An obