Facebook fans are used to seeing ads, including some for supplements sold with extraordinary-sounding health claims. Everything from treating diabetes to boosting brain power. But a new investigation by Consumer Reports found that many of these ads target vulnerable Facebook users with products that may be dangerous and illegal.
For example, CR found a series of posts from a verified Facebook page promoting the use of comfrey, which is a dangerous supplement.
CR’s investigation also found a disturbing trend: some of the supplement ads were aimed at specific groups of people. We found some ads aimed at people Facebook thought were interested in diabetes awareness, and it was allowing marketers to promote things like a diabetes reverse pack. Medical experts say that supplements generally cannot cure or reverse diabetes.
New Life USA removed that list of products, and its CEO told CR that he thinks people with diabetes should continue to work with their doctors, but he also said they should “wean themselves off” the medication.
CR also found dangerous supplements being sold on Facebook Marketplace, where users can buy and sell new and used items including “kratom,” which the Drug Enforcement Administration lists as a “drug of concern.”
Facebook said the kratom listings violated the platform’s rules, and soon after CR started asking questions, most of them were gone.
But even if these ads for dangerous supplements are removed, it may not solve the bigger problem.
Unlike a medication, where clinical trials must be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration before it can be approved and sold, these supplements can end up on the shelves without first going through a filter.
In general, consult your doctor before trying supplements, and be sure to look up information about them in official sources, such as the National Institutes of Health website medlineplus.gov.
And if you ever feel sick after taking a supplement, report it to the FDA as what’s called an adverse event.
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