What Are the Consequences

Nutrition quackery exploits consumers, and it carries significant health and economic risks along the way:

  • False hopes. Dream on! Quacks may promise—but unsound nutrition advice, products, or services won't prevent or cure disease.
  • A substitute for reliable healthcare. False hopes, created through quackery, may delay or replace proper health promotion, medical care, or follow-up treatment. If you follow quackery, you may lose something you can't retrieve: time for effective treatment!
  • Interference with sound eating and lifestyle habits. That happens when quackery replaces proven guidance.
  • Unneeded expense. In the best-case scenario, some products and services touted by quacks simply don't work—and cause no harm, either. Why waste your hard-earned money on devices, products, and services that have no effect?
  • Potential harm. Nutrition quackery also can put your health at risk. Taking very large doses of some vitamins and minerals, in the form of dietary supplements, can have toxic side effects. For example, excessive amounts of vitamin A during pregnancy increase the chances of birth defects. Inappropriate supplement use can lead to harmful drug-nutrient interactions. For example, taking vitamin K can be risky if you take blood-thinning drugs. For more about specific vitamins and minerals, see chapter 4.

Over-the-counter herbal products, marketed as dietary supplements, are sources of potent drugs. Yet, unlike medications, herbal products aren't well regulated. See "Herbals and Other Botanicals: Help or Harm?" in chapter 23.

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