Dietary Supplements Often Contain Harmful Ingredients
Americans spend millions each year on dietary supplements that promise weight loss or enhanced athletic prowess, but many of those supplements contain ingredients that could cause cancer, heart problems, or liver and kidney damage, according to Consumer Reports. Only about a third of the more than 54,000 dietary supplements in the Therapeutic Research Center's Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database have some level of safety and effectiveness supported by scientific evidence. And while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lacks the power to adequately regulate such supplements, the agency rarely uses what little power it does have to do so, Reuters reports. The 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act prevents the FDA from regulating supplements in the same way that it regulates prescription medications; Consumer Reports is urging Congress to give the agency more clout. The FDA, which has found hazardous ingredients in supplements, is criticized for not inspecting Chinese factories where many of the raw materials originate.
5 Weight-Loss Websites That Work
More people need to shed pounds, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showing another uptick in the nation's obesity rate. And one way to lose weight is to go online and head for websites designed to help, U.S. News's Hanna Dubansky writes. Participants in a study published last week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research who entered their meals and physical activity in online diaries at least once a month for roughly two years were more likely to lose weight—and keep it off—than others who did so less diligently. Many weight-loss sites offer this feature, but there's more to shedding pounds than making diary entries, says study author Kristine Funk, a researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. An effective weight-loss site is interactive, offering access to goal-setting modules and record-keeping tools. It provides support, letting users communicate with each other and with nutrition and exercise experts. It encourages accountability, prompting users with E-mails and phone calls to record their weight, exercise, and calorie intake. It's personalized, tailoring meal plans and workouts to the individual. And it's trustworthy, providing clear and credible health information. [Read more: 5 Weight-Loss Websites That Work.]
Can Michelle Obama End Obesity? 5 Key Steps
When Michelle Obama promised in January to attack childhood obesity, she declared, "We have everything we need right now—we have the information, we have the ideas, and we have the desire to start solving America's childhood obesity problem. The only question is whether we have the will." So conquering the nation's weight problem should be relatively easy, right? Her 70 recommendations, which include everything from more gym to encouraging women to breastfeed, are based on some science. But nobody knows if they'll actually work, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes. "I'm sure the first lady has every sort of concern for this problem and the belief that it's in our hands, but we've been studying this for years and still don't have precise answers," says Rudolph Leibel, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons who helped discover leptin, the hormone that regulates hunger. "We don't even know the precise causes." He and other experts believe a few steps must be taken before the mission can be accomplished:
First, make healthy behaviors the default, Kotz writes. Public health officials have finally realized that it's not enough to tell people to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and get 150 minutes of exercise a week. They have to set up a system in which it's almost automatic to opt for a juicy peach over a candy bar and to bike to work, and where it's as cheap to prepare a salad and grilled chicken as to grab a take-out burger and fries. [Read more: Can Michelle Obama End Obesity? 5 Key Steps.]