For my friend "Betty" it started with a visit to a local health professional. After the exam, she was told she had adrenal fatigue syndrome but she was not referred to an endocrinologist for help. Instead, she was told to buy a lotion that the local health professional just happened to sell.

"Betty" bought it and immediately called me. She wanted to know what I could tell her about that tube of very expensive lotion she had just purchased.

Normally when I need information about a product like that, I simply ask my research team to give me a report. But this time I requested more. I wanted to know step-by-step how my researchers went about investigating products. Then I decided to share their methods -- and their results -- with you.

The product I was asked to look into is called Prenolone + (with DHEA).

Step 1: Find the manufacturer's website. When you do a search, you have to weed out the websites that sell the product from the one that makes the product. If the manufacturer's website isn't listed on the product, go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov). Click on Trademarks and Trademark SEARCH, then enter the name of the product.

If it's a trademarked name, you can use that to find the manufacturer's website. You want to see what claims the manufacturer makes of its product.

Step 2: Look for clinical trials. The largest collection of clinical trial information is on a website maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (www.pubmed.gov). Enter the name of the product and see what comes up. If there are lots of results, narrow them down by combining the name of the drug with the condition you wish to treat. You want to see how effective the drug has been for other people in similar situations.

Step 3: Check with the government. Make sure the product you're buying isn't part of an investigation or recall (www.fda.gov) to see if it's a legal drug. Then check out (www.ftc.gov and www.usda.gov) to see if the product or company that makes it has been mentioned in any regulatory action.

Step 4: Check for fraud. There are several websites designed to expose worthless products and treatments. One of the most in-depth is a nonprofit is at www.quackwatch.org. Search both the product name and the company name to see if there are any concerns raised by the QuackWatch team.

Step 5: Analyze the ingredients. In the case of Prenolone, there were no clinical trials and it's not a drug so there's no way to know if it might be a treatment for the condition it was given. That's when I repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 with each of the ingredients. I want to see if any of them help the condition.

Step 6: What are the doses and how is it administered? When you take medicine, doctors prescribe a specific dose that's given a specific way. If any ingredients show promise, find out how much of them are in the treatment. Then look at the clinical trials to see if success happened by taking a pill or by a patch or injection. The effectiveness of a drug rests on how people take it.

After going through each step, the results were clear. Prenolone is not a drug; it cannot be marketed to treat any condition (including adrenal fatigue syndrome); and it has never been tested in a published clinical trial. Also, none of the ingredients have been approved for use to treat the condition, and even if they had, there was no clear indication of how much you get of each ingredient in the tube.

What "Betty" had bought was a very expensive tube of skin lotion, nothing else. The next time someone tries to sell you a "treatment" for your ills, spend a few minutes going through these six steps. If the treatment is a fraud, you can move on to finding something that works.

Caution: Before beginning any diet or exercise program, check with your health care professional first. For a free consultation with a trainer, call us at 305-296-3434. More articles are online at www.WeBeFit.com.