Dietary supplements are a big business. The industry madein 2022, and with , it stands to keep growing.
The marketing of dietary supplements has been quite effective, with 77% of Americans reporting feeling. The idea of taking your health into your own hands is appealing, and supplements are popular with athletes, parents and people trying to recover more quickly from a cold or flu, just to name a few.
A 2024 study found that approximately 1 in 10 adolescents have used, including dietary supplements.
Notably, that systematic review found that nonprescribed diet pill use was significantly higher than the use of nonprescribed laxatives and diuretics for weight management. These types of unhealthy weight control behaviors are associated with.
As aspecializing in treating anxiety disorders and eating disorders and a , we’ve seen firsthand the harm that these supplements can do based on unfounded beliefs. The underregulated market of dietary supplements is setting consumers up to be misled and potentially seriously harmed by these products.
The wild west
Thespecifies that supplements must contain a “dietary ingredient” such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, enzymes, live microbials, concentrates and extracts, among others.
Unfortunately, manufacturers can claim that a product is a supplement even when it doesn’t meet those criteria, such as, a highly addictive drug that can mimic the biological action of opioids. Some of these products are labeled as dietary supplements but are anything but.
Products containing, which are sold over the counter in many gas stations, .
Under, dietary supplements are classified as food, not as drugs. This means dietary supplements are not required to prove efficacy, unlike drugs. Regulators also don’t take action on a product .
However,“many dietary supplements contain ingredients that have strong biological effects which may conflict with a medicine you are taking or a medical condition you may have. Products containing hidden drugs are also sometimes falsely marketed as dietary supplements, putting consumers at even greater risk.”
In other words, supplements are regulated as food instead of drugs, even though they can interact with medications and may be laced with hidden drugs not included on the label.
Manufacturers ofabout their products that fall into three categories: health claims, nutrient content claims and claims about the product’s function, structure or both, .
Misbranding and false advertising, including false claims of , , , , and, of course, .
The FDA is cracking down
You can find supplements that claim to be good for just about every health condition, concern or goal, so it should be no surprise that there are supplements marketed for weight loss.
In August 2021, theon some of these weight loss products because of the presence of undeclared drugs. For example, of the 72 products recalled, , was found in 68 of them.
While the FDA may take further action beyond the recalls, the agencyevery weight loss supplement for contamination with drugs.
These crackdowns demonstrate some progress, though several issues remain. Warning label placement, ingredients and beliefs based on misleading or false advertising.
Some weight loss supplements may have FDA warnings on them. Of those that do,on the front of the product label, so consumers are less likely to see them.
Ingredients in weight loss supplements can and do have adverse effects. They have caused people to befor cardiovascular and swallowing problems, including in young, seemingly healthy people.
Mental health concerns and. As a result, researchers are examining unhealthy weight control behaviors, including the use of dietary supplements and how accessible they are to adolescents and children.
People who have eating disorders often suffer related health issues such asand vitamin deficiencies. In response, their doctors may prescribe dietary supplements like and . But these are not the dietary supplements of concern.
The concern is with supplements that promote weight loss, muscle building or both.
People with eating disorders may be attracted to dietary supplements that claim quick and pain-free weight loss or muscle gain. Additionally, dietary supplement users may struggle with an increase inor .
Diet pill and supplement use has also been associated with increased risk for, as well as low self-esteem, depression and . While dietary supplements do not solely cause eating disorders or disordered eating, that may be addressed with preventive measures and regulations.
The allure of protein powders and fitness supplements
Protein powders and other fitness supplements also have wide appeal. Research shows thatfor using weight loss supplements. But a growing problem in boys is such as protein powder and , a compound that supplies energy to the muscles.
Use of fitness supplementswith body shape and size. For example, a 2022 study found that protein powder consumption in adolescence was associated with .
Protein powders make claims of building lean muscles, while creatine boasts providing energy for short-term, intense exercise.
Protein itself is not. However, protein powders may contain unknown ingredients, such as . They can also be and to replace other foods that possess vital nutrients.
And while creatine can usually be safely used in adults, overuse canand is . Ultimately, the impact of , especially in adolescents, is unstudied.
One proposed regulation byincludes whose labels tout weight loss benefits.
involves banning the sale of dietary supplements and other weight loss products to protect minors from these underregulated and potentially dangerous products.
In 2023,that banned the sale of these products to minors, including Colorado, California and Massachusetts have considered or are considering similar action.
Ultimately, medical professionals recommend that parents and caregivers encourage their children toinstead of turning to supplements and powders. They also recommend encouraging teens to focus on balanced nutrition, sleep and recovery, and a variety of resistance, strength and conditioning training.