Weight-Loss Supplements: A Little Savvy Goes a Long Way
To help consumers make wise choices, the FDA recently released a Consumer Update
As more and more people struggle to lose extra weight, many of us have contemplated weight-loss dietary supplements. Consider that the global weight loss market reached a whopping $26 billion in 2009 and it becomes apparent just how many people are willing to try weight-loss products. Is this money well spent? With weight-loss supplements, a little savvy can go a long way toward making sure it is.
To help consumers make wise choices and avoid falling prey to dietary supplement fraud, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a Consumer Update to address the topic. Unlike some previous education efforts warning consumers away from all weight-loss supplements, the FDA is focused on practical measures for separating fact from fiction.
FDA warns of fraud
In recent years, supplements sold by unscrupulous retailers containing numerous powerful drugs have found their way into consumers' hands through Internet and in-store sales. Some "natural" diet products have been found to contain sibutramine (Meridia), a weight-loss medication removed from the market in 2010 because it increases risk of heart problems and strokes. Other FDA research has uncovered weight-loss supplements contaminated with seizure and blood pressure medications, and even prescription drugs that were never approved at all.
Become a confident consumer
The most important tip-off that a supplement may not be legitimate or pure are claims that are too good to be true. Products that promise quick action ("Lose 20 pounds in 10 days!"), that tout a revolutionary new scientific breakthrough, or that are marketed as having actions similar to FDA-approved weight-loss medications should raise a red flag. These products may contain unapproved or potentially harmful ingredients, including prescription medications.
More supplement savvy tips
In addition to paying attention to aggressive product claims, a few tips will help you make the most of any dietary supplement you decide to try.
(U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Beware of Fraudulent Weight-Loss 'Dietary Supplements.' Available at: www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm246742.htm; Accessed 23 March 2011.)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.