this video, I will share some tips for safe supplement shopping. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Many of the supplements you take every day are not what they seem. They could be spiked with illegal or recalled prescription substances -- some even deadly. These substances may be created by chemists in illegal labs, and many of these so-called supplements come from abroad. Due to the incredible volume of these tainted supplements, even after the FDA busts an importer or recalls a supplement, they can still be readily available online or on store shelves. This makes it doubly important that you keep your guard up and your eyes peeled in order to spot the red flags. Learn how to safely shop for supplements and avoid scams by following these guidelines.

  • Prescription "strength": Avoid anything that claims to be an alternative to a prescription. If a supplement claims to be an alternative to an FDA-approved drug or have effects similar to a prescription drug, these are red flags. Only take a prescription drug with a doctor’s care -- don’t go seeking out potentially dangerous alternatives.
  • Foreign-language packaging: Avoid products marked primarily in a foreign language. Pay especially close attention to packaging. If you can’t understand what’s on the label, don’t buy it. Also be on the lookout for misspelled words or poor grammar. If you can’t find the company name, a website or a phone number on the package, it’s a huge warning sign.
  • Miracle claims: Avoid supplements that make miracle claims -- or simply seem too good to be true. If it claims to be “long-lasting” or to work “rapidly” -- in minutes or hours -- that’s a red flag. If it says you can lose weight without changing your diet or exercising, that’s also a red flag. If you only have to pop the pill to get instantaneous results or ones that far exceed any realistic expectations, don’t purchase or use this supplement.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.