Are Weight Loss Supplements Risky? Are They Worth the Cost?

Yes, we have big problems. Americans are becoming more and more obese. They are also looking for magic supplements that will get their weight down, and keep it down. You may ask that isn’t this wishful thinking, to good to be true. Unfortunately, people are being  led down the path by the marketing hype and claims they want to believe is true. There are plenty of charlatans making a lot of money from such people. You may ask – but what proof is there that these claims are false? Read excerpts of a great news post about this below – you can access the complete article by clicking here.

Weight loss supplements are notorious for producing negative publicity for the supplement industry. This specific category of supplements attracts the most unscrupulous of characters. Illegal products that are often adulterated with drugs are a serious problem.

Products that claim to lower weight quickly, often showing dramatic before and after pictures – are easy to spot. Most know these types of claims are too good to be true, but many consumers are deceived by these unreasonable ads of potentially illegal products.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently cracked down on false advertising of weight loss supplements, which led to a Senate’s Consumer Protection panel hearing1 being held on June 17, to determine what can be done to protect consumer from weight loss scams.

Please note that current regulations make these products illegal, and the FDA and FTC have ramped up enforcement by prosecuting many of these characters.

The media famous Dr. Mehmet Oz, was recently put on a spot by a senate committee for promoting  just such a scam.

“Last month the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it is suing the Florida-based company, Pure Green Coffee, alleging that it capitalized on the green coffee bean diet fad by using bogus weight-loss claims and fake news websites to market its dietary supplement.

The FTC claimed that weeks after green coffee was promoted on the Dr. Oz Show, Pure Green Coffee began selling their Pure Green Coffee extract, charging $50 for a one-month supply.”

Senator McCaskill read off a number of statements Dr. Oz has made on his show, such as:

“You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they’ve found the magic weight loss cure for every body type: It’s green coffee extract.”

“I’ve got the number-one miracle in a bottle, to burn your fat: It’s raspberry ketone.” “Garcinia cambogia: It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

In a November 2012 show, he stated: “Thanks to brand new scientific research, I can tell you about a revolutionary fat buster. It’s called Garcinia cambogia.” Meanwhile, the words “No exercise. No Diet. No Effort” were emblazoned on the screen behind him. Most recently, Dr. Oz featured a product he referred to as “my Rapid Belly Melt.”  Part of the show involved audience members photographing their stomachs. The photos were then photoshopped into a slimmer version. This, supposedly, was the result you could glean from this “insta belly melt” product.

These kinds of products, and especially these kinds of fantasy-based promotions, devalue the supplement industry as a whole. This is tragic, considering the fact that nutritional supplements serve a critical function by helping to correct specific nutritional imbalances or deficiencies.

Elimination of processed foods and sugar and replacing them with high-quality fats and whole foods, intermittent fasting and appropriate high intensity exercise is the way to go if you need to normalize your weight. Supplements are—as their name implies—supplemental to a healthy lifestyle.

Are dietary supplements regulated?

“FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients. FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering ‘conventional’ foods and drug products. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA):

  • The manufacturer of a dietary supplement or dietary ingredient is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe before it is marketed.
  • FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.”

The FDA can, and has, shut down supplement makers that do not meet these regulations. For example, in February, the FDA recalled  a number of “magic” weight loss pills, including SlimEasy, Super Fat Burning Bomb, Slim Xtreme, Magic Slim, and others.

The reason for the recall? These products were found to contain “undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients,” in this case phenolphthalein and sibutramine. No injuries or illnesses have been reported in connection with any of the products. As noted in the press release:

“Phenolphthalein was once an ingredient used in over-the-counter laxatives, but because of concerns of carcinogenicity is not currently approved for marketing in the United States. Sibutramine is an appetite suppressant (drug Schedule IV) that was withdrawn from the US market in October 2010 for safety reason (seizure, cardiovascular risks: heart attacks, arrhythmia and strokes among others). These undeclared ingredients makes these products unapproved new drugs for which safety and efficacy have not been established. Consumption of this product could include potentially serious gastrointestinal disturbances, irregular heartbeat, and cancer with long-term use.”

What is often left out of the conversation is that the vast majority of complaints and/or hazards associated with supplements are limited to a narrow range of products, primarily in the categories of weight loss, muscle-building, high energy products, and some sexual enhancement products.

