UltimateFatBurner.com: How We Review Products And Why Our Recommendations Are Different From Most Other “Review” Sites
When we started doing business online in 1999, you could count on one hand the number of web sites reviewing body building and weight loss supplements. Now, there are hundreds (possibly even thousands) of them, all claiming to have sorted through the masses of available products, in an effort to deliver you a listing of the absolute best offerings, according to a certain set of criteria.
As a consumer, you’re understandably skeptical about which supplement review sites may or may not have your best interests at heart. Perhaps even more so when you see many sites promoting the same select few products. This gives you the impression that the “experts” are in agreement.
In many cases, the folks reviewing the products and making the recommendations have a very serious conflict of interest—believe it or not, in many cases the “review” sites are actually owned and maintained by the companies who manufacture and retail the very products they recommend (see the article, “Who Is Reviewing Your Weight Loss Supplements?” for more on this).
In other cases, retailers pay large fees to “affiliates” who refer visitors to their products in the hopes of earning a commission. These affiliates often put up “faux” review sites and write glowing, credible-looking “reviews” in order to convince visitors to make a purchase. Weight loss products promoted in this manner include Proactol, Capsiplex, Phen375, HoodiaPatch, Tava Tea, Aspire and more.
There’s nothing wrong on earning a commission on referred sales—if it’s made in the best interests of your visitor. That’s the caveat here. We’d argue that recommending overpriced products retailed by companies with questionable ethics and poor Better Business Bureau records is not in your best interests. That’s why the products we recommend are rarely the same ones you see promoted widely on the Internet.
Note: UltimateFatBurner.com has always been up front about earning a commission on select recommended products. There are costs associated with hiring staff and maintaining a web site like this, and earning commissions offsets that cost. But we don’t recommend overpriced products (where inflated commission payouts are supported by you, the consumer), or products retailed by companies that have a history of treating their customers poorly. To read more about the criteria for making recommendations, click here!
With that out of the way, let’s talk about our competitors; how do they rate the products they review, and what criteria they use to do so?
We’ve taken a look at a few sites, and there’s a common trend of “nonsense.” Take a look at the list of common criteria, and
1. Weight loss efficiency: As determined by what? A seance? Tarot cards? Throwing darts at a board labeled “somewhat effective”, “not effective”, “extremely effective”, and “this product is the bomb!”?
2. Product safety: Unless the product in question is contaminated by illegal drugs or banned ingredients—something that can only be confirmed by a trip to the lab—none of the ingredients in any of the weight loss products available today are particularly dangerous.
Since none of the sites claiming to use this criterion have provided any proof they’re sending products to labs for analysis, or indicated that they’re tracking “adverse incident events”, this is a completely ridiculous metric used for “optics” only. (Of course, fat burners and thermogenics contain a ton of stimulants, which means they are not ideal for people with hypertension or other forms of heart disease. But for healthy people, they are plenty safe).
3. Quality of ingredients: How is this being determined, exactly? Short of sending the product to a lab and verifying its ingredients and purity, there is no way to do so. And there’s no indication these sites are doing anything of the sort as the costs are prohibitive (ConsumerLabs.com does this, and they are supported by a subscription membership to sustain the costs). Plus, proof could easily be posted in the manner of official laboratory documentation and it is not being done.
4. Long term results: How does an “independent” review web site keep track of product users over the long term and measure their results? What exactly constitutes “long term?” A year? Two? Three? And how many users would you need to track before you had a number large enough to be representative of all users? None of these questions are answered or even addressed by any of the web sites using this metric in their “evaluation.”
Remember too; while the logistics of such an endeavor would be a nightmare, consumers of the products in question are not the customers of the “review” sites that claim to use this metric, so the review sites do not have access to the contact information for those people. Nor do companies with more than an iota of common sense surrender their customer’s personal contact information to anyone who asks. So how are they following up with anyone? Simply… they are not.
5. Customer feedback: Uh-huh. While we recognize that validcustomer feedback can play a role in assessing a product’s effectiveness, we’d suggest that anybody who makes a recommendation based on this metric is uninformed and unethical.
