Monday, January 12, 2015
Many Consumers Misled About Bogus Weight-Loss Supplements
A new Consumer Reports survey finds many Americans are misinformed about the quality and effectiveness of these supplements.
“The barrage of advertising leads us to think there’s a magic way to melt away 10 pounds – even when we have no evidence that supplements work,” Dr. Pieter Cohen, a physician at Harvard Medical School who studies supplements, said in a Consumer Reports news release.
“The labels on weight loss supplements look like those on over-the-counter medications, and the supplement facts are organized like nutrition facts labels,” he added. “There’s no way for consumers to tell the difference.”
So it’s not surprising that the new survey of nearly 3,000 Americans found that about 20% of respondents were misinformed, believing, erroneously, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration guarantees the safety and effectiveness of weight-loss supplements.
More than a quarter of respondents to the survey said they had tried a weight-loss product in the past, and believed the product was safe and would help them lose more weight than other methods.
About 25% also believed the products have fewer side effects than over-the-counter or prescription medications. But the same survey suggests that’s just not true. About half of those polled who said they had tried a weight-loss supplement said they also developed at least one symptom such as rapid heart rate, jitteriness, constipation/diarrhea, or dry mouth.
Cohen said, “Of all dietary supplements, the ones for weight loss seem to cause the most harm – sometimes liver failure and even death.”
The survey showed that more than one-third of those taking weight-loss supplements were also taking a prescription medication for another condition. Many people taking weight-loss supplements don’t inform their doctor, and that could raise the risk for drug-drug interactions and potentially serious complications.
“These products can interact with prescription medications, but consumers often feel that supplements are different from prescription drugs, and doctors don’t ask about them,” said Cohen.
Complicating matters, weight-loss products may contain drugs that have been banned by the FDA. In another recent study, the researchers found that 27 supplements recalled by the FDA were still being sold. Of those products, two-thirds being sold for weight loss contained some type of banned ingredient.
In the end, “there’s no way to know what’s in the bottle, Cohen said. “You’re at the mercy of the manufacturer.”
Dr. Cohen is a Harvard professor that analysis supplement content as part of his ongoing research. Please review my blog “Dangerous Dietary Supplements Return to Store Shelves” posted October 27, 2014.
Good quality supplements are much safer than prescription drugs. Unfortunately, many of these weight loss supplements contain drugs, either prescription or banned substances. Caffeine is also a common ingredient, in levels equal to several cups of coffee per serving.
Successful weight loss is a complex endeavor. It’s not just calorie restriction and exercise, but eating healthy, nutrient dense, low calorie foods. In addition, metabolic disorders are often involved. If you did not have an endocrine imbalance when you were gaining the weight; you probably developed one by gaining the weight. This is the basis of metabolic syndrome.
The Bottom Line:
Weight loss comes from improving your lifestyle, not some magic pill. However, proper supplementation for an underactive thyroid or adrenal fatigue may be vital to weight loss success.
Source: Tuesday, December 30. 2014 National Institutes of Health