BBB Trends: Check out those dietary supplements to make good decisions about New Year’s resolutions

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By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

The recurring New Year’s resolutions to eat better, live healthier, and exercise more often will most likely see a resurgence again this year. Most medical professionals encourage a combination of increased activity and careful eating to reach these fitness goals, but the desire of some people to lose weight quickly could lead to unexpected health complications.

Wild television, radio, and magazine advertisements promoting miraculous all-natural fat-burning medicine guaranteed to accomplish rapid weight loss are common during the first part of the year and are produced to entice frustrated and discouraged individuals. The majority of these products aren’t truly medication – they’re what is labeled as “dietary supplements” and have to include a printed disclaimer stating that they are safe for use.

Because they’re not technically classified as a drug, they aren’t required to pass any standards or regulations for medicines set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To meet FDA standards, a drug must pass several clinical trials and studies to determine whether or not it performs as intended. After it passes this stage, the drug goes through a strict final inspection by the FDA before it is released to the public. The approval process can take years – even decades – to make sure that the medicine is safe, performs properly, and doesn’t cause any unanticipated reactions.

The FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of rules. Over the last few years, it discovered hundreds of these products contained unlisted additives and chemicals with the potential to cause serious side effects.

Advertising guidelines – like the ones that require the differentiation between a diet pill and a dietary supplement – are put in place to make sure drugs, both prescribed and over the counter, aren’t promoted as a prevention or cure when there is no evidence to support that claim.

Disclaimers stating the intended use of the product must be included somewhere on the packaging so consumers aren’t misled when making a purchase.

If you decide to purchase a dietary supplement to help achieve your New Year’s resolution, review the products on the market and avoid those that claim to help you lose weight without having to change your diet plan or exercise regimen. If an ad says that all you have to do is take the product, the best case scenario is that it’s an expensive placebo. The worst case: it hasn’t been inspected by the FDA and may contain chemicals that are hazardous to your health.

Before committing to diet program – supplement or no – consider contacting your primary care physician for advice. Most health experts recommend losing one to two pounds per week using a steady regimen of exercise and healthy diet, but each person’s body is different.

The best advice: follow your doctor’s dietary recommendations and use bbb.org to find reputable places to exercise in order to meet your New Year’s goals.

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Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Contact Sandra at (513) 639-9126 or sguile@cincinnati.bbb.org. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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