Potentially harmful weight loss supplements easily purchased by kids

Weight loss supplements containing potentially harmful ingredients are easily purchased in stores by children, according to an October 28, 2019 blog post on Psychology Today.

Authors S. Bryn Austin, professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders), and Tamara Sobel of Media Literacy Now wrote that weight loss products containing ingredients such as the herb senna—which can cause permanent bowel dysfunction, heart arrhythmia, and even death if taken in excess—receive little federal oversight and are sold without age restrictions. Compared to basic vitamins, these products are nearly three times more likely to cause severe adverse health events in young people, according to the authors.

Given that “detox teas” and other weight loss supplements are heavily promoted on social media, the authors applauded the recent announcement by Facebook and Instagram that the platforms would ban advertisements for the products to minors. Austin and Sobel also called on policymakers to enact laws that require supplements to be moved to locked cases behind the counter in retail stores, and that set age restrictions for their purchase.

Read the Psychology Today article: The Disturbing Surprises at Your Local Pharmacy

Learn more

Dietary supplements linked with severe health events in children, young adults (Harvard Chan School press release)

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