Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Friday, June 9, 2017

Weight-Loss Supplements: Warnings for Athletes

Contributed by: Anna Filardo, Education Program Manager, Drug Free Sport


As summer approaches, there has been an increase in weight-loss/thermogenic supplement (WLT) inquiries in Drug Free Sport AXIS™.  These types of supplements come with increased risks and dangers to athlete health and safety. It is important for athletes to know the risks associated with taking any dietary supplement. Lacking regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FDA does not review or test supplements before they are available for consumer purchase. Read on to learn more about the dangers associated with WLT supplements.

One of the Top Three Supplement Categories Recalled by the FDA (1)
WLT supplements are regularly recalled by the FDA, due to undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients present in the bottle. Recalled WLT products often contain sibutramine (an ingredient found in a drug called Meridia), which was removed from the market in October 2010 by the FDA due to causing heart problems and strokes (2). Not only can products with undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients cause a positive drug test, but they can also create serious harm to the body.

Often Contain Banned Stimulants (3)
WLT supplements often list ingredients that are banned under the “Stimulants” drug class by sport organizations. Look out for synephrine, AMP citrate, bitter orange, ephedra, hordenine, in particular. These ingredients are likely to cause a positive drug test in most sports organizations testing for performance-enhancing substances. Athletes may also experience adverse health effects from taking these stimulants, especially when they are combined into one product formula, or consumed with energy drinks and other secondary stimulant sources.

Harmful and Dangerous Side-Effects (3)
Users may experience harmful or dangerous side-effects after taking a weight-loss/thermogenic supplement. Side-effects users have experienced when taking these supplements include liver failure, anxiety, nervousness, increased blood pressure and heart rate, chest pain, and heart attacks(4). Additionally, these products have been cited to react adversely to prescription medications by increasing or minimizing the prescription drug’s intended effect. (5)

Product Marketing Often Contains False Claims (2)
Dietary supplements are not tested for efficacy or safety; therefore, many claims made by dietary supplements are false and not proven by reliable scientific research. Beware of products making claims such as “promotes weight loss,” “scientific breakthrough,” “incinerates fat,” and “significantly reduces BMI.” These claims are often unsubstantiated and may cause more issues than assistance.

Solution: Use Nutrition to Reach Weight-Loss Goals
Eating whole foods, following a balanced eating plan, and getting regular physical activity is the best and most effective way to lose and maintain weight. Athletes are recommended to work with a sports dietitian to evaluate their meal plan and find the best solution to reach their weight-loss and performance goals. Check out Drug Free Sport AXIS™ for athlete-friendly recipes in our Athlete Recipe Box.

Bottom Line: WLT supplements are commonly contaminated or adulterated, may cause adverse health effects, and are not as effective as a balanced meal plan accompanied with regular exercise.
Learn more about dietary supplement safety by viewing our short video on YouTube.
Athletes that are part of subscribing member organizations can have your dietary supplement(s) reviewed by submitting a dietary supplement inquiry on Drug Free Sport AXIS.

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