The fact is that ALL customer feedback is anecdotal; it is not evidence. Additionally, you can’t authenticate any of it—especially online. Some is likely posted by affiliates or employees of the company retailing the product, some is definitely exaggerated to appear more dramatic and some is posted by employees of companies selling competing products.
And unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell which “testimonials” are fabricated and which are genuine. To be safe, you must take all feedback with an extremely large grain of salt.
6. Overall value: I don’t know how you can include a measure of “overall value” in a series of metrics that is supposed to determine “overall value”. What the heck?
7. Company reputation:What are these review sites using as a measure of “company reputation”? The most well-known metric is the Better Business Bureau. But somehow, this readily available data is being ignored.
At the time of this writing, for example, DietPills.org uses “company reputation” as part of its ranking criteria, and gives its top pick Apidexin, 5 out of 5 stars for this metric—despite the fact that the company that manufactures it has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau. Another site, WeightLossDietPills.com, claims to use this metric but fails to reveal that the company behind its top pick (Lipofuze) also has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau.
8. Guarantee:Every retailer that does business primarily online posts a money-back guarantee of some sort. It’s when you try to return a product that you really learn how “genuine” this guarantee is. Most retailers don’t honor them, or if they do, make you jump through hoops to get it.
Most companies that have poor records with the BBB usually have some reported incidences of failure to honor a published warranty. As an example, WeightLossDietPills.com claims to use the “guarantee” as part of its ranking criteria for its #1 pick, Lipofuze, but the Better Business Bureau record plainly shows that there have been issues with the manufacture honoring the guarantee.
9. Re-order rate: Really? A supplement company is going to hand over sensitive information like its products’ re-order rates? I don’t think so. This is the sort of data companies guard jealously, because their competitors can use it against them. Duh. The only way a “review” site would have data on re-order rates is if they’re actually selling the products they’re reviewing. Which calls the credibility of their reviews into question, doesn’t it?
10. Clinical studies:Some review sites actually claim to use study data to influence their recommendations. But what you won’t see our competitor’s do is link to the study abstracts or explain them in context like we do. Why? Because if you look at these studies closely, what you see is not representative of the retailer’s claims. They are vastly exaggerated. Or, potential issues that may cause the study’s conclusions to be called into question, such as conflicts of interests or flawed methodologies are not raised or addressed.
Here’s an example; at the time of this writing much ado is being made about “African Mango” (Irvingia gabonensis) and its weight loss effects. Many retailers are including it in their products and quoting studies—like this one for instance—as justification for their claims. But what they fail to point out is that the lead author of the studies, Julius Oben, has a patent on African Mango for weight loss.
It’s hardly independent research when the lead author has a gigantic financial conflict of interest. And to top it all off, there are no independently-conducted studies on African Mango to date. What this means is that the study results need to be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism until they are confirmed by independent sources.
But no one else tells you this. All our competitor’s do is echo the retailers sales pitch.
Conversely, what do we use to evaluate the claims of the product retailers?
One thing; clinical studies. I talked a little about this in the “Why Should You Care About Science” article, but if you missed it, here’s the gist…
Clinical science and studies are the true “measuring stick” against which the claims made by the retailers of such products can be held. You can only cut to the core of the claims by investigating the peer-reviewed published clinical studies that exist (if any) for the product’s ingredients and report on what those conclude.
And by “report” I don’t mean “echo the retailer’s sales pitch.” I mean look closely at the study, provide a link so our visitors can verify the material for themselves, discuss the results in context, and identify any glaring methodological issues or conflicts of interest which may call the results of the study into question. None of the metrics used by our competitors mean much because they can be faked, manipulated, fabricated or are impossible to authenticate.
So the next time you see a product recommended on anything other than supporting clinical data, take your mouse and hit your browser’s back button. And do it quickly, before you fall victim to claims of miracles and instant weight loss. While helpful products do exist, there are no miracle pills.