Weight Loss Supplements Widely Used

Study: Few Tell Docs About Nonprescription Dietary Weight Loss Supplement Use

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on March 02, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

March 2, 2007 -- Roughly one in seven U.S. adults has used nonprescription dietary weight loss supplements, and few tell their doctors about it.

That news appears in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The CDC's Heidi Michaels Blanck, PhD, worked on the study with colleagues at the University of South Carolina and Arizona State University.

They interviewed about 9,400 U.S. adults (aged 18 and older) about their weight and weight loss efforts, including the use of nonprescription dietary weight loss supplements. The interviews were conducted by phone in 2002.

Fifteen percent of participants said they had ever used such supplements, and nearly 9% said they had done so in the past year.

Women aged 18-34 had the highest reported use of nonprescription dietary weight loss supplements.

Ephedra, chromium, and/or bitter orange were the key ingredients in the most commonly used weight loss supplements, the study shows.

The FDA banned supplements containing ephedra in April 2004, about 16 months after Blanck's team finished their telephone poll.

Two-thirds of the people who had used weight loss supplements in the past year hadn't discussed use of those supplements with their doctors. That's risky, because stimulants aren't appropriate for everyone, Blanck's team notes.

The researchers urge doctors and patients to discuss the use of weight loss supplements and not to assume that supplements are safe and effective, even if they're labeled "natural."

Show Sources

SOURCES: Blanck, H. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, March 2007; vol 107: pp 41-447. FDA: “Sales of Supplements Containing Ephedrine Alkaloids (Ephedra) Prohibited.”

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