DEAR DR. BLONZ: There is a memory supplement being promoted by a doctor (at least it is someone with Dr. before their name). There are positive testimonials from people, and many seem to have started with the same concerns I have. I admit I have this temptation to try it, but there are many of the red flags you have previously discussed. -- B.G., Lisle, Ill.
Dear B.G., Organizations are out there selling dubious advanced college degrees to anyone with a bank account. This means there are people calling themselves "doctor" without the necessary training to know what they are talking about. This can be deadly serious when it involves issues related to health. Not so much that the products being hawked are necessarily dangerous, but that people may be kept away from accurate diagnosis, and a once-treatable condition can become a more serious problem. While there are online courses by credible institutions, and these can indeed help one complete credits needed to achieve a degree, it's essential to find out what you're dealing with.
The literature you included with your letter contains plenty of promises, but little evidence to back up the claims. There's also no information about the products' ingredients. The individual in charge goes by "doctor," but it never reveals what type of doctor he is. All it says is that he is an internationally known authority. Questions that come to mind include "Known by whom?" It reads like a scam. Based on what you sent, it is nothing that I would buy or recommend.
To avoid being taken, we need to be alert to the different ways that questionable products can be foisted upon the public. This particular product uses a common strategy; namely the use of a collection of convincing true-to-life testimonials. The pitch follows the line that "it worked for them, so why not for you?" Add the support of someone with pseudo-credentials, and you end up with impressive marketing clout. Here are a few basic guidelines:
1. Make sure that the people giving you advice are the real deal. If they're passing themselves off as experts, find out if this is the case by checking for their accomplishments outside of the particular organization selling the product.
2. Put up those antennas. Ask questions if your instincts tell you something is not quite right, or you want more background on the product, the scientific personalities or the evidence being proffered.
3. If a particular scientific concept is the basis for the product, check to see if this concept is shared by experts not associated with the product or company.
4. Always keep your physician up to speed with what you are taking. There can be side effects or interactions with medications that need to be considered.
If you ever uncover health fraud, report it immediately to the appropriate authorities; search for Consumer Complaint and Protection Coordinators to get contact information for the oversight agencies in your area. Finally, we need to always be cognizant of the fact that this is a buyer-beware market. If you fall victim to an economic fraud, you've lost your money. But if it involves your health, the risks and potential losses can have life-altering implications.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.