Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Health Fraud
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office


Every year people trying to improve their health are taken advantage of by those trying to capitalize on the trend toward better lifestyles. Whether people are spending money on diet pills, smoking cures, health clubs, exercise equipment, vitamins, cancer or AIDS cures, or low-calorie foods, it seems there is always someone out there to promise a miracle in exchange for money. Below is some information to help you distinguish between a scam and the real thing.

Always check with your doctor.
Always check with your doctor before you purchase and try diet pills, start an exercise regimen, or begin taking an assortment of vitamins. Many diet pills contain ingredients that can be harmful to individuals with high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes, or pregnant women. Someone who does not exercise at all should be wary of a fast-talking, high pressure sales pitch from a health club, and should consult with their physician as to whether such an exercise regimen is appropriate for their current physical condition. Also, some vitamin plans may be unnecessary, since many of the foods you eat everyday already offer a good supply of vitamins and other nutrients.

Body wraps, cellulite creams, massages
Body wraps, cellulite creams, massages and other such quick "fat reducers" are only temporary measures, at best, and have no long term effects on body fat. The only sure way to lose weight and reduce fat is to eat less and exercise more. There are no magic pills, patches, potions, or creams that can do this for you.

Be wary of food labels that claim "lite" and "less fat than...."
The Food and Drug Administration has established standards governing food manufacturers, but you still need to read labels and carefully consider the comparisons made. For instance, a product that claims to have "1/3 less fat than potato chips" is not necessarily low in fat. And a "lite" frozen dinner with "only 290 calories" may not provide you with enough nutrients, or may not satisfy your appetite, so that you end up eating more than you otherwise would.

In Florida
In Florida, health clubs must register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) and post a bond to protect consumers in case the club goes out of business. Check with the DACS to determine if a bond is posted and to see whether there are any complaints against the health club on file.

Cures for devastating diseases
Cures for devastating diseases such as cancer and AIDS are constantly being promoted, relying on desperate people to pay whatever it might take to obtain such a cure. Checking with a doctor and national organizations such as the American Cancer Society or the American Foundation for AIDS Research can help confirm that the promotion is nothing but a hoax promising a miracle that is not likely to happen.