Filed under: Dietary supplements
Some dietary supplements marketed for weight loss contain “raspberry ketone.” This ingredient is one of several naturally occurring chemicals found in red raspberries that contribute to their aroma; it also occurs in other fruits such as cranberries and blackberries. Raspberry ketone is used in some foods as a flavoring agent and in other products such as cosmetics. Because the amount of raspberry ketone found naturally is so low, it is produced synthetically in a laboratory for use in commercial products.
The limited number of studies done on cells, mice, rats, and other small animals indicate that raspberry ketone might improve fat metabolism. However, the same effect has yet to be established in humans, and currently there is insufficient scientific evidence that supplemental raspberry ketone is effective for weight loss.
Is your New Year’s resolution to try to lose weight, meet body composition standards, or just be healthier? Weight-loss supplement might be a tempting solution, but before you take one, consider this: Dietary supplements marketed for weight loss are categorized “high-risk” products. The Food and Drug Administration has found many dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss to contain hidden drug ingredients or other ingredients that haven’t been adequately studied in humans.
Not only are they potentially unsafe, weight-loss supplements that advertise “quick fixes” likely won’t help you meet your goals. There’s limited scientific evidence that weight-loss supplements alone help people lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off. Question the claims on the label, and remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Phenibut—also “β-phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid” or “4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid HCl”—is found as an ingredient in some dietary supplements. These supplements are sold for a variety of uses, including sleep, stress reduction, and nootropic (“smart pill”) effects. Phenibut is a drug developed in Russia and Latvia, where it’s used as to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, insomnia, and other conditions.
In the U.S., phenibut is neither a controlled substance nor a prescription drug. But that doesn’t mean it’s “okay.” Phenibut is a synthetic substance—it’s made in a laboratory and doesn’t occur in nature—which means it doesn’t fit FDA’s definition of an acceptable dietary supplement ingredient. It’s similar to the FDA-approved drug baclofen.
There are reports of adverse events associated with phenibut use, and some evidence suggests that continued use can lead to dependence and increased tolerance, which means an increasingly higher dose is needed for the same effect. Withdrawal symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, muscle pain and twitching, heart arrhythmia (tachycardia), nausea, vomiting, insomnia, sensitivity to sound and light, and separation from reality.
Although FDA has not yet declared phenibut illegal for use in dietary supplements, we advise caution.
Some dietary supplements are marketed as “all natural,” but do you know that this is actually an unregulated marketing term? So just because a product claims to be “all natural” doesn’t automatically make it safe. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that products marketed as “all natural” might contain ingredients that could interact with medications or be harmful to people with certain medical conditions or may even contain hidden drug ingredients. For example, according to FDA, supplements marketed as “all natural” sexual-enhancement products might be tainted with the same active ingredients found in prescription drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction. Not only could you potentially be consuming multiple drug ingredients, you could be consuming them in amounts even greater than prescription doses. Either way, these types of products can put your health and career in danger. For more information, please read FDA’s “Consumer Update on 'All Natural’ Alternatives…”
You can’t always believe the marketing claims, advertisements, or even labels of dietary supplement products. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t approve or evaluate supplements for safety, quality, or effectiveness before they are sold on the market. FDA can, however, take action if a product is later found to be adulterated or misbranded or cause harm. Still, sometimes it can be hard to tell which supplements are safe and which you should leave on the shelf. To learn more, take a few minutes to watch this video from Operation Supplement Safety about Decoding the Dietary Supplement Industry.
Garcinia cambogia, a pumpkin-like fruit, is a popular dietary supplement ingredient in products marketed for weight loss. Although Garcinia cambogia has been marketed as a weight-loss aid for quite some time, the latest scientific research still hasn’t proven its effectiveness. To learn more, read the updated Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about Garcinia cambogia.
If you’re looking for ways to lose weight, OPSS and HPRC always recommend choosing foods first before considering dietary supplements. Visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, where you’ll find joint-service and service-specific programs to help you achieve your goals.
Green coffee bean extract has been available in dietary supplements for quite some time, but despite the hype and popularity of this ingredient, there’s little science to support its use as a weight-loss aid. Green coffee beans are the raw, unroasted seeds or “beans” of the Coffea plant. Similar to your morning cup of coffee, they contain caffeine in addition to a chemical called chlorogenic acid. The difference, though, is that green coffee beans contain more chlorogenic acid because roasting reduces the amount of chlorogenic acid in coffee beans.
Chlorogenic acid supposedly offers some health benefits, but don’t believe everything you hear (or read) about green coffee beans supplements for weight loss; there just isn’t enough evidence to back up these claims. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged a company for using deceptive weight-loss claims to market a green coffee bean supplement. Read more about this in FTC’s Press Release.
Dietary supplements and medications (prescription or over-the-counter) can be a risky combination. That’s because many dietary supplement ingredients, especially herbs and botanicals, can interact with drugs (such as ones to treat blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and anxiety) or even other dietary supplements. Interactions between drugs and supplements can result in either an increase or decrease in the effectiveness of your medications. In other words, you could be getting too much or too little of the medications that you need, which can be dangerous to your health. If you’re taking or plan to take a dietary supplement, inform your healthcare provider to make sure it’s safe to use with your medications.
Learn more about how supplements can change the effectiveness of your medications and know when drug-supplement interactions are especially important by using this interactive web resource from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). And for information about many known interactions between dietary supplement ingredients and medications, as well as other dietary supplement ingredients, visit the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD).
When it comes to the topic of dietary supplements, a good rule of thumb is not to believe everything you hear or read from someone trying to sell you a product. Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) recently received Ask the Expert questions about products that were recommended by staff at stores, whether or not they were safe to take, and whether they would cause a positive result on a urinalysis test. In fact, two products were “high risk.”
If you’re considering a dietary supplement product, be sure to consult your healthcare provider first. Service dietitians can be another good resource to determine if you really need to supplement your diet. It’s important to know how to spot potential high-risk supplements. Find out too if there is reliable scientific evidence that the ingredients in a product actually work. For more information, OPSS has a comprehensive “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) section with subcategories about general and miscellaneous topics, dietary supplement ingredients, performance, and weight loss. Or, to watch some videos or short PSAs, click on “Tools for Warfighters,” and then the “Video” tab.
DMAA has been illegal for use as an ingredient in dietary supplements for more than 3 years. It still is, but just when you think it would be disappearing from the market, it seems to be on a slight rise again. Our online search of available dietary supplements with DMAA turned up 11 products we had never encountered before, in addition to 34 products still on the list since before DMAA became illegal. We also found 50 discontinued products with DMAA still being sold by third-party retail outlets.
Unfortunately, illegal substances of all kinds are readily available on the Internet. For example, ephedra has been illegal since 2004, when FDA acted on growing reports of severe adverse events, including deaths, associated with the popular weight-loss supplement ingredient. However, products containing ephedra are commonly marketed online. Even substances on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of controlled substances can be purchased online. Worse, laboratory testing of dietary supplement products sometimes reveals the presence of illegal ingredients even when they aren’t listed on the products’ labels.
Ingredients such as DMAA are not allowed in dietary supplements because, according to FDA, “they can be a health risk to consumers.” Stay informed, starting with the OPSS FAQ about DMAA and updated list of Dietary Supplements/Products Containing DMAA.