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Over-the-Counter Diet Supplements - A Growth Industry

The fastest growing segment of the weight loss industry is over-the-counter weight loss supplements. Since 1997, sales of diet pills and related supplements have been increasing 10 to 20 percent annually to the point where last year they reached $2 billion.

The biggest sellers continue to be products based on ephedra. According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), as many as 3 billion servings of ephedra are sold each year in the United States.

Not all OTC Weight Loss Pills are Safe

Many consumers assume that OTC weight loss pills have met some type of basic safety or efficacy standards before hitting the marketplace. However, inspection is limited.

Not all OTC Weight Loss Pills are Effective

According to the GAO, little is known about whether OTC weight loss supplements are effective. Studies have been conducted using specific ingredients found in many diet products, but most such studies were brief, exposed small groups of individuals, or adopted study approaches that limited the value of their findings.

Labels on OTC Weight Loss Pills are Not Always Accurate

It is not uncommon to find that amounts of a weight-loss product's active ingredients do not match what's been reported on the label. GAO investigators cited one ephedra study that found concentrations in one diet supplement were more than 50 percent higher than labeled. That is why it is extremely important to only use pills that have been approved as safe by a competent authority.

OTC Weight Loss Pills May Contain Unlisted Ingredients

Another finding was that weight loss pills sometimes contained ingredients not listed in the packaging. Earlier this year, the International Olympic Committee found that of 634 nutrition products that it analyzed, 15 percent contained ingredients banned by the committee and not listed on the label.

Should OTC Weight Loss Pills Be Called Drugs

Drugs or new agricultural chemicals, such as pesticides, may not be sold in the United States until a manufacturer has established to the appropriate regulatory agency that the product is safe and effective. But weight loss or diet supplements can be sold without efficacy or safety studies as long as they contain ingredients already in the food supply.

Some experts have claimed that abuse of OTC weight loss pills and diet supplements could be dramatically limited if they were simply called drugs - and regulated as such. For example, one expert states that any compound containing ephedra "should not be called a dietary supplement; it is a drug."

American Herbal Products Association

The president of the national trade group called the American Herbal Products Association, which represents the interests of many manufacturers of OTC weight loss pills and diet supplements, has said that his industry has developed a number of voluntary standards to "promote responsible commerce in botanicals." Indeed, he argued that his industry remains "ahead of federal regulatory agencies with respect to encouraging the herbal supplement industry to label their products with useful and important information."

OTC Weight Loss Pills, Operation Waistline

In the meantime, the Federal Trade Commission is directing a program known as Operation Waistline aimed at alerting consumers to misleading and deceptive weight loss claims, steering them to accurate information about healthy weight loss, and bringing legal action against companies that violate the law.

At the end, it advocates what overweight people least want to hear: that to maintain weight loss, people must change how they eat and must increase exercise.

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Note: the above information is a brief general summary about otc weight loss pills, using weight loss information in the public domain. It is not intended to replace a doctors instructions about the suitability of these products. Before taking any weight loss medication please ask your doctor to explain all your weight loss options. When taking weight loss pills, take only as directed or prescribed.


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