Magic diet pill! Melt your fat away! Diet and exercise not required!
Messages like these on weight-loss products might sound appealing to consumers looking for a quick and easy way to shed pounds. But these products don't live up to their claims. Even worse, they can cause serious harm -- even death.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found hidden prescription drugs and compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans in some products sold as dietary supplements. According to Michael Levy, director of the FDA's Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance, "These products are not dietary supplements. They are very powerful drugs masquerading as 'all-natural' or 'herbal' supplements and they carry significant risks to unsuspecting consumers. Make no mistake -- they can kill you."
Many of the tainted products are imported and sold through the Internet, but some can also be found on store shelves. FDA has made it a priority to seek out these dangerous products, stop them from being imported and take legal action against firms that manufacture and distribute them.
Consumers need to be aware and learn how to identify and avoid these dangerous products. Look for warning signs, such as:
* Promises of quick action, such as "lose 10 pounds in one week"
* Use of the words "guaranteed" or "scientific breakthrough"
* Labeled or marketed in a foreign language
* Marketed through mass emails
* Marketed as an herbal alternative to an FDA-approved drug or as having effects similar to prescription drugs.
Generally, if consumers are using or considering using any product marketed as a dietary supplement, FDA suggests that you:
* Check with your health care professional or a registered dietitian about any nutrients you may need in addition to your regular diet
* Ask your health care professional for help distinguishing between reliable and questionable information
* Ask yourself if it sounds too good to be true
* Be cautious if the claims for the product seem exaggerated or unrealistic.
* Watch out for extreme claims such as "quick and effective" or "totally safe"
* Be skeptical about anecdotal information from personal "testimonials" about incredible benefits or results obtained from using a product.
Dietary supplements, in general, are not FDA-approved. Under the law (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994), dietary supplement firms do not need FDA approval before marketing their products.
It is the company's responsibility to make sure its products are safe and that any claims are true. Just because you see a supplement product on a shelf does not mean it is safe or effective. When safety issues are suspected, FDA must investigate and, when warranted, take steps to have the product removed from the market. However, it is much easier for a firm to get a product on the market than it is for FDA to take a product off the market.
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or email@example.com.