In all, the Food and Drug Administration said it had received 23 reports of significant adverse health effects in people who used Hydroxycut, including one person who required a liver transplant. Other complications included heart problems and a kind of muscle damage that could lead to kidney failure, the agency said.
Wondering what the difference is between “diet supplements” and “drugs”? From the FDA:
One thing dietary supplements are not is drugs. A drug, which sometimes can be derived from plants used as traditional medicines, is an article that, among other things, is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent diseases. Before marketing, drugs must undergo clinical studies to determine their effectiveness, safety, possible interactions with other substances, and appropriate dosages, and FDA must review these data and authorize the drugs’ use before they are marketed. FDA does not authorize or test dietary supplements.
Another way of thinking of it is that diet supplement is meant to be something like a vitamin or mineral; to prevent a deficiency, say. It is not meant to cure or treat a disease. This may sound like a fine line, and it is – it’s a legal distinction that was drawn so that vitamins or glucosamine pills do not have to go through the FDA drug approval process, even though in some cases (St John’s Wort) they may have similar effects.
This distinction makes it possible to get weight-loss supplements onto the market without having to pass the standard of efficiency required for weight-loss drugs (which, really, ain’t all that much anyway – 5% more weight loss than a placebo). They’re tested by the companies producing them, yes, but that will vary from company to company. This is a good fact to keep in mind! The FDA is empowered to act if it receives reports of harm from a supplement that is already for sale, but do you want to be one of the people who is harmed?
I am not saying to never take supplements. I take supplements myself – vitamins B12, D, and occasionally E (keeps my skin less dry). I also take fish oil capsules. I buy from companies that have been around a while. The big doses are the B12 and D, which I have been diagnosed deficient in and which I have regular follow-up tests to make sure I’m getting not-too-much not-too-little.
I also assume that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.