Weight Loss Supplement Ads: Don’t Swallow the Claims
In scams flagged by the FTC, the only place you’ll lose weight is in your wallet
You’ve seen the ads: Shed pounds in days! Lose weight without exercising! Maybe you even forked over some hard-earned cash for a weight loss supplement to help you drop those last 10 or 20 pounds. But if you did, you may have been taken for a ride.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently shut down several scams involving weight-loss supplements. In one case, the FTC and the Maine Attorney General’s office settled a complaint against two companies that used radio ads to claim their capsules would help you “lose 30 pounds or more” without changing your diet and “keep eating your favorite foods and still lose pounds and inches.”
Consumer complaints filed with the FTC against the companies involved so-called “risk-free trial offers.” The FTC says the companies instead enrolled people in continuity plans and charged them at least $79.90 for their orders. People who tried to cancel couldn’t reach a customer service representative or were told they were too late, the FTC says.
In another recent example, a court order forced one company, whose business model was “built on lies” according to the FTC, to shut down after using unsupported claims and shady tactics to promote its diet pills. “They used spam email, fake news sites and phony celebrity endorsements to make their outlandish weight loss claims. The FTC has put an end to all these illegal practices,” Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a press release.
The FTC requires weight-loss and health-related product claims to be supported by “competent and reliable scientific evidence,” including a human clinical trials or study substantiating the claim. Companies do not need approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market their products. It’s more of an honor system: Companies are responsible for making sure products are safe and claims are true.
Related: Can’t Lose Weight? Check Your Sleep
The FDA is supposed to get involved, however, when a possible safety issue had been identified, and it has the power to remove dangerous products from the market. In 2014, for example, the FDA issued more than 30 public notifications and recalled seven tainted weight-loss products.
“Just because you see a supplement product on a store shelf does not mean it is safe,” notes Jason Humbert, a senior regulatory manager at FDA, on this FDA website.
Some products may be tainted with ingredients you don’t want. The FDA found weight-loss products tainted with sibutramine, an ingredient in the drug Meridia, which was removed from the market in October 2010 because it caused heart problems and strokes. “We’ve also found weight-loss products marketed as supplements that contain dangerous concoctions of hidden ingredients including active ingredients contained in approved seizure medications, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants,” says Humbert.
The FDA has even found prescription drug ingredients in some bee pollen products.
If you are using or considering using a weight-loss supplement, the FDA has this advice:
- Ask yourself if the product’s promises sound too good to be true.
- Beware extreme claims, such as “totally safe” and “quick and effective.”
- Be skeptical of personal testimonials about the benefits of a product.
- Check with your doctor or a dietician about any nutrients you may need in addition to your regular diet.
Related: How to Choose the Best Diet for You
Like this article? Share it with friends by clicking the Facebook or Twitter button below. And don't forget to visit our Facebook page!