Use of Dietary Supplements Pose Health, Financial Risks

The sale of some dietary supplements is often a financial scam, rather than a healthy choice. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out that some weight loss supplements such as, hoodia, acai, and colon cleanser capsules might not work, could be dangerous, and are hitting consumers hard in the wallet with expensive monthly charges.

Take for instance, the recent and ongoing Hydroxycut scandal in which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday dvdrip Men of Honor movie (FDA) ordered a recall after receiving 23 reports of serious liver problems in people who used the products, including one in which liver damage was so serious a transplant was needed and another in which a 20-year-old died. There have also been reports linking Hydroxycut products to seizures, cardiac problems, and rhabdomyolysis, a type of muscle damage that can lead to other serious health problems such as kidney failure.

The Hydroxycut recall prompted advocacy group Reality Coalition to urge Congress to reform a law that governs dietary supplement regulation. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) does little to protect consumers from unsafe supplements like Hydroxycut until it’s too late because, under DSHEA, supplement makers don’t need to seek product pre-market approval unless the product contains a “new dietary ingredient.” The FDA lacks authority to evaluate claims made on supplements’ labels; only the Federal Trade Commission is authorized to do so. Unfortunately, because of current DSHEA provisions, the FDA and the public do not become aware of side effects or dangerous, undeclared ingredients until a product has been on the market for some time, sometimes following injuries and fatalities. According to Reality Coalition, tragedies like those linked to Hydroxycut will continue until DSHEA is reformed.

To compound the situation, said Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “They don’t work…. Nothing burns fat. Nothing makes you lose weight while you sleep. These are known false claims. The agencies have taken action against them, but only on a case-by-case basis,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted. For instance, regarding hoodia, touted by supplement makers as effective for weight loss, “There is no reliable scientific evidence to support hoodia’s use. No studies of the herb in people have been published,” said Silverglade.

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According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, firms hyping unrealistic weight loss claims target consumers hoping to drop weight and willing to provide bankcard information for a small shipping and handling charge. Significantly larger and larger fees ensue. The paper cited a typical transaction in which the consumer provided the bankcard for an initial $5.99, which was followed by $42, then $72. Handing over bankcard information gives permission to be enrolled in a financially draining program. In one case, the consumer was forced to close out the bank account to stop the fees.

We have also long been writing about so-called natural supplements that, in actuality, contain powerful drugs. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the FDA issued warnings on over 70 “natural” weight loss supplements after spot testing, including, it said, “the active ingredient in the prescription” diet “drug Meridia,” “an experimental obesity drug … undergoing clinical trials and lacking” data on safety and efficacy, “potent diuretics,” and a potentially cancer-causing laxative. The medications were not included on labeling, placing consumers at serious and deadly risk for undisclosed side effects and drug interactions, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out.

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