I recently got a reader question in my inbox about a particular weight-loss supplement from Probolan 50 Ervaringen. While my gut reaction off the bat is almost always "that's probably bullshit", I wanted to put in the time and actually do some research.
I have a general system and a few trusted sources I go to when trying to get an honest review of something. It didn't take too long to confirm that the product in question was probably not worth the money.
(Fool-proof test: does the product have one of those videos with a guy drawing a bunch of cartoons with a marker and a cool voice-over? Does he tell you he's not sure how long the video will be up - presumably "The Man" doesn't want his super-secret info around for the public - so you must watch the whole thing now?)
But I was left wondering, what if I hadn't spent enough time researching stuff like this to know some strategies for spotting and filtering out crap? How would I, as a potential consumer, try to find reviews of a product?
Well, I'd probably Google it... Unfortunately, that can sometimes be more misleading than illuminating. Let's go through what happens when I Google "Leptiburn review":
So I went through the entire first page of results here, and found what appeared to be a list of fake review sites. Why did I feel they were fake?
Well, the two sites circled in red to the left were the only sites on the first page that had any hint of criticism in their reviews.
Now, some of those sites in blue had "criticisms" but they were the kind of things you would say if someone asked you in an interview what your biggest weakness is:
"Ugh, Leptiburn is just SO ENERGIZING that I can't take it a few hours before bed because I'll be up all night."
"It doesn't replace diet and exercise! ...but I lost like 25 pounds in 2 weeks."
"Leptiburn took like, A WHOLE WEEK to ship, because I live outside of the US. So unreasonable."
"Make sure that you don't lose too much weight too quickly with this product! Wouldn't that just be awful?"
I dug around a bit more on the product review sites circled in blue. Almost every program or supplement reviewed gets a glowing recommendation, conveniently followed with links to where you can buy the product. This leads me to think these sites exist simply to be high on Google rankings when a potential consumer is trying to find an honest review.
Really, just dig around on the Real Vs. Scam site a bit. I haven't found even one product concluded to be a scam. And remember, all comments on the internet are not authentic. As is pointed out in the Bullshit Detector Guidebook, testimonials and even before & after pictures are very, very easy to fake.
Why This Matters
I often hear people say there's no excuse for ignorance about how to lose weight or get in shape since the internet has everything you could possibly want to know. That's partially true, but the internet also has heaps of unhelpful advice - and if you've never worked out a day in your life how are you to know the difference?
If someone comes to you for advice asking a question perhaps you've answered a thousand times, or something you feel they should obviously know is a scam fad diet or pill, try to reserve judgement. Answer empathetically and honestly - we can't all be experts in every subject, and some companies out there really do try to make it difficult for the layman to find good information.
So How do I Find Good Information?
Unfortunately, it can take some work.
When I'm feeling particularly lazy, these are usually the top three places I go to get solid information on supplement or nutrition-related topics (but bear in mind, I don't draw final conclusions from them):
However, let's say you're looking to review a specific product, like Leptiburn. Your first stop would be to learn about leptin itself and its role in weight control. Then you would want to try and find studies on the effect of leptin supplementation on humans. (You'd probably then find that the quantity of leptin often isn't the problem for very overweight people, it's leptin sensitivity - then you'd have to look up if the ingredients in Leptiburn improve sensitivity.)
These steps take time, make no mistake...and there really is no shortcut for this kind of thing.
My advice, as always, is that if you do not have the time or inclination to research a subject, reserve judgement. You can have an opinion based on what you do know, but be open to the idea that you may be wrong. I recommend debating people in a respectful manner based on what you do know, and with an open mind. They may know something you don't, and you can change your opinion from there.
And definitely don't trust mass review sites that have no negative criticisms of any products.