Consumer Reports’ Survey Finds Americans Mistaken About Safety and Effectiveness of Weight-Loss Supplements

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New Test Results for Treadmills and Ellipticals Finds Many Home Machines Add Features and Connectivity Trying to Replicate a Personal Trainer

CR February 2015 Issue

With the New Year close at hand, many Americans use this milestone to start a new diet or exercise regimen. But a new survey from Consumer Reports finds that as many as one in four consumers try to shortcut the process with the use of weight-loss supplements.

The Consumer Reports survey goes further to uncover consumer confusion about the safety and effectiveness of these products with 20% of respondents saying they thought that the FDA tests and guarantees the safety and effectiveness of supplements. In fact, the FDA regulates supplements much like foods, meaning they’re generally considered safe unless shown not to be.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed nearly 3,000 Americans about weight-loss supplements. The key findings include:

  • Over one-quarter of supplement users in the survey said they thought the products were safe and would help them drop more pounds than other weight loss methods. But unlike prescription and over-the-counter drugs, supplements don’t have to be proven effective and safe before they hit store shelves.
  • Many supplement users are unaware of their risks. One-quarter of Americans believe the products have fewer side effects than most over-the-counter or prescription medications, and nearly 20 percent believed the pills are safer than prescription drugs because they’re “natural.” However, diet pills can contain banned drugs. A recent Boston study looked at 27 supplements that had been recalled by the FDA, but they were still on the market. Two thirds of those sold for weight loss still contained the banned ingredients.
  • Side effects are common. About half of the people in the survey, who used supplements, said they experienced at least one side effect including a rapid heart rate, jitteriness, digestive problems like constipation or diarrhea, dry mouth, or another side effect.
  • Supplements aren’t effective for most people. A third of those who took supplements didn’t lose any weight. Another third lost some weight, but only 9 percent of all supplement users surveyed said they lost all the weight they hoped to lose and kept it off. Most supplement users in our survey (74%) had been taking a supplement for anywhere between 3 weeks to 11 months. Its very possible the supplement had little to do with it. Exercise and diet may have been the main reason, and 85 percent of people who said they lost any weight while taking a supplement were also following a diet or exercise program.

In addition to the survey on weight-loss supplements which can be found online at http://www.ConsumerReports.org the February issue of Consumer Reports magazine features the latest ratings of treadmills and ellipticals and finds that many have added features and connectivity that make it almost as good as having a personal trainer.

Many of the models Consumer Reports tested allow users to individualize their workouts, making the best machines more motivating to their users. That’s great news since 64 percent of those who exercise regularly choose to do so at home according to market research firm Mintel.

Research shows the key to success is finding a diet and exercise regime people can stick with. As part of the exercise equipment ratings, Consumer Reports evaluated equipment costs, ergonomics, construction, ease of use, exercise range and user safety as well as the latest high-tech tools to achieve fitness goals.

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Joe Duraes