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Dietary Supplements Used for Weight Loss

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   Two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. Since the late 1970s, the prevalence of obesity among adults has nearly doubled to 34%. Almost 1 of every 5 children is now overweight. The implications of this epidemic are serious; obese people are at increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, arthritis-related disabilities, respiratory problems, and some cancers.

   Consumer spending on dietary supplements for weight loss exceeds $1 billion per year and we are inundated with advertising for these products, which claim to produce weight loss quickly and easily. Unfortunately, there is little or no clinical evidence to support such claims and consumers are largely unaware of this void. About half of all dietary supplement users mistakenly believe that the FDA approves weight loss supplements, verifying both efficacy and safety. One-third believe that these products are safer than OTC or prescription drugs (e.g., orlistat [alliTM, Xenical®], sibutramine [Meridia®]) which are actually subject to much stricter regulations.

   This issue will update you on the regulation of weight loss supplements and give you a brief review of the products widely used for weight loss, focusing on evidence for benefits and risks. Useful tables summarize the adverse effects and drug interactions linked with these products for “at a glance” review.


Publication Date: 10/01/2008
Expiration Date: 10/01/2011
CE Credit: 1.5 (0.15 CEU)
Type of Activity: Knowledge-based

This program was developed by The Rx Consultant and published by Continuing Education Network, Inc. The Rx Consultant accepts no advertising or financial support from the pharmaceutical industry and is funded solely by the purchase of programs. The Rx Consultant is dedicated to providing unbiased, balanced information to health care practitioners.

Programs developed by The Rx Consultant are written by health care providers with expertise in the topic area, peer-reviewed, extensively edited, and fact-checked. This development process was created to insure that every program presents information that is current, accurate, relevant to "real world" health care providers, and written in an easy reading, "plain English" style.


Candy Tsourounis, PharmD, Professor of Clinical Pharmacy, UCSF School of Pharmacy, San Francisco, CA.

Disclosure Statement

Dr. Tsourounis reports no financial or personal relationship with any commercial interest producing, marketing, reselling, or distributing a product that appears in this issue.

Guest Editorial Advisor

Catherine E. Ulbricht, PharmD, MBA[c], co-founder and Chief Editor, Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Cambridge, MA.

Target Audience

This accredited program is targeted to pharmacists and nurses.

Goals & Objectives

At the conclusion of this program, participants will be able to:

    1. Describe the impact of current Federal regulations on the efficacy, safety and purity of dietary supplements marketed for weight loss. Be familiar with current weight loss recommendations compiled by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
    2. Discuss the evidence that supports or refutes the use of dietary supplements for weight loss, including Citrus aurantium, chromium picolinate, glucomannan, guar gum, chitosan, hydoxycitric acid, green tea extract/EGCG and conjugated linoleic acid.
    3. List the potentially harmful effects of the dietary supplements listed above, including potential drug interactions.

Accreditation Statements

The Rx Consultant is a publication of Continuing Education Network, Inc. Continuing Education Network, Inc. is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education as a provider of continuing pharmacy education as a provider of continuing pharmacy education.

Continuing Education Network is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider Number CEP 13118. Programs approved by CA BRN are accepted by most State Boards of Nursing.

Exam & Credit Statement Procedures

Upon successful completion of this program and the post test (70%), 1.5 hours of continuing education credit will be awarded. To receive credit and your exam score, please complete the exam questions and program evaluation.

Editorial and Review Board

Editor and CE Administrator

Terry M. Baker, PharmD

Associate Editor and CE Coordinator

Tracy Farnen, PharmD

Associate Editors

James Chan, PharmD, PhD
Pharmacy Quality and Outcomes Coordinator
Kaiser Permanente
Oakland, CA

Associate Clinical Professor
School of Pharmacy
University of California San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

Ron Finley, RPh
Department of Clinical Pharmacy
University of California San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

Associate Member of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center
Alzheimer's Research Center

Consultant Pharmacist to the Institute on Aging-On Lok Senior Health
Institute on Aging Alzheimer's Day Care Center

Angie S. Graham, PharmD
Drug Information Coordinator
Stanford Hospital and Clinics
Stanford University Medical Center
Stanford, CA

Julio R. Lopez, PharmD, FCSHP
Chief of Pharmacy Service
VA Northern California Health Care System

Adjunct Clinical Professor
College of Pharmacy
Touro University
Vallejo, CA

Assistant Clinical Professor
School of Pharmacy
University of California, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

Adjunct Professor
Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy
University of the Pacific
Stockton, CA

Visiting Associate Professor and Lecturer
Nursing School
Samuel Merritt University
Oakland, CA

Pamela Mausner, MD

Joshua J. Neumiller, PharmD, CDE, CGP, FASCP
Assistant Professor
Department of Pharmacotherapy
College of Pharmacy
Washington State University
Elder Services of Spokane
Spokane, WA

Candy Tsourounis, PharmD
Professor of Clinical Pharmacy
Medication Outcomes Center
Department of Clinical Pharmacy
School of Pharmacy
University of California, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

Senior Editorial Advisor

Gerard Hatheway, PharmD, PhD

Editorial Advisors

Jocelyn Chan, PharmD
Belinda M. Danielson, RPh
Christopher M. DeSoto, PharmD
Cynthia Chan Huang, PharmD, MBA
Fred Plageman, PharmD

Editorial Advisor and Clinical Practice Consultant for Nurse Practitioners

Emily K. Meuleman, RN, C, MS

About the Rx Consultant

The Rx Consultant is a monthly publication dedicated to providing health care professionals with the information they need to educate patients about drugs and manage drug therapy. The reader is responsible for confirming the information presented here and interpreting it in relation to each patient's specific situation before utilizing the information.

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