Out of Kids’ Hands

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

More reading about the dangers of dietary supplements for weight loss & muscle-building and other resources:

If you have questions, please contact Monique Santoso at monique.santoso@childrens.harvard.edu.