The weight loss industry has exploded in the last 20 years, yet legislation regarding this important health industry has not been significantly updated in recent times. As weight loss deals directly with a person’s health, there have been many calls to increase regulations in this field, especially when it relates to weight loss supplements. People are often so desperate to lose weight, they will frequently pay obscene amounts of money for dietary supplements without any merit.
The pressure on the US government and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reached an all-time high recently after research concluded dietary supplements are responsible for over 23,000 hospital ER visits per year. Four of the nation’s top obesity treatment and research organizations released a joint statement advocating weight loss supplements, which claim to be a cure or medication, be subject to FDA approval. The statement went on to recommend increased authority and funding for the FDA and for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to levy fines and other penalties on corporations making false effectiveness and safety claims regarding weight loss supplements.
As stated by the FDA, weight loss supplements have an ability to provide relief for patients of obesity, but regulations do not allow supplement distributors to claim the pills can “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” Those claims may only be made legally by medications sanctioned by the FDA. However, under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), the current legislation regulating the industry, corporations do not have to present any research data proving the supplements are safe or their effectiveness is proven scientifically. They are not even required to prove their product claims are not misleading or false.
Protection for Industry
There are certain reputable diet supplement manufacturers who follow stringent research procedures and have the science to back the weight loss benefit claims for the supplements they promote. However, in the current environment consumers cannot differentiate legitimate suppliers from those making dubious claims. A dietary supplement market with more regulations will weed out the pretenders and create a safer environment for the public, but it will also protect the research investment of manufacturers as their products will finally have FDA recognition and approval. It is highly likely that an investment in research will be increased by manufacturers who would want to ensure they can meet approval requirements for their products.
Dietary supplements can be an effective part of comprehensive obesity treatments and stricter regulations will provide the safety Americans are accustomed to when procuring other FDA-approved medications.