Supplements that end up being deemed hazardous are also typically “spiked” with some form of pharmaceutical drug or synthetic ingredient, as was the case above. With very few exceptions, it’s not the natural vitamin or herb in itself that is shown to be dangerous. Lumping vitamins, minerals, and herbs with long historical use in with these adulterated types of supplements is unfair and inaccurate in the extreme, but most people don’t make this separation when they read that “supplements are dangerous” in the news.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also quite active. Earlier this year, a number of weight loss companies were scrutinized by the FTC, and four were charged with false advertising. These included Sensa, Inc., LeanSpa, L’Occitane, and HCG Diet Direct. Both the FDA and the FTC have full rights under current regulations to pull any products that are either unsafe or improperly marketed. So do we really have a problem with regulations? No. Any problems we have stem from lack of enforcement of the regulations already in place.

Furthermore, drugs, which are heavily regulated at great cost, are among the most dangerous products on the market! Vioxx alone killed more than 60,000 people before it was withdrawn. So clearly, regulating supplements like drugs would not necessarily improve safety. It would, however, reduce the number of supplements available as the cost would be too astronomical for supplement makers. Alternatively, your supplements would end up costing as much as drugs…

While surveys have determined that use of weight loss supplements is common in the US, studies repeatedly fail to support their efficacy and safety, both in children and adults. The most commonly used weight loss supplements contain caffeine, ephedra, or ephedra-like substances such as bitter orange to “rev-up” your metabolism. This means you’ll either have trouble sleeping and/or you’ll experience the inevitable crash after the rev-up—hardly the effects you’d expect from a healthy lifestyle.

These types of stimulants can be particularly dangerous for people who have heart disease, high blood pressure, or are taking blood pressure medication. As just one example, Metabosyn, hailed as “the most powerful diet pill reviewed,” according to Diet Pill Digest, claims to boost metabolism and reduce appetite. However, it also carries a warning: if you’re sensitive to stimulants, don’t take it.

It’s important to realize that simply loading up on stimulants like caffeine is NOT going to improve your health, even if it helps you lose a few pounds. From my perspective, the cost is just too high—especially in light of the fact that if you eat right and exercise, you will have all the energy you need, and you’ll lose weight, without any of the adverse side effects you might experience when taking a stimulant.

A 2012 article in Forbes Magazine  listed weight loss supplements with top scientific ratings, and the majority of these contain active ingredients that are ideally obtained from whole food. In essence, if you eat right, you don’t need a weight loss supplement. Ingredients that have been found to support weight loss that you can get through your diet include:

Coconut oil—When people exchange vegetable oils for virgin coconut oil and begin consuming 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil a day, they often report better thyroid function, an increase in energy and a drop in weight, provided they also avoid foods high in carbohydrates, such as sugars, starches and most grains, until they reach their weight loss goals. Resveratrol—A potent antioxidant, resveratrol is touted for anti-aging, increasing metabolism, and decreasing body fat, including liver fat. While it’s found in red wine, the ideal source is whole grapes. Muscadine grapes have the highest concentration of resveratrol in nature because of their extra thick skins and numerous seeds where it is concentrated
Beta-Glucan—A soluble fiber derived from yeasts, mushrooms and algae that is supposed to lower cholesterol and help control diabetes. One excellent whole food source is medicinal mushrooms, especially Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake, which are notable for their ability to activate/modulate your immune system Glucomannan—Derived from the root of the konjac plant, glucomannan is a fiber and natural thickening agent that has a reputation for weight control.18 Other types of fiber will have similar effects, by making you feel fuller
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)—Omega-3 fats derived primarily from organic grass-fed beef and dairy products, which can help reduce fat, increase muscle tissue, and prevent cancer DHEA—this precursor hormone is gleaned from yam and soy. It’s supposed to help decrease abdominal fat while increasing muscle mass overall in those over age 50. However, you should not take DHEA unless testing identifies a deficiency! Too much DHEA can lead to problems.Supplementing hormones over a long period of time can trick your body into suspending its own DHEA production, and possibly even shut down your adrenal glands, which can lead to disastrous health consequences
White Kidney Bean Extract—billed as the “new fat-blocker,” it’s supposed to slow or prevent starch absorption in the digestive tract and help you lose weight. The whole food source is, of course, white kidney beans,19 which are high in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and proteins


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