Dietary Supplements For Weight Loss:

Limited Federal Oversight Has Focused More on Marketing than on Safety

GAO-02-985T: Published: Jul 31, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 2002.

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Janet Heinrich
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Since the enactment of the Dietary Enactment Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994, U.S. sales of weight loss supplements have increased steadily. The sales of weight loss supplements--reported to be the fastest growing segment of the dietary supplement industry--increased 10 to 20 percent annually from 1997 to 2001, and industry officials expect that rate of increase to continue. Little is known about the effectiveness of weight loss supplements, but some supplements have been associated with the potential physical harm. Health consequences may result from the use of the supplement itself or from the interaction of the supplement with medications or foods. Federal and state activities related to weight loss supplements have been limited and have focused on oversight of marketing rather than on oversight of safety. In addition, several states have statutes or regulations in effect or pending to restrict the sale of some weight loss supplements. Some state attorneys general and local district attorneys have sued the manufacturers of supplements marketed with weight loss claims, and individuals have sued over injuries.

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