Life in the 21st century is frenetic for most of us as we strive to juggle the demands of long working hours, family and health. Television, magazines and internet bombard us daily with advice about healthy lifestyle, avoiding obesity and improving the way we look.

Unsurprisingly many of us have tried or considered whether a dietary supplement might help us to achieve the healthy, toned and perfect body contours we crave.

But there are so many products to choose from, each claiming to be better than its competitors, ‘life-changing’ or even ‘the holy grail for dieters’. How can we avoid selecting a product which is exorbitantly priced, ineffective, or just plain dangerous? The following may help you to avoid some of the pitfalls.

Don’t be taken in by unproven advertising hype

what to do when buying pillsWhen manufacturers promise dramatic weight-loss through dietary supplement alone, without changes to diet or exercise regime, those claims are likely to be exaggerated. Take a sceptical view of anecdotal testimonials from people who claim to have achieved extraordinary results, and where a product is endorsed by a gorgeous celebrity, remember the celebrity is paid for the endorsement, and was only selected because she already had a gorgeous body!

Don’t accept catch phrases at face value

Many manufacturers advertise supplements as ‘100% natural’, which sounds healthy and safe, but is meaningless because the term is unregulated. Don’t assume that a product described natural contains no artificial flavours, colourings or preservatives.

A product described as ‘organic’, with the accompanying official logo, is regulated, and that logo guarantees safe and unadulterated production. The best advice where a product is advertised as ‘natural’, is to check the ingredients on the label very carefully.

Don’t rely on claims that a product is ‘scientifically proven to be effective’ or ‘clinically proven to be safe’

Where rigorous clinical trials have been conducted by scientific researchers, manufacturers should be able to provide you with references to those studies so that you can examine the results for yourself. Manufacturers too often refer vaguely to ‘scientific trials’ without detailing the nature of the trial or the scientific conclusions.

Would you take a supplement that has only been tested on rats? Many dietary supplements have not been subjected to rigorous testing. Contact the manufacturer and request details of scientific testing before you buy.  And remember, even where rigorous testing of a product has taken place, ingredients within the product may react adversely with prescribed medicines, or cause problems for people suffering from certain medical conditions. Don’t be afraid to check with your doctor before taking a dietary supplement.

Don’t take a supplement without checking the ingredients

looking-for-pills-ingredientMany dietary supplements contain a blend of ingredients which combine different properties. For those intent upon losing weight, ingredients which inhibit fat production, suppress appetite and enhance mood are clearly attractive, but do your research.

Don’t buy a supplement where the proportions of different ingredients are not given: a mere trace of an ingredient designed to block fat is unlikely to aid weight-loss. The internet allows us all to be researchers, so check out the recommended doses for each ingredient and ensure that the product you choose complies with those recommended dosages.

Losing weight takes considerable effort, and dietary supplements can certainly help, but they are likely to be most effective when combined with a healthy diet and a sensible exercise regime. Probably the best advice in researching and selecting your dietary supplement is to remember the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!