This past week, the federal Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report that requests the FDA to exert more oversight power in the review and evaluation of the diet supplement industry. The report says that while the FDA has increased their watch of the diet pill market, they have not done enough to ensure the safety of consumers who experiment with weight loss and other non-medical diet products. According to the New York Times, Americans spent an estimated $25 billion on weight loss and diet products last year.
In 2008, the FDA received 948 reports of health problems associated with dietary supplements, including 9 deaths and 234 hospitalizations. And the FDA asserts that these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. The regulatory body estimates that each year, over 50,000 health problems are connected to the use of diet supplements.
The F.D.A. currently regulates dietary supplements as consumable nonfood substances, but regulate diet supplements with the same supervision and inspection as it does with drugs and medications. In addition, the FDA cannot force supplement manufacturers to take their tainted products away from drugstore shelves or online distributors. In December of 2008, the FDA issued a list of over 60 diet supplements that contained tainted ingredients and that were associated with health conditions, but there was little else it could do other than put out this warning and hope it was heard and heeded by diet pill consumers.
Therefore the take-home message with this recent report is that until the FDA has more authority to thoroughly inspect and regulate diet supplements, it is important to get medical approval before taking any weight loss product.