How To Spot a Quack Health Site: Red Flag #1, Primary Goal Is Selling Supplements

During the process of compiling the Cardiology Quackery Hall of Shame, the skeptical cardiologist has recognized that the #1 red flag of quackery is the constant promotion of useless supplements.

Such supplements typically:

-consist of “natural” ingredients

-are a proprietary blend of ingredients or a uniquely prepared single ingredient, and are only available through the quack

-have thousands of individuals who have had dramatic improvement on the supplement and enthusiastically record their testimonial to its power

-have no scientific support of efficacy or safety

-despite the lack of scientific data, the quack is able to list a series of seemingly valid supportive “studies”

-aren’t checked by the FDA

-apparently cure everything from heart disease to lassitude

I received an email today from a reader complimenting me on my post on the lack of science behind Dr. Esselstyn’s plant-based diet. The writer thought I would be interested in the work of a  Dr. Gundry.

I found on Dr. Gundry’s website an immediate and aggressive attempt to sell lots of supplements with features similar to what I describe above.

Dr. Gundry’s bio states “I left my former position at California’s Loma Linda University Medical Center, and founded The Center for Restorative Medicine. I have spent the last 14 years studying the human microbiome – and developing the principles of Holobiotics that have since changed the lives of countless men and women.”

Need I mention that “holobiotics” is (?are) not real.

Bonohibotically Yours,


After writing this, I googled “red flag of quackery” images in the foolish hope that I might find a useable image. Lo and behold the image I featured in this post turned up courtesy of Here it is in all its glory, courtesy of Maki





8 thoughts on “How To Spot a Quack Health Site: Red Flag #1, Primary Goal Is Selling Supplements”

  1. My ophthalmologist now pushes supplements, and of course they stock them, as well. I do NOT believe in supplements and resent the sales pressure the docs use. This is nothing more than a revenue generator and from my reading, becomming more prevalent in “legitimate” medical practices.

  2. As well known, there are a plethora of such sites The sine qua non of the financial success of each is the MD classification of the purveyor to whit ” if you cannot trust a MD for medical advice who can you trust” as MDs are “reliable, knowledgeable and trustworthy”. Does not unscientific if not snake oi,l promotion under the auspices of such “MDs” weaken patient trust that is essential for a good doctor patient relationship. Why does the medical profession as a duty permit this from its members as some such sites may even be harmful to a patient. Does this not limply that doctors enter into the field of medicine primarily for personal financial gain rather than a fiduciary duty to a a patient. Why limit this skepticism to Cardiologists,

  3. My pet peeve is supplements that contain plant sterols or stanols, sometimes combined with other ingredients such as carnitine (which may promote atherosclerosis according to research by Stanley Hazen’s group at the Cleveland Clinic), and because the plant sterols lower cholesterol slightly, people assume they must be beneficial. In reality, plant sterols and stanols have never been shown to prevent cardiovascular events, or do anything else other than cost you money.

  4. My ex-wife wanted to buy our daugher a supplement from a doctor she met. She said: “It’s a secret formula. It’s patented.” I pointed out that by definition you can’t patent a secret formula.

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