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Health and Fitness Claims

Americans spend billions of dollars every year on supplements, foods and devices in hopes of improving their health and fitness. But not all of these products live up to the advertising claims that they can help people lose weight, combat disease, and improve their cognitive abilities. The Federal Trade Commission combats this type of deceptive advertising in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration. The FTC also seeks the expertise of other government authorities, including the National Institutes of Health.

With regard to the supplement industry, which reported an estimated $25 billion in sales in 2009 – a six percent increase over the previous year – market analysts suggest that the downturn in the economy has led to increased spending on these products, as consumers attempt to manage their own healthcare and avoid expensive doctor visits and prescription medications. All too often, the health claims made for these products are false or unproven. Over the last decade, the FTC has filed one hundred and twenty cases challenging health claims made for supplements. Meanwhile, in recent years there has been a trend in food advertising toward making unproven claims that eating certain foods can improve health and even reduce the risk of serious illnesses such as prostate cancer and heart disease.