Deceptive Health Supplement Advertising
This article is predominantly focused on television ads on Fox News Channel.
Everyone can see a growing proportion of these ads on Fox are geared toward Christians, Trump supporters, and other politically right-wing conservatives, who the advertisers feel are the target market demographic on that channel.
The advertisers often handsomely pay former and current guests of Fox to promote the products and further influence their target market, like former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and questionable correspondent Sebastian Gorka.
The advertisers have apparently discovered with this tight targeting that they get a disproportionally high conversion rate (more sales per ad impression) than they would find on other channels or using other methods; selling significantly overpriced fake and exaggerated health products, often utilizing false, fraudulent claims.
The products discussed generally have no FDA reviews, and no double-blind medical studies to prove the efficacy of their product claims. Basically, they are attempting to (and often successfully) preying on vulnerable, often confused, elderly, or disabled viewers. Or they are just targeting consumers with extreme political and religious views, that mistakenly influence their buying decisions; people who often seem to put rational skepticism and price/value analysis aside.
Some of these products contain ingredients that are in fact shown to have some clinical benefit. However, they are almost all much more expensive than competing products or ingredients. They are also much more expensive than they would otherwise be without such extreme advertising budgets (as a portion of their expenses, and relative to their revenues). There are generally replacement options available for all of these products, with similar ingredients at a fraction of the cost, due to lower advertising expenses and possibly a smaller attempted profit margin.
Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are not thoroughly tested or evaluated.
TruthInAdvertising.org says, “Each year, American consumers lose billions of dollars as a result of deceptive marketing and false ads. These run the gamut from blatant lies and fraudulent scams to subtle ploys intended to confuse and mislead. Not only do these tactics impact us as consumers, but a mind-boggling amount of money is misdirected in our economy as a result of deceptive marketing. All too often, companies with quality goods and services lose out to businesses premised on false marketing campaigns.”
Balance of Nature: This product is merely freeze-dried powder from fruits and vegetables, in capsules. Whole fruits and vegetables are much more affordable and much better for your health. There is nothing particularly dangerous about these pills, unlike some of the other products mentioned in our article. Balance of nature cites absurd “studies” (ultimately just MS Word documents, with questionable claims not properly researched or published in any medical journals) that attempt to prove their pills are more effective than whole foods. Those studies are from unqualified sources associated with the company. Their claims are certainly untrue. This suggests that the product is ultimately an expensive fraud, despite being relatively harmless and maybe a tiny bit helpful. Real studies have found that similar powders are somewhat helpful, but were using dosages at least ten times higher than the recommended dose of Balance of Nature. (24 grams compared to 2 grams). So to compare to this marginally effective study group, you would have to consume 12 times more Balance Of Nature per day, and therefore pay 12 times more than the already usurious price.
FDA sent them a warning letter due to false claims in 2019: https://www.fda.gov/inspections-compliance-enforcement-and-criminal-investigations/warning-letters/evig-llc-dba-balance-nature-580888-08202019
Prevagen: Harvard Health Publishing says “The bottle promises it “improves memory” and “supports: healthy brain function, sharper mind, clearer thinking.” Never mind that the main ingredient in jellyfish (apoaequorin) has no known role in human memory, or that many experts believe supplements like this would most likely be digested in the stomach and never wind up anywhere near the brain. Oh, and the commercial doesn’t mention any risks of treatment or the cost.”
The Federal Trade Commission and New York State Attorney General charged them with false advertising in 2012. The company was accused of selectively reporting data and misleading the public through claims that Prevagen is “clinically proven” to improve cognitive function.
“thousands of Americans have reported experiencing “adverse events” while taking Prevagen, including seizures, strokes, heart arrhythmias, chest pain, and dizziness.”
Relaxium Sleep, promoted by former governor Mike Huckabee
One consumer’s messaging sounds very similar to a bunch of others:
“After seeing the Mike Huckabee commercial on Fox News, I ordered a free trial bottle of Relaxium Sleep paying only for shipping and handling. ($7.95). Two bottles arrived and my credit card was charged $96 !! I tried phoning them without success……Long wait…..leaving message but no one called back. I e mailed them with my complaint and they returned an e mail with a refund process using Adobe. Neither I nor my husband could open the file. I e mailed them again explaining this. No response and to date I have sent 3 more e mails including a photo (screen shot) of the Order summary clearly stating the charge as $7.95. I have not any replies to my e mails and am hoping BBB can help resolve this and get a refund from this totally underhand company”
Relief Factor, sold on TV by Sebastian Gorka, is a blend of herbs and Omega-3/fish oil (snake oil?)
• “There is insufficient clinical evidence to back up the product’s claimed effectiveness.
• Users must take the vitamins three times a day, with four units of substance every intake, which makes adherence difficult.
• Clients are involuntarily enrolled for future orders, and canceling the membership may be difficult.
• The suppliers’ lack of a money-back guarantee clause generates specific concerns regarding the reliability of the product.
• In contrast to other options presented, the product appears to be pricey.”
Nutrafol, for hair loss
One consumer says “This product is a reasonable formula of components for general health. But it will not GROW new hair!! Period. It’s a highly-overpriced formula of readily available ingredients, taking advantage of the highly-emotional component of hair loss.”
And another consumer stated “I have purchased 4 bottles of this and have taken them religiously. Absolutely no effect to their claims. I wanted to give this five stars but there was no change. I reached out to the company and never received a reply.
They are a waste of money!”
Nugenix supposedly helps with testosterone levels but one review states: “Recurring billing is IMPOSSIBLE to cancel unless you fight with customer service. It is an MLM.”
American Heart Association says “Scientists aren’t yet saying that supplementing your diet with beetroot juice benefits your health over the long term.”
Moreover, the juice is much less expensive than SuperBeets powder, and would be easier to absorb and more effective conceptually.
Release insulin resistance, golo.com
The ingredients in Release by GOLO are readily available in stores and online at a fraction of the price, if they work at all:
Magnesium – 30 mg.
Zinc – 5 mg.
Chromium – 70 mg.
Proprietary Blend – 405 mg. Banaba Extract: an extract from the leaves of the crepe myrtle tree, which is native to southeast Asia. Banaba is traditionally used to lower blood sugar. …
It is hard to find any legitimate cost-effective health products being promoted on Fox, just the previous scammy ones.
Salon.com august 2020
“As if Bannon and his scam-buddies weren’t enough, this was also the week that we learned that COVID-19 will soon cease to be a threat to the health and well-being of Americans because Mike Lindell, the “My Pillow guy,” is bringing a miracle cure to market. Called Oleandrin, it has not been approved by the FDA, it hasn’t undergone any double-blind testing and there is no proof whatsoever that it works. But there Trump was this week, meeting with Lindell and pushing the stuff like it was the new hydroxychloroquine. The My Pillow guy, naturally, has taken a seat on the board and has a financial stake in the company pushing the drug.”