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Misleading Infomercials

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Every day, dozens of health-related products are hawked through 30-minute television infomercials, many of which bear superficial resemblance to a TV interview show. Over the years, I have seen ads for weight-loss plans, "cellulite" removers, exercise devices, hair-loss remedies, memory-enhancement programs, reading improvement systems, skin creams, and a myriad of dietary supplement products. Except for a few of the exercise devices (which may work if the user does not become bored with them), the vast majority of the promotions include false and misleading claims. The dietary supplement products are usually promoted with the types of claims we discuss in our article on Twenty-Five Ways to Spot Quacks and Vitamin Pushers. The best way to protect yourself from being misled by health-related infomercials is to ignore them. Since the percentage that are legitimate is close to zero, the likelihood of receiving valuable information is extremely small. Here's a handy list of misleading informercials with links to articles and government releases:

Dietary Supplements and Herbs

"Cellulite" Removers

Devices and Gadgets

Exercise Products

Hair-Loss Products

Impotence Remedies

Pain Relievers

Skin-Care Products

Self-Improvment Systems

Weight-Loss Products

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This article was revised on May 19, 2004.