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Billions wasted on useless weight loss products

Are we wasting our money on quack health food? It looks like we do, according to Scottish researchers. Up to the billions, in fact. And especially on products disguised as weight loss remedies. According to an estimate by this report in the British Journal of Medicine, people in the US spent $35 billion dollar in 2000 on weight loss products.

In these days where obesity is becoming an epidemic, there are surely lots of potential customers to trick out there.

A lot of weight loss remedies are marketed as nutritional or dietary supplements and are therefore not subject to the strict regulations set by health and drug authorities like the US FDA and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA).

Many of these remedies (in the form of pills, tea, and other drinks) are useless, even dangerous (see this FDA warning). Many contain misleading brand names, labels, and packaging which usually contain unsubstantiated claims of health benefits.

The study authors went on to say that of all the numerous weight loss products currently on sale, “only energy-restricted diets and exercise, the drugs orlistat and sibutramine, and in some cases bariatric surgery, are safe, effective and cost-effective.” The rest are quack.

The latest regulations in the European Union may be able to prevent this blatant exploitation of consumers. The EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices was adopted by some EU countries this year and among its provisions is the banning of advertisements that encourage children to buy high calorie, fattening products.

Now, I think that is a step in the right direction.

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