Lifewatch: Diet supplements

Reported by Claire Hosmann  email
Posted by Heather Setzler  bio | email

(WECT) -- The local drugstore has a huge selection of pills, powders, and liquids that promise weight loss, but they may not be safe and probably don't work they way you hope.

The Food and Drug Administration put out an alert, warning consumers about nearly 70 products that vow to melt away pounds.

Many claim to be all natural, but regulators say these products are tainted, containing potentially harmful chemicals not listed on the label.  Others are simply unproven.

"If something like one of these weight loss supplements appears too good to be true it is likely too good to be true," said Mike Levy with the USFDA.

Under current regulations, it's up to the supplement maker to ensure the product is safe. No FDA approval is required.

Once products hit store shelves the FDA can pull any that prove to be dangerous to the public.

"My concern is that a lot of the supplements that are out there are not based on any credible science," said Keri Gans with the American Dietetic Association.  "There hasn't been a lot of research to support whether or not they will help or not help."

Only one over-the-counter diet pill is FDA approved.  It's Alli, a drug made by GlaxoSmithKline.

The company, along with the American Dietetic Association, is now calling for all supplement makers to seek government approval before marketing weight loss products.

Supplement industry leaders who advocate everything from green tea to fish oil say increased regulation would hurt business.

They argue that the vast majority of weight loss products are safe, as is required by law, but not all are clinically proven.

Health specialists say there is no magic pill that sheds pounds overnight.  The supplements will only work as part of a disciplined program that includes diet and exercise.