Tuesday, May 12th, 2009...10:32 AM

There is No Magic Bullet

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bullet_dummies_copper_261949_l Alas, the FDA has had to pull yet another diet product from the market due to one death and several reports of other problems, mostly related to liver damage.  The most recent victim?  Hydroxycut.  Not all products are affected.  See the details here.  In fairness, here is Hydroxycut’s position.

Millions of people purchase products like Hydroxycut.  Unfortunately, many people don’t understand that just because supplements are available over-the-counter does not make them inherently safe.  Supplements are not required to go through the rigorous testing and approval process required for pharmaceutical drugs, yet think about the adverse events you hear about all the time related to drugs that HAVE been tested.

For years (in another career), I have worked in quality assurance with laboratories and other businesses doing pharmaceutical research regulated by the FDA.  Based on what I have seen, I won’t take even an approved drug until it has been on the market for five years, if I can help it.  Even after extensive clinical trials, we just don’t know what a drug will do once it is thrown into the complex soup that is the general population.  So, I am even more cautious with the untested supplements I take.  I only take supplements from reputable manufacturers for deficiencies, etc. for which I have an actual laboratory test result and completely under the supervision of my doctor.  Still, I don’t like taking pills as they all have risks of potential side effects.  In fact, currently, I am working on figuring out which foods are highest in the vitamins, minerals, etc. that I am deficient in, so that I can eat more of those foods and eventually get off the pills.

As a personal trainer, it is against my personal ethics and outside my scope of practice to recommend supplementation to my clients.  When it comes to getting fit and losing weight, the safest approach is always a healthy diet coupled with adequate exercise.  It’s not easy or glamorous, but it works.  Take home point–be as cautious (if not more so) when taking supplements as you would be with pharmaceutical drugs.

About the Author:

Chris Heidel is the owner and primary personal trainer with Libra Fitness in Austin, TX, a private, in-home studio. Chris focuses her business on developing mentoring relationships with her clients built on trust and meaningful support to help them set, achieve, and maintain realistic fitness goals. Chris truly believes that while getting in shape isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Chris is certified through the American Council on Exercise.



  • Ahh, quick fixes… Reminds me of a Doctor Who episode where little fat blob babies would leave overweight people while they were asleep. Sweet–lose weight and create a new life form at the same time!

    But, of course, this is (campy) science fiction. It doesn’t work this way.

    We have to work it instead.

  • I find it funny that if you read the directions on most “quick fixes” it will say somthing like “works best when combined with a proper diet and excersise”. Maybe it’s not the “quick fix” that will get you to your goals, you think?

  • Very observant, Steve. A client recently asked me what I thought about a very popular (and very legit) workout plan on the market right now. We went to the website, and I pointed out the statement at the bottom: “All it takes is an hour a day to get in the best shape of your life.” Make a list right now of the people you know who work out an hour a day. 30 minutes a day? Two hours a week? Most of us can count on one hand the people we know in our life who workout at all. You have to do the work. The funny thing is that if you can get over the hurdle and really commit, the changes come pretty fast.

  • You name the diet (cabbage soup anyone?), I’ve done it. Even a few of the products out there. They don’t work. Trust me. The only thing that’s ever worked is getting out there and busting your butt. I think the real problem is sticking with it and not giving up. What I like about you is that you believe in starting small and working up to something instead of going all out. It’s much easier to work up to something instead of killing yourself and giving up because it’s “too hard”

  • I always find it funny the number of people who say they would “do anything” to lose weight. Yeah….anything aside from eat right and exercise. Certainly can’t do that!

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