Should Weight Loss Claims be Classified as Disease Claims?

On April 17, 2008, three public interest groups and an OTC manufacturer of a weight-loss drug have filed a petition with the FDA to treat weight-loss claims for supplements as disease claims!

What Petition Wants to Classify Weight Loss Claims as Disease Claims?

In a petition sent to the FDA commissioner, Andrew von Eschenbach, MD, the Obesity Society, the American Dietetic Association, Shaping American’s Health and GlaxoSmithKline asked the FDA to reconsider it’s regulatory approach to weight loss supplements. Keep in mind, GlaxoSmithKline is the maker of Alli, currently the ONLY FDA approved OTC drug for weight loss.

Here’s the angle being taken…

Although not technically a disease, being overweight can be a risk factor for other diseases. Such close ties from weight loss supplements like it can lower high cholesterol, which is not a disease itself but is a sign of cardiovascular disease makes this a fine line to walk.

Based on a University of Connecticut study funded by GlaxoSmithKline, the study showed that consumers may misunderstand the regulation of supplements today by the FDA.

GSK-Funded Study Shows Confusion about Supplements

  • 54% of survey respondents that believed weight loss supplements are tested and proven safe before they are allowed to be sold.
  • 45% believed that weight loss supplements are tested and proven effective before they can be sold.
  • 64% believed that the FDA requires all weight loss supplement companies to mention any ill side-effects on the labels.
  • 50% believe that weight loss supplements by enlarge are somewhat effective.
  • 37% believe herbal supplements are safer than OTC or prescription drugs.

Source: National Dietary Survey

Given this potential misunderstanding, the petitioners argue that supplement manufactures are making weight loss claims with little data to back it up. Many independent studies against specific weight loss supplements have shown there’s no difference in a person who takes a weight loss supplement and somebody who does not. Most of them have concluded that there is little if any evidence to suggest that any weight loss product on the market today available to the consumer actually works.

This is inline with what fitness expert Tom Venuto has said in his Fat Burners - The Unadulterated Truth. Other fitness experts, including myself, agree that consumer available weight loss supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry with a severe lack of strong evidence to suggest any significant weight loss. Even green tea, once the best bet for natural and small amounts of weight loss, may not make any difference at all. Although it has other serious health benefits.

As a counter to the petition, CEO Steve Mister of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) said in the April 28th statement that his group plans to oppose the petition.

“We believe the weight loss claims are legitimate and appropriate claims for the products in the dietary supplement category, provided these products have substantiation to support the truthfulness of these claims.”

The DSHEA, commonly know as the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, does allow for weight loss supplement companies to make such claims within some guidelines. To think the supplement industry is totally unregulated would be a false statement.

While I fully agree with the statistics provided above, the study was paid for by a major pharmaceutical company. It stands to benefit from this proposed change to regulation.

Should Weight Loss Claims be Classifed as Disease Claims?

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Photo of the confused consumer by Saffanna Used under a Creative Commons license

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    This looks like yet another sleazy power-grab from the same people that are constantly trying to take away your safe, natural supplements, so that they can sell you more of their unsafe, trumped-up, junk-science prescription "medications".

    If it were up to them, they would also like to make high-dose Vitamin C a prescription controlled by the FDA (Federal Drug-company Assistance-administration) so that you can then buy it from them at a multiple of current market prices.

    BTW, the assertion that cholesterol is linked with heart disease is a manufactured myth. Many (glossed-over, hushed-up) studies show that there is no linkage, which doesn't prevent these people to sell you potentially dangerous, expensive cholesterol-lowering drugs.

    Do your own research. Two books to read are "Eat Fat, Lose Fat", and, especially from a Weight-lifter's perspective "Natural Hormonal Enhancement" by Rob Faigin.

    What you'll read there about junk studies that have been used to trick you into buying inferior, unhealthy poly-unsaturated oils and deadly "trans-fats" (hydrogenated oils = margarine = almost plastic) will SHOCK YOU.

    Best wishes - Alex
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    From an insurance agents perspective (thank god I dont deal with health insurance) this will do nothing but raise health insurance preimums in an already downhill healthcare situation. Providing coverage for supplements that only make another excuse for people not to eat a healthy well balanced diet is borderline retarded in my opinion. People need to be accountable for their actions, your diet is a CHOICE that you make everyday, wether it is a good one or not is up to an individual. What's next? will they start having perscription healthy food behind the counter? i hope not, people need to stop playing the blame game and take accountability for their actions and choices. McDonalds everyday = bad decision and fatbody! no medication will change that but in peoples minds it will because they have a "miracle perscription weight loss pill". Is this too logical?
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    I have to agree with Eric Foard. I think too many people are not taking responsibility for their own health. Sometimes they wait until the it becomes a crisis before taking action. However, I do believe that our food supply is not as nutritious as it used to be when my grandparents were growing up and that the processed food landscape is a little bit more confusing.


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