October 26, 2012
Be Aware of Weight Loss Supplements

Lets face it...over-the-counter dietary supplements appeal to many people, especially those desiring a "magic bullet" for weight loss. Lets face another fact...there are many options out there for people to try. There are more than 50 individual dietary supplements and more than 125 commercial combination products available for weight loss. Retail sales of weight-loss supplements were estimated to be more than $1.3 billion (2001 data...probably more now). But are they all safe? Well, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers not to use nearly 70 over-the-counter diet products that may contain dangerous undeclared drugs. In fact, a few years ago the FDA banned the sale of ephedra-containing products.

The products were sold on Web sites and at retail stores and often marketed as "natural" or "herbal" and thus implying some degree of safety. The FDA analyzed these products and reported that they contained undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients, such as prescription weight-loss drug (sibutramine), an antiseizure drug (phenytoin), a diuretic (bumetanide), and a laxative (phenolphthalein). Apparently, some of these compounds were present in doses that far exceed those recommended by the FDA for approved indications. The FDA also found products containing rimonabant, a diet drug sold in Europe but for which the FDA has denied approval for sale in the U.S. This drug has been associated with an increased risk of depression and suicide.

Obviously, individuals taking these products may be unknownly putting themselves at increased risk for serious side effects and health consequences. The FDA advises that anyone taking one of these products to consult with his/her physician. A complete list of products, and their undeclared ingredients is available on the FDA's Web site at:

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