New York bans sales of diet, muscle building supplements to minors

Close up of a man's hands taking supplement pills, with gym equipment in background

Harvard Chan School researchers and colleagues played key role in passage of bill.

October 27, 2023 — New York has become the first state to ban the sale of over-the-counter weight loss and muscle building supplements to minors. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the bill on October 25 and the first-in-the-nation law will take effect in April. 

Over-the-counter diet pills and muscle-building supplements are inadequately regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are often sold without any scientific evidence of their safety or effectiveness. Some products have been found to include dangerous ingredients linked to serious health risk including stroke, testicular cancer, liver damage, and death. Use of these products also has been linked to increased risk of eating disorders and illicit anabolic steroid use in youth and young adults. 

Keeping these products out of the hands of kids is a top policy priority for STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders), based at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital. Research and advocacy by Director S. Bryn Austin, professor of social and behavioral sciences, and colleagues informed New York’s bill, which was introduced by Assemblymember Nily Rozic and Senator Shelley Mayer this legislative season.

“From social media influencers promoting unattainable body ideals to the corner pharmacy selling snake oil diet pills and muscle supplements, there is no shortage today of predatory companies trying to make a buck off of teens’ mental health struggles and body insecurities,” Austin said. “Though we can’t legislate body confidence, we can change laws to make it harder for these companies to prey on kids.”

Austin praised “New York’s intrepid youth advocates” for their role in championing the bill. She said, “They should be proud of what they have achieved and know their voices have been heard in the highest offices of the New York State government.” 

STRIPED is supporting similar legislation in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New Jersey. See their campaign page to track the progress of these bills. 

Amy Roeder

Photo: iStock / Valeriy_G