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Justin Leonard: FDA Should Leave Hydroxycut Alone
Written on July 19, 2009

By now you are probably aware of the warning to consumers by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cease using Hydroxycut products. In their news release, the FDA cited a mere "23 reports of serious health problems ranging from jaundice and elevated liver enzymes." But the warning should not cause alarm.

There are over 300 million consumers in the United States alone. Let's assume that several million bottles of the supplement were sold since it entered the U.S. marketplace. By all accounts, Hydroxycut is extremely safe considering only 23 people had issues with the product. To underscore my position, FDA-approved consumer products such as cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription drugs are considerably worse than Hydroxycut. But I suspect these products won't be leaving shelves anytime soon.

So why did the FDA go after such an innocuous grouping of supplements? Is Hydroxycut a threat to the prescription drug industry?

I get the sense that the FDA doesn't want to see too many "normal weight" people walking around. If that ever happened, doctors wouldn't be able to prescribe as many meds for obesity-linked pathologies such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, metabolic conditions (e.g. thyroid), and heart disease. You could argue that overeating and sedentary behavior will do more harm over time than even the most dangerous weight loss supplement.

When was the last time you saw a public service announcement advocating physical activity, exercise, or healthy nutrition habits? Don't hold your breath. It is unlikely that you will see one in this lifetime. Too many healthy people would adversely affect the drug industry's profits.

I don't know if the FDA had an agenda in sending out the Hydroxycut warning. But you have to question their intentions. I'm not even sure if the FDA is a credible organization anymore. After all, they approved the Slendertone Ab Belt (Note: The research study was questionable at best). They recently approved GlaxoSmithKline's Alli (Orlistat); an over-the-counter dietary supplement for weight management. Alli is the first-ever FDA-sanctioned "supplement." Is Hydroxycut too much competition for Alli?

It seems like the FDA tends to bully companies who are in the business of selling inexpensive diet products, which might otherwise substitute for harmful medications and surgical procedures. For this reason, the FDA should focus on the products that are truly harmful to consumers and leave harmless alternative dietary supplements alone.

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