Weight Loss Supplements for Children

No weight loss supplement has been proven to be safe or effective as a treatment for obesity in children. The only nonprescription weight loss product approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-- a drug known as Alli or orlistat-- is considered safe only for adults over age 18. Nevertheless, a variety of unapproved products are marketed as weight loss supplements for children. Consult your child's health care provider before giving your child and herb or supplement. Diet and exercise are the only safe, reliable treatments for childhood obesity.

Diet and exercise should be the primary treatment for childhood obesity. (Image: Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Glucomannan

In 2004, Dr. Alison Hoppin, a physician and childhood obesity expert, presented several concerns to the House of Representatives regarding weight loss supplements for children as reported on dietscam.org . In her testimony, Dr. Hoppin referred to the over-the-counter product PediaLean, a children's weight loss supplement made from glucomannan. Dr. Hoppin notes that PediaLean's manufacturers investigated the product's effects as a weight loss aid. The manufacturers claimed that glucommanan expand in the body, causing weight loss and sensations of fullness. However, Dr. Hoppin notes that glucomannan can also trigger abdominal cramping and intestinal obstruction. Glucomannan's safety as a weight loss product remains unproven, and PediaLean is no longer sold in the United States.

Herbal Diuretics

Several children's weight loss supplements, including the "Skinny Pill for Kids" work by rapidly increasing the amount of urine that a child produces. At best, these herbal diuretics enable temporary weight loss by flushing retained fluids from the body. Dr. Hoppin notes that none of these herbal prodcuts could be considered safe for children. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, uva ursi, the primary ingredient in the Skinny Pill for Kids, should not be given to children under any circumstances. Uva ursi can cause serious health problems, including liver damage and death. Other herbal diuretics include juniper berry, dandelion and goldenseal, which have not been studied for use in children.

Garcinia Cambogia

Dr. Hoppin reports that at least one children's weight loss supplement, marketed under the trade name PediaLoss, is made using hydroxy citric acid, or HCA. This compound occurs naturally in the rind of the garcinia cambogia fruit. A 1998 study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that HCA does not significantly increase weight loss or fat loss when compared to a placebo. As of 2010, no clinical trials have been published investigating garcinia cambogia's safety for children. PediaLoss never sought approval by the FDA, and its production was discontinued in 2006.

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