On Wednesday, October 3, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a warning about potential consumer fraud as it pertains to weight loss and immune system supplements. In short, the department asserts that claims made by numerous supplements are not backed up by adequate scientific evidence and are, in some cases, illegal.
Government researchers did an examination of the $20 billion supplement industry, specifically looking into the purported health benefits of weight loss and immune supplements. There’s currently no shortage of supplement products on the market today that boast a wide range of health benefits. Investigators concluded, however, that 20 percent of the 127 weight-loss and immune-boosting supplement products they purchased either in a store or over the Internet had labels that made illegal claims to cure or treat a disease.
Unlike pharmaceuticals, supplements don’t have to undergo thorough government testing before they hit the market. The Food and Drug Administration is allowed to investigate supplements only after harmful side effects, such as consumers getting sick, are reported from their use.
According to the report, not only do many supplements carry health claims that are illegal, many of the purported benefits found on their labels also lack scientific studies that sufficiently prove their claims. Investigators noted that some companies submitted advertisements, news releases – even a 30-year-old college term paper – as proof of their products’ claims.
The report said that consumers may not only be wasting their money on some supplements since their medical claims are false, but individuals may be putting their health at risk by using supplements rather than approved drugs to treat a particular condition. For example, the government’s report noted that some supplements claim they prevent, even cure, diabetes, or that they treat HIV or AIDS patients, a claim which is illegal.