At the first sign of a cold, Denise Posnak reaches for colloidal silver. She says the mineral supplement helps boost her immune system.
But a new report is raising a red flag about supplements, saying many of them make illegal claims. Inspectors for the Department of Health and Human Services analyzed a sample of products, looking specifically at supplements for immune support or weight loss. They found that 20 percent made claims without scientific evidence, some going as far as to promise a cure for cancer or diabetes.
"They make potentially dangerous claims and they're products that could potentially harm people," said Dr. Michael Hansen of Consumer Reports.
The government report says consumers may not only be wasting their money, they could also endanger their health if they take supplements in place of medication.
In the U.S., dietary supplements are big business, generating about $20 billion in sales each year. One research group estimates 80 percent of adults take supplements. That includes a huge assortment, from Echinacea to vitamin C. But many consumers don't realize supplements do not go to the FDA for safety testing and they don't get their health claims pre-approved.
Posnak is careful with her supplements and says they help. But safety experts say it's time for better oversight from the government.
The FDA says it will address the study's recommendations as resources and priorities allow.
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