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Doubts cast on weight-loss pills for kids

The Federal Trade Commission says it had charged the sellers of two dietary supplements with making unsupported claims that their products could help children lose weight.
/ Source: Reuters

The Federal Trade Commission said on Wednesday it had charged the sellers of two dietary supplements with making unsupported claims that their products could help children lose weight.

Advertisements on Web sites and in Cosmopolitan magazine said one of the supplements, called Pedia Loss, was an appetite suppressant that increased fat burning and slowed absorption of carbohydrates.

Promotions for another supplement, Pedia Lean, said clinical testing showed the product could spur substantial weight loss in children.

Misleading advertising
None of those claims was backed by sufficient scientific evidence, the FTC said in complaints filed against nine companies and five individuals it said were involved in misleading advertisements for the supplements.

The complaints order the defendants to stop making unsupported weight-loss claims. The companies can appeal the charges to an administrative law judge.

The firms defended their products to skeptical lawmakers at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Wednesday examining supplements marketed to help overweight children.

Dennis Gay, president of Pedia Lean maker Basic Research LLC of Salt Lake City, Utah, said he had not seen the FTC’s complaint but “we do not believe the allegations have merit.”

The weight-loss claims were based in part on a 1992 study published in an Italian medical journal showing the fiber glucomannan, one of Pedia Lean’s ingredients, helped children lose weight, said Nathalie Chevreau, nutritional research director for Basic Research.

Drugs possibly dangerous
But Alison Hoppin, a specialist in pediatric obesity medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, told lawmakers she had “serious doubts” about the study’s conclusions. The design had several flaws, and the authors did not account for the 38 percent of patients who dropped out of the trial, which could bias the results, she said.

Hoppin also said Pedia Lean could be dangerous for children because glucomannan can swell in the body and obstruct the esophagus or intestines.

A former marketing official for Dynamic Health of Florida LLC, one of the firms charged by the FTC in the Pedia Loss complaint, said the company had relied on previous research of the ingredients used in Pedia Loss.

“That information assured us it was safe and effective,” Guy Regalado, former vice president of sales and marketing for the company.

Rep. James Greenwood, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House committee’s oversight subcommittee, said neither product had been tested in a “scientifically credible manner in children.”

The companies “did this simply to make money at the expense of desperate parents, parents hoping against all hope for a safe and effective magic solution for their children’s weight problems.”