By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General warns dozens of dietary supplements are illegally labeled and make claims without scientific evidence. Many consumers like the benefits of supplements, but the government may be ready to crack down.
In the U.S., dietary supplements are big business, generating about $20 billion in sales each year. One research group estimates that 80 percent of adults take supplements.
At the first sign of a cold, Denise Posnak reaches for supplements to help boost her immune system.
“I started feeling like I was going to get sick. I immediately want my three immune booster sick fighting supplements,” says Denise.
But a new government report says many supplements make illegal claims.
Federal health inspectors found 20 percent of 127 weight loss and immune boosting supplements that were analyzed made claims without scientific evidence, some going as far as to promise a cure for cancer or diabetes.
So, are doctors worried?
Dr. Daniel Hyman, Head of Internal Medicine at Cooper University Hospital, says, “I think so. We don’t know exactly what they do. There are a lot of claims made that we are not sure that are true.”
Dr. Hyman says weight loss supplements are especially popular with patients.
“Some of it is probably beneficial, but there really is no proof with many of these supplements,” Dr. Hyman adds.
And the FDA doesn’t review or regulate safety testing for supplements.
“They can make those claims without a lot of foundation behind it,” Dr. Hyman explains.
Experts say there is limited science on a few supplements, but people should always check with a doctor before taking them.
“If you’re going to take supplements, do your research,” advises Denise.
The report from the Health and Human Services Inspector General did not name brands or specific products reviewed. The FDA released a statement saying it will address the study’s recommendations as resources and priorities allow.
For more on the dietary supplement report, visit: https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-01-11-00210.pdf.