Nutrition Business Journal

What Is the Silver Lining to Current FDA Scrutiny of Weight-Loss Products?


What a difference a year can make. Twelve months after Nutrition Business Journal reported that the weight-loss category was making strides in improving an image tarnished by the 2004 ephedra ban, Iovate Health Sciences’ voluntary recall of its No.1 selling Hydroxycut weight-loss supplement brand has cast the category under a cloud of suspicion again, hampering consumer confidence and leaving companies wondering who’s next in what seems an inevitable regulatory crackdown.

Making matters worse for the weight-loss category are the lingering economic slump and the fact that many weight-loss pill-form supplements are facing double-digit dips in sales—even at a time when, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 66% of Americans are overweight and more than one-third are considered obese.

But weight-loss dietary supplements are not the only products being scrutinized by the government. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on August 24 that it is reviewing adverse event reports of liver injury in patients taking the weight loss drug orlistat, marketed as the prescription drug Xenical and the over-the-counter medication Alli.

Between 1999 and 2008, the FDA received 32 reports of serious liver injury in patients taking orlistat. Of those cases, 27 reported hospitalization and six resulted in liver failure. Thirty of the adverse events occurred outside the United States. The most commonly reported adverse events included yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, weakness and stomach pain.

The silver lining to all of this gloom and doom, say industry experts, is the steady growth in products such as meal replacement formulas, and protein- and fiber-based weight-management offerings intended to promote fullness and accompany important lifestyle changes. In fact, the public’s growing distrust of “magic pills” touting miracle weight-loss results may be slowly leading the industry in a healthier direction toward weight-loss solutions that are backed by better science and a greater safety record.

“I see a movement more toward products and ingredients that are easily understandable to the consumer and are paired with lifestyle changes, rather than ‘magic bullet’ approaches that are surrounded by hype,” said Douglas Kalman, PhD, RD, director of the nutrition division of Miami Research Associates, a supplement and pharmaceutical research firm.

NBJ’s upcoming Sports Nutrition and Weight-Loss issue, which will be available in September, will dive deep into the weight-loss product category and include stories about how the Hydroxycut recall is affecting the overall weight-loss supplement market and the growth in functional food and beverage products designed to promote satiety. To order a copy of the issue, subscribe to NBJ or download a free 32-page sample issue, go to NBJ’s subscriber page.

Related NBJ links:
Industry Making Strides in Improving Tarnished Image of Weight-Loss Supplements
NBJ's Sports Nutrition & Weight-Loss Report 2009
Interest in Fucoxanthin Swells as Industry Searches for Next Hot Weight-Loss Ingredient

Related Natural Foods Merchandiser links:
Hydroxycut Warning Leads to Call for DSHEA Review


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