Our model legislation seeks to ban the sale, in brick-and-mortar stores and online, of over-the-counter diet pills and muscle-building supplements to minors because of the health risks and widespread problem of adulteration with toxic ingredients. This model legislation can be used by states as a template for creating their own legislation to restrict the sale of over-the-counter diet pills and muscle-building supplements to minors, promoting public health and safety.
Protecting young people from dangerous weight loss and muscle-building products
Over-the-counter diet pills and muscle-building supplements are common and widely available to consumers of all ages, with one in five women and one in 10 men reporting ever using these products. While these dietary supplements often claim to promote weight loss or muscle building – many products are sold without any scientific evidence of their safety or effectiveness and are inadequately regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Even more alarming, these deceptive products can be sold to consumers of any age without restriction, so any child can go to their local grocery store, convenience store, or gym or go online to buy these hazardous products. For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released two reports strongly cautioning against teens using diet pills and muscle-building supplements for any reason.
Research has documented dire results among users of these products, including liver damage and even death. These products also worsen health inequities as Latinx teens are 40% more likely to use over-the-counter diet pills than white teens. In addition, they are prospectively linked with a higher risk of eating disorders diagnosis and illicit anabolic steroid use. Adolescent and young adult women who use over-the-counter diet pills are 4 to 6 times more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with an eating disorder within several years. And young men and young women who start using muscle-building supplements are 2-5 times more likely than their peers to go on to use illicit anabolic steroids or similar harmful substances.
Lawmakers from California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York have introduced legislation to protect child health and keep these dangerous products #OutofKidsHands.
Thank you to the senators, representatives, delegates, and assemblymembers for being champions of bills to protect young people from dangerous weight loss and muscle-building supplements. For more updates on each states’ legislation, check out our CA, MA, MD, MO, NJ and NY Out of Kids’ Hands Campaign pages below.
Want to get involved with the Out of Kids’ Hands Campaign and see the bills cross the finish line? Contact us at STRIPED@hsph.harvard.edu
- Check out our helpful resources that detail key rationale for these bills:
- Don’t miss STRIPED’s 6-video training series on how providers can discuss dietary supplements to keep patients safe.
- Check out this campaign featured in the STRIPED Advocacy Playbook.
- Post to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram using the hashtags #outofkidshands (reflecting this specific campaign) and #mapoli (which will help people interested in Massachusetts politics find your posts)
More reading about the dangers of dietary supplements for weight loss & muscle-building and other resources:
- MedPage Today article on body dissatisfaction and muscle dysmorphia.
- Washington Post article on muscle-building supplements and body dysmorphia in boys and men.
- USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism on the dangers that weight loss and muscle-building supplements have for youth and children of color as well as the legislation that is moving forward in Massachusetts, New York and California to restrict the sale of these supplements.
- Attorneys General Letter on Dietary Supplements, sent by several state Attorneys General to the bipartisan leaders of the House Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, & Data Security and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health in 2015.
- New York Times Letter to the Editor on the importance of this campaign
- New York Times article on the risks of muscle-building supplements: “When Teen Boys Use Supplements”
- Boston Globe article on the importance of this bill: “Dietary supplements, largely unregulated, deserve the state’s skepticism”
- New York 1 news piece and interview with Iman Hariri-Kia on dangerous dietary supplements
- American Academy of Pediatrics Reports:
- Papers co-authored by STRIPED Director S. Bryn Austin:
- Article in the Harvard Public Health Review by S. Bryn Austin titled Odds, Arcs, and Policy Change: A Step-by-Step Look at a Public Health Campaign Taking on the Dietary Supplements Industry
- Article co-authored by STRIPED’s Jordan Levinson and STRIPED Director S. Bryn Austin: Diet Pill and Laxative Use for Weight Control and Subsequent Incident Eating Disorder in US Young Women: 2001–2016
- News article from the Harvard Public Health Review: “How America’s Flawed Supplement Law Creates the Mirage of Weight Loss Cures”
- Supplements and Health: Sorting the Facts Forum and Live Facebook Pre-Event Q&A, presented on May 11, 2017.
If you have questions, please contact Monique Santoso at firstname.lastname@example.org.