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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Additives and Supplements


What you should know before buying dietary supplements

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, nutrition and health education specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


The Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers to stop using Hydroxycut, a popular dietary supplement that has been used for weight loss. The company that manufactures the supplement is voluntarily recalling the product.


Adverse effects that have prompted the recall include liver damage, liver failure, jaundice, seizures, cardiovascular problems and one death. Symptoms of liver damage include brown urine, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, stomach pain, itching and light-colored stools.


More than 9 million units of Hydroxycut products were sold last year. The incidence of events are rare, but people reporting the reactions were taking the recommended dosage. The specific ingredient causing damage is currently unknown.


The FDA does not regulate supplements the same way it regulates pharmaceuticals or drugs. Drugs must undergo testing and be approved by the FDA before they can be sold. Information included with the drug must mention all possible adverse effects. Supplement makers are not required to put safety warnings on labels.


According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, manufacturers of supplements do not have to provide the FDA with evidence that the supplement is safe or effective. Once a dietary supplement is on the market, the FDA has to prove the product is not safe before it can be removed from the market.


Supplements are regulated as a dietary ingredient and not as a drug. Dietary ingredients sold in the U.S. before Oct. 15, 1994 do not have to be reviewed because they are presumed safe based on a long history of use. Producers of new dietary ingredients must notify the FDA of the intent to market a new ingredient. Producers must also provide information on how it was determined that the product is safe and can be used by humans.


Using dietary supplements is not a proven quick and easy way to lose weight. The best method continues to be increased physical activity and decreased calories. The side effects of exercising and eating healthy are more energy and a good overall feeling.




Last update: Thursday, May 21, 2009


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