Getting Bigger

Since the late 1980s, adult obesity has increased steadily in the United States. Today, 66 percent of the population is overweight, including 32 percent who are obese. Among children ages 6 to 19, 17 percent are overweight -- double what it was 20 years ago [source: Hamilton].

Hydroxycut Side Effects

Because it's a stimulant, Hydroxycut can give you heart palpitations, sweaty palms, headaches, dizzy spells and sleepless nights. And if that's not enough fun, you can become dehydrated, restless and develop a mean case of the shakes [Source: Body Building for You].

And, as mentioned on the previous page, the FDA warning for consumers to stop taking Hydroxycut products comes on the heels of more than 20 reports of liver-related health problems, including the death of a 19-year-old boy. The reports included everything from jaundice and elevated liver enzymes to liver damage so advanced it required a liver transplant. In addition to these liver-related issues, other health problems associated with Hydroxycut usage have been reported to the FDA, including cardiovascular disorders, muscle damage known as rhabdomyolosis and seizures [source: U.S. FDA].

Similar to discussions inspired by the ban on ephedra in 2004, talk surrounding this recall brings into question the nature of the FDA's responsibility and authority regarding dietary supplements. In a nutshell, products proven to prevent or cure a disease or illness (think prescription medications such as antibiotics), are closely regulated by the FDA and must have FDA approval before going to market. Dietary supplements, however, are not handled in the same way. The FDA does not look at these products prior to their entering the market. What the FDA can and will do, as in the case of the warning against Hydroxycut, is step in and take action involving a harmful or tainted dietary supplement once it's readily available on store shelves.

But many people -- especially those whose health has been negatively affected by dietary supplements -- think this approach is too little, too late. And some corporations agree, although their impetus might be entirely different.

Last year, drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC petitioned the FDA requesting that it require dietary supplement companies, like the one that makes Hydroxycut, to prove their products work before they can go on the market. GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Alli, the top selling non-prescription diet pill that does have FDA approval because it's a medication, argued that weight loss supplements should be regulated like any other drug [source: Cohen].

Supplement manufacturers and other nutritional experts claim this is just a ploy by GlaxoSmithKline to knock its competitors out of the market, since the clinical trials the FDA would require are expensive and would likely put them out of business [source: Cohen].

Nonetheless, the debate represents the growing controversy about government regulation of weight-loss supplements (and other dietary supplements) as they become more popular.

To learn more about dietary supplements, visit the links on the following page.