Why are health products so rampant?

Health is the common wish and pursuit of human beings, but not everyone can understand the way to health.

Health care products are considered as a shortcut to health, and many people do not hesitate to spend money on it.

Health Culture Promotes Health Care Industry

Health care and supplements are one of the traditional cultures in our country. After the reform and opening up, with the development of market economy, the growth of health care products or supplements is extremely rapid and has become a huge industry.

Traditional supplements include traditional Chinese medicine and food, some of which are called dietotherapy without distinction between medicine and food. In recent years, the word tonic has been replaced by health care products.

In the 1950s and before, people once advocated [Western medicine tonic], such as glucose and vitamins B1 and B12, as well as injection preparations containing phosphorus and androgen, as well as oral cod liver oil preparations.

In short, these things change with market preferences, with more and more patterns and more bizarre products. Not only food, but also clothing and daily necessities claimed to be able to protect health and cure diseases.

In the 1990s, a person with little education introduced a [Zhou Lin Spectrometer] under his own name, which once went deep into thousands of households. In fact, [Zhou Lin Spectrometer] is only a very simple infrared device that produces heat. Some people have seen through it and call it [Baking Electricity].

However, due to mythical publicity, this product has received inscriptions [blessings] from high-end figures such as the Minister of Health, the President of the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government. The Minister of Health even invented an unwarranted [spectrum medicine] [1].

Health products have what characteristics?

All countries in the world have health care products or similar things, but the content, form and popularity are quite different.

In the United States, there are nutritious foods including vitamins, herbs [to improve immunity], weight loss, medical deception for cancer and refractory diseases, etc.

Health products in our country lack a clear definition and are very complicated in types. Generally speaking, it refers to various non-drug products or other appliance designs that claim to promote health or even prevent and treat diseases without recognized methods for clinical evaluation, of which nutritional health products or health food are the most.

The raw materials of this kind of health care products include:

    All kinds of Chinese herbal medicines: such as ginseng, pilose antler, bird’s nest, Cordyceps sinensis, Ganoderma lucidum, bee milk, pollen, pearl, turtle, snake, animal penis (medicinal name [whip]) and brain, etc. Trace elements: such as selenium, zinc, germanium, etc. Nutritional ingredients: such as phospholipids, polyene fatty acids, proteins, peptides, amino acids, vitamins, etc.

Even the normal flora of intestinal tract has become a major type of health care products to promote health and prevent diseases.

It can be said that as long as you dare to think and spend a lot of money on advertising, no matter what, you may become a health product.

Note: Although the content of this article generally does not include health care products in the form of daily necessities and instruments, the basic principles of evaluation are also applicable.

The current health care products have the following characteristics:

  1. The composition is unknown: the form is mainly food, and the index composition is difficult to verify.

  2. The name is magical: it highlights the peculiar effect of the product, or has oriental mysterious color, and contains words such as essence, qi, spirit, strength and spirit, such as Chinese turtle essence, etc. Some of them have the foreign flavor of imported products, which is used to deceive the public who do not know exactly. For example, Finger Xin is an English function.

  3. Expert Platform: In the early days, the inventors of health care products were mostly non-professionals, but now many famous experts, scholars and even many official academic organizations, in order to promote health care products, either act as consultants, or do [child care], or go to the battle to develop products in person.

  4. Pompous efficacy: Most claim to have all-round health care effects, improving immunity, eliminating fatigue, nourishing brain and intelligence, nourishing yin and yang, preventing and treating difficult and complicated diseases… All-encompassing.

Health care products are easier to approve than drugs. The competent departments turn a blind eye. At the same time, the market is wider and the profit margin is larger. These are the great driving forces for investment in the development of health care products.

However, if the advertisement of health care products claims to have the effect of preventing and treating diseases, it is against the relevant laws and regulations on health care products and the Advertising Law.

Are health products safe?

According to Chinese culture and thinking mode, people always start from experience. However, whether a health product is effective or not depends not on the [feeling] and [reflection] taken by individuals, but on whether a controlled clinical trial has been conducted.

No in vitro test or animal test can replace clinical test. Selective typical cases, [case follow-up] or case records, good news but not bad news, no matter how many examples.

Like clinical trials of drugs, health care products should also answer two questions:

    Is it more effective than placebo? Is there any evidence that it is safe?

Any person who has not been proved to be valid by test shall be presumed to be invalid. Similarly, those who have not been proved safe should not rule out the possibility of insecurity or danger. This is the basic principle for evaluating products involving public health.

Some people think that health care products are not drugs, why are they so strict?

No. Since health care products claim to have the effects of promoting health and preventing and treating diseases, and are expensive, there is no reason not to seriously evaluate the effects and toxic and side effects of health care products.

Is what a recognized scientific evaluation method?

Is a controlled clinical trial.

At present, our country lacks strict examination and approval procedures and standards for health care products. Judging from the evaluation and approval materials of several health care products I have seen, the problem is very big.

First of all, there is no standard evaluation standard and method. Different health care products and evaluation units use different indicators and methods and lack common standards. The experimental design for evaluating the effect is rough, the control is lacking or unreasonable, and it is useless. Indicators and their explanations are also very casual.

In 1996, several health care companies asked me to identify their products. Among them, a manager who produces Cordyceps sinensis products in Guangdong called and said that their products are very reliable and different from others. They have been identified by the first-class medical research institutions in China and sent the test and identification materials by express delivery.

I was very surprised to find that, These appraisals are indeed stamped with the seals of some famous research institutions and large hospitals in Beijing and Shanghai or their affiliated companies. For example, an appraisal made by a research institute of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, They used this Cordyceps product to carry out in vitro culture tests of human blood lymphocytes with a concentration of 0.1 mg/mL, and concluded that [it can significantly inhibit the proliferation of lymphocytes].

Although this conclusion is unreliable, it turns out in the identification conclusion that [the liquid may also inhibit the growth of tumor cells].

Moreover, there is little difference between the results of the experimental group and the control group in some tests, but statistical tests are significant, such as p = 0.05, so the appraiser is called [significant effect].

Although some clinical trial results come from relevant departments of famous large hospitals in China, the reports are extremely hasty and unbelievable.

Is the health product effective?

Some of China’s current health care products are [affiliated] nutrients, while others are traditional [supplements] or [supplements] that have been repackaged, such as ginseng, pilose antler, donkey-hide gelatin, bird’s nest, etc.

These things are respected by people for different reasons, or they look like human beings. Or because of physical properties, such as donkey skin gelatin (donkey-hide gelatin) is viscous colloid, imagination has [supplement] effect; Or because of [eating what to supplement what]; Others were imported from abroad or pretended to be foreign goods.

In fact, no matter from the results of chemical analysis, experiments or clinical trials, traditional supplements have no so-called health care effect and even lack common nutrients.

[Eating what to Supplement what] is even more unreasonable in science. Because all kinds of foods people eat, whether they are vegetables, tofu, fish, eggs, milk, delicacies, or [health supplements], are only nutrients such as protein, carbohydrate (sugar), fat, vitamins, major and minor minerals and cellulose.

Vitamins and some trace elements such as iodine, zinc and selenium are necessary for human metabolism, but their requirements are limited. It is not enough to ensure a balanced diet. On the contrary, long-term large-dose administration is not only useless, but also may cause toxic and side effects.

Writer Zhou Zuoren once said:

Tonic drugs are still gaining momentum, but foreign goods have been added. Some people do not take (traditional) tonic drugs and switch to vitamin pills that are perfect and complete. Vitamin pills certainly have their uses, but their uses are only to make up for deficiencies. It is good to have enough, and there is no other benefit if they are surplus [2].

A few decades ago, the literati made it clear, but modern people still do not understand it.

Analyze all kinds of health products

Due to psychological hints, people taking health care products may have good subjective feelings or hearsay [having a friend/relative] stories, but none of them can stand verification.

It has been at least 60 to 70 years since China applied scientific methods to study the pharmacology of supplements, while Japan was even earlier. The effect is still [specious] and cannot stand the test. It is excluded from medicine. The conclusion is obvious.

The basis for many health care products is also logically absurd:

For example, the penis of animals can strengthen yang. Shining pearls and pollen from beautiful flowers can beautify. The long-lived tortoise can prolong its life because of an intuitive primitive thinking. This way of thinking has a profound cultural foundation in our country.

Some are due to their abnormal traits, such as turtle’s ability to inhabit both land and water. Gecko lives on land but its skin is covered with scales. Pangolins are covered with scales, but they can climb trees through holes.


Ginseng is a typical example of supplements. It has been used as medicine in China for more than 2,000 years and is considered as a panacea for enhancing physical fitness, refreshing, relieving stress, improving sexual function and even bringing back the dead.

Ginseng is still a traditional tonic in the east, especially in China and South Korea. However, the effect of tonic lacks evidence from clinical trials and even the results of animal experiments are not credible [3].

Bird’s Nest

The protein content of bird’s nest is very high, reaching 49.8%, which may be similar to dried fish, but there is no so-called nourishing special ingredient.

Bird’s Nest is the nest of swallows belonging to the genus Swiftaceae. This nest is built by swallows using marine fish, algae and velvet feathers bonded by saliva.

Jin Siyan is distributed in Southeast Asia, Madagascar and Japan, as well as a few coastal areas such as Fujian and Hainan Island in China. It nests on the coast of cliffs and is difficult to collect. Moreover, only swallows are found during nesting season, so its output is very limited.

Therefore, it is an open secret that there are so many bird’s nest health products on the market in our country, including fraud.

Medicated liquor

One of the traditional supplements, the so-called effect may be caused by the warm feeling caused by skin vasodilation after drinking, and is not one of them.

The existence of medicated liquor not only threatens the lives of all kinds of protected animals, but also wastes public money, which is not helpful to public health.


During the Cultural Revolution, the price of turtle on the market was about the same as that of ordinary fish. In the late 1970s, it was rumoured that it could cure cancer, making it 100 times worth.

At that time, a relative of my colleague suffered from liver cancer and placed live turtles on the abdominal wall almost every day. His skin was scratched and scarred, but it failed to relieve any pain or prolong his survival.

In recent years, there are also so-called turtle essence oral liquid, of which Chinese turtle essence is the most dazzling. TV programs have exposed many factories and workshops that produce turtle essence health care products. Their conditions are poor and the environment is harsh, which is disgusting.

Ma Jiajun’s coach, Ma Junyan, colluded with Biejing Business Group, In the advertisement, he lied that the long-distance running women he trained had risen to prominence on the field because of [drinking Chinese turtle essence frequently] [4]. However, the athletes said that they had never taken such things. According to Yuan Weimin, former director of the State Sports Commission, the [success] of Ma Jiajun’s long-distance running was due to the use of illegal drugs and stimulants [5].


Probiotic health care products mainly refer to the normal flora of human intestinal tract-lactobacillus, bifidobacterium and other preparations.

About 70 to 80 years ago, this preparation from Japan was introduced into China under the trade name of biofermin or lactasin, and is still used in some primary medical units.

These bacteria break down sugars in the gut to produce acid, It is speculated that it may inhibit intestinal pathogenic bacteria infection or flora imbalance, so it is very cheap as an auxiliary drug for treating children [dyspepsia] or diarrhea. However, the effect has not been proved by strict clinical trials, so the World Health Organization has removed this preparation from the list of drugs for treating children’s diarrhea [6].

However, some manufacturers have given these intestinal bacteria different commodity names, such as [Three Strains] and [Onli]. Advertisements claim to be able to protect health and even cure various persistent diseases. As a result, several normal human intestinal bacteria have become expensive universal health care products.

All kinds of vitamins and trace elements

Although there are many researches on the effects of vitamins and trace elements on disease prevention and anticancer, they are mostly contradictory results, with little effect and unreliable speculation based on individual research.

The American Cancer Society and the World Cancer Research Foundation have selected research papers on the effect of well-designed nutrition on the prevention and treatment of human cancer from various countries in the world for evaluation and summary. The results show that no single vitamin or trace element or some combination has the effect on the prevention and treatment of cancer. The conclusion is as follows:

The incidence of cancer is relatively low for people who eat a large amount of plant food. Plant food contains anti-cancer substances, fresh vegetables and fruits are beneficial to cancer prevention, and eating more bean products is beneficial [7].

Later, an international conference on this topic was held, and a physical exercise was added to benefit.

In short, it is: reasonable diet and active exercise.


Melatonin is an endocrine hormone, which is found in many species from algae to human beings. People are mainly secreted by the pineal gland of the brain, and the blood content varies day and night.

Its physiological function is to regulate the rhythm of biological clock in the body, and it is speculated that it may have certain regulating effect on sleep disorder caused by jet lag.

In 1993, melatonin was listed as a dietary supplement in the United States, but it still requires prescriptions for sale in many countries, otherwise it is illegal.

In 1994, melatonin was listed as a health product in our country under the trade name [melatonin]. Melatonin has been punished many times by the competent department of the industry due to the advertising of [false propaganda, fabricated news, exaggerated efficacy and stealing concepts] [8].

Toxic and Side Effects of Health Products

Ineffective health care products bring harm to the public not only economic losses, but also adverse effects on health.

There are many consumers of health care products, taking them for a long time and with different physical conditions, it is difficult to ensure that no side effects will occur. According to spot checks, one-fifth of the health care products sold on the market are not up to the hygiene standard, and some [Escherichia coli seriously exceeds the standard] [the total number of bacteria cannot be counted], so it is certainly not safe to take them [9, 10].

Three strains of intestinal flora preparations are liquid cultures of bacteria. In the sales process, the original living bacteria gradually die and become a good culture medium. Miscellaneous bacteria pollution is easy to grow and reproduce. Many people asked me that the diarrhea they had after taking three oral liquids was the cause of what, and I said the reason was the possible pollution.

Organic germanium has been used as a health product abroad and has been tried to treat a few advanced cancers, but clinical observation and animal experiments have proved that it has no health care effect and has serious kidney and liver toxicity. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the import of germanium products for human use. The American Nutrition Food Association notified (1993) that no germanium products will be sold any more. The British Ministry of Health (1989) has removed germanium products and warned the public that it is unsafe to ingest any germanium products [11]. However, organic germanium oral liquid is still produced and sold in China. Some popular oral liquid with unmarked ingredients, such as Fengexin, have been identified as containing organic germanium.

For people with allergic tendency, pollen can cause various allergic reactions, including asthma and anaphylactic shock, and in severe cases it may be fatal.

Some health care products for children are added with drugs or bioactive substances such as sex hormones in addition to the labeled ingredients, thus affecting the normal development of children and leading to precocious puberty.

Long-term administration of melatonin health care products may lead to inhibition of melatonin secretion and sleep dysfunction. Children may cause pituitary dysfunction, inhibit gonad development and affect normal growth and development.

Why are health products rampant?

1. Economic interest-driven

Health care products are mostly profiteering items. The cost of the vast majority of health care products is very low, but the price is very high, which caters to the psychology that [cheap but not good] and excellent products are bound to be expensive.

The wholesale and retail price difference of health care products is very large, shops and primary hospitals are willing to operate, and medical personnel can also profit from the promotion. Therefore, the health care industry is encouraged and protected by local authorities and departments.

2. Advertising and marketing tools

Advertising expenses account for a large proportion of the cost of health care products, and the more famous brand advertising costs, the greater the cost.

Local protection is also essential, and the profits of enterprises are closely related to local finance and employment.

The skilled expert is also very good at [public relations], seeking the support of high-ranking officials and celebrities, and using various inscriptions, interviews, photos and speeches to create momentum.

There are also many news media that confuse the boundaries between advertising and news reports, or explicitly or implicitly use news, interview reports, reportage, knowledge competitions and prize-winning answers to advertise health care products or drugs, or naked paid news or paid reports.

In addition to advertising, there are also marketing methods. For example, Sanzhu Oral Liquid used militarized organization methods to carry out marketing activities throughout the country. So is Melatonin. Its marketing method does not only rely on advertising, but also a complete set of sales methods.

3. [Supplement] Culture

China’s farming society has a long history, and the supplementary culture has a long history.

With the increase of residents’ income, people think about [investing some money in their own bodies]. Modern people’s desire for health, beauty, intelligence and longevity, as well as their helplessness for chronic refractory diseases, are also the driving forces to promote the demand for health care products.

When people feel tired, weak, emaciated or want to be strong, the first thing they think about is often supplements or health care products. As a result, in recent years, some interest-related groups have coined a term “sub-health” as the theoretical basis for marketing concepts and products.

The elderly often suffer from weakness and many diseases, and are active pursuers of health care products. Therefore, they are the most vulnerable group to be cheated.

But even feudal bureaucrats did not believe in tonic medicine. For example, Zuo Zongtang said:

Nourishing research is useless, always want to add your own meaning to maintain practice, ordinary no other worry [12].

4. Comforting Effect: Honesty Is Spirit

People’s health or feeling is affected by their own and environmental factors, and it fluctuates frequently. General diseases also have self-limitation, that is, they will heal by time. Chronic diseases also fluctuate from time to time due to various factors.

Health care products and supplements are actually placebos. People who believe in them often mistake physical comfort, mental improvement or recovery from illness for the effect of taking health care products or drugs. This misunderstanding in turn strengthens their belief in health care products or supplements.

The comfort effect of drugs is a common phenomenon, In the study of evaluating efficacy, it is necessary to eliminate it so as not to mix fish with pearls. The method is a double-blind method of clinical trials: comparing health care products with placebos that are generally recognized as ineffective (or the best drugs currently recognized), and not letting the subjects and the medical personnel observing the effect know who is taking what.

5. The social atmosphere of giving gifts

Chinese people pay attention to face, so human etiquette is very important in interpersonal relationships, especially the exchange of courtesies. Gift giving has almost become a means to consolidate the network of relationships and repay human feelings.

Health care products are a kind of gift that can be brought to visit relatives and friends and elders during the New Year and holidays, and visiting patients is the first choice.

Most of the givers’ consideration of gifts is only beautiful appearance, and the production of health care products is also closely linked to this principle. Even if the quality is poor, the packaging can be taken out.


The proliferation of health care products has become a social problem affecting public health and a manifestation of corruption and cultural backwardness.

On the one hand, in order to improve the legislation, the administrative departments of medicine and health, industry and commerce, advertising and other departments should strictly enforce the law in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, and prohibit the production and sale of fake and inferior health care products and false advertisements.

It is also very important for doctors, public health workers, teachers, journalists and popular science writers with social responsibility to unite and actively participate in the popularization of scientific knowledge, expose quacks and deception, improve the public’s identification ability, and use the cultivation of a healthy lifestyle as a means to promote health in the spirit of being responsible for the health of the public.