Apr 21, 2019 | Updated: 07:00 AM EDT

Consumer Reports Study Finds Americans Know Little About the Weight Loss Supplements They Take

Jan 05, 2015 03:28 PM EST

Weight Loss Supplements

How trusting are American consumers when it comes to weight loss supplements? And exactly how easily do we fall prey to these products' marketing strategies? A recent Consumer Reports survey found that many Americans are misinformed about weight loss supplements, including their quality and efficacy.

The survey results showed that around 600 of the 3,000 respondents were led to believe that the supplements they were using were guaranteed safe and effective by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In a Consumer Reports news release, Dr. Pieter Cohen, a physician at Harvard Medical School, said that the scientific-looking labeling "gives one the sense the products are being scrutinized by the FDA."

"The barrage of advertising leads us to think there's a magic way to melt away 10 pounds -- even when we have no evidence that supplements work," Cohen says. "The labels on weight loss supplements look like those on over-the-counter medications, and the supplement facts are organized like nutrition facts labels. There's no way for consumers to tell the difference."

More than a quarter of the respondents in the survey said they had tried a weight-loss product in the past, believing their product was safe and would help them lose more weight than other methods. Also, around 25 per cent of the respondents believed the supplements had fewer side effects than over-the-counter or prescription medications.

Cohen said, "of all dietary supplements, the ones for weight loss seem to cause the most harm -- sometimes liver failure and even death."

In recent studies, many supplements were actually found to contain substances that have been banned because of safety concerns. The survey also revealed that more than one-third of those taking weight-loss supplements were also under prescription medication for another condition, which they never informed their physicians about. Such practices increases their risk of experiencing fatal sideeffects between those supplements and prescription drugs.

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