National Eating Disorders Association

Finally! US Government Asks Tough Questions about “Miracle” Weight Loss Drugs

Caitlin Hamilton, Media & Communications Manager

Weight-loss diet scams are “a crisis in consumer protection,” said Senator Claire McCaskill in a Congressional hearing this week on false advertising. The Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, led by McCaskill, convened the hearing to “examine the deceptive advertising and marketing practices of weight-loss products and their effects on American consumers.”

The hearing was punctuated by a highly-publicized “grilling” of TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz, but it also took aim at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for their unwillingness to crack down on deceptive advertising. Although Dr. Oz took the heat during the hearings, he is just the most visible tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to weight-loss scams and false advertising.

Americans were reportedly forecast to spend $2.4 billion on weight-loss services last year, and the figure is expected to rise to $2.7 billion by 2018. These numbers are staggering considering that we know diet pills and extreme weight-loss practices contribute to the development and escalation of eating disorders. Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).

It is high time that Americans turn a critical eye to the weight-loss industry and implement legislation against dangerous and deceptive advertising. Just as we no longer allow anyone (let alone doctors) to advertise the “health benefits” of cigarettes, it should be criminal to peddle diet pills and supplements as “miracle cures” when they are unregulated and often the catalyst of life-threatening illnesses.

Please take a moment to congratulate Sen. McCaskill and thank the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance!