Commercial weight loss products and programs: What consumers stand to gain and lose. A public conference on the information consumers need to evaluate weight loss products and programs

R. Cleland, D. C. Graybill, V. Hubbard, L. K. Khan, J. S. Stern, T. A. Wadden, R. Weinsier, S. Yanovski, W. C. Gross, M. Daynard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The prevalence of overweight and obesity in the U.S. continues to increase at alarming levels. One-third of the adult population is currently overweight or obese, and preadolescent and adolescent overweight/obesity is also increasing. Obese persons are at a higher risk of developing coronary artery disease, certain forms of cancer, hypertension, and type II diabetes. Overweight/obesity has become a national epidemic. According to leading experts, overweight/obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the country. Despite the widespread promotion and marketing of thousands of treatments, devices, therapies, programs and products that purport to induce weight loss and prevent regain, the most remarkable aspect of most of them is their failure rate. Compounding the problem is the fact that so many treatments, hailed initially as "breakthroughs", are eventually found to result in significant health risks themselves. This problem is all the more tragic because many clinicians believe that overweight/obese persons could realize significant health benefits from losing as little as 5 to 10% of their weight and keeping it off - a goal that seems far more realistic than attempting to reach some arbitrary, aesthetic "ideal" of size and weight. The issue of weight, and more specifically, losing weight, is of critical importance to many American consumers, but consumers often lack the information necessary to make informed decisions about available treatment options. Recognizing this need, representatives of the weight loss industry, consumer groups, health professionals, academics, and state and federal agencies with responsibilities in the weight loss marketplace convened on October 16 to 17, 1997 in Washington, D.C., at the Conference on Commercial Weight Loss Products and Programs - What Consumers Stand to Gain and Lose. The conference was hosted by the Federal Trade Commission, and jointly sponsored by the FTC, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases ("NIDDK"), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC"). Its purpose was to explore ways to improve the information that consumers routinely receive about weight loss products and programs. Four expert panels addressed issues pertinent to improving the availability of information about weight loss programs and products. The goal was to identify areas where mutual cooperation toward clearly defined goals was possible. Panels addressed the following topics: "Consumer Issues - Needs and Expectations" ("the consumer panel"), "Weight Loss Products and Service Providers - Responding to Consumer Needs" ("the provider panel"), "The State of the Art - What Do We Know About Various Types of Weight Loss?" ("the science panel"), and "Government's Role in the Weight Loss Marketplace" ("the government panel").

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-70
Number of pages26
JournalCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science


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