Your patients may ask you about dietary supplements for losing weight, bodybuilding, or sexual enhancement. Although patients may be tempted by the “quick fix” claims of these products, which are available in supermarkets, pharmacies, health food stores, and on the Internet, most of these products haven’t been proven safe or effective. Safety concerns about natural products include the possibility of drug interactions, direct toxicities, and contamination of supplements with active pharmaceutical agents. Although there is a widespread public perception that the botanical and traditional agents included in dietary supplements can be viewed as safe, it is abundantly clear that these products carry the same dangers as other pharmacologically active compounds.
Dietary Supplements and Summary of Current Research
Most dietary supplements marketed for rapid weight loss, such as acai and hoodia, are ineffective for long-term weight control, and some have serious safety concerns. Researchers have investigated the weight loss potential of a variety of dietary supplements, including green tea extracts, Chinese herbs, and bitter orange extract, but none have been shown to be effective for weight loss, and each has side effects.
Some bodybuilders and athletes turn to dietary supplements to help them increase muscle size and definition. However, many bodybuilding products marketed as dietary supplements have been found to contain other ingredients that can be harmful.
No complementary health approaches have been shown to be safe and effective for sexual enhancement or treating erectile dysfunction (ED). Safety is a serious concern with regard to dietary supplements promoted for ED or sexual enhancement.