Dietary supplements

I stopped in a health food store in St. Petersburg the other day with an attorney friend of mine. We wanted a quick protein shake after a strenuous workout. While the person behind the counter was preparing our shakes, my friend pointed to a bottle of NOX. He told me that he had heard from friends how this mixture increased the benefits of a workout while simultaneously maximizing energy and concentration throughout the day. The bottle’s ingredients were a veritable plethora of “natural” ingredients including nitrous oxide. The small bottle’s price was $59.99
His enthusiasm for the product and desire to buy it made me think about the many clients I represent who’ve been injured by other “natural” products.
The diet supplement sector is a multi-billion dollar a year industry whose growth potential is infinitely larger than any of the regulated pharmaceuticals manufactured to fight disease, cure illness, or stave off any of a number of ailments that afflict human beings.
The industry’s marketing campaigns are slick and disciplined in honing in on their target audience. Today, one can’t go into a smoothie shop, vitamin store, or health food outlet without noticing the multitude of products promising weight loss, weight gain, increased muscle, better performance, and better health.
Yet, these claims are for the most part untested and completely unregulated by the government. The FDA has no regulatory influence over the industry. It’s literally a “wild west” scenario where any one with entrepreneurial skills and access to “natural” ingredients can produce a product that promises results with very little to no scientific evidence to support the claims.
Recently, the FDA has intervened in cases concerning diet supplements where the ingredients are mixed with a regulated prescription ingredient. That’s clearly illegal and the FDA has rightly stepped in to halt the sale of such products.
However, the majority of these “natural” products remains on the market and enthusiastically purchased by those seeking the results promised in the marketing campaigns.
The products are not only found in health stores and smoothie shops. They can be purchased online. They are advertised in health magazines, muscle and fitness publications, and on television.
It’s not only those who are interested in fitness who are buying these products. Such “natural” products are marketed to those desiring more energy, better concentration, better sexual performance, healthier skin, and stronger bones.
The fact that the industry is unregulated is a boon for those with no scruples and a dearth of scientific evidence. The labeling on such products has been demonstrated to be vague at best. At times, the labeling of ingredients is actually false. Even the stated amount of the ingredients can be inaccurate. Many of these so-called “energy boosters” can contain harmful amounts of caffeine and/or sugar.
Perhaps more importantly, certain combinations of “natural” ingredients can be harmful if not fatal. Take for instance kava kava or hydroxycut. These so-called products haven’t been tested for safety and evaluations of these products have never been performed.
Until the FDA can gain regulatory control over this burgeoning industry, it’s a wild west scenario and “buyer beware” can take on morbid overtones. If you’re taking one of these products, you may be playing a dangerous game with your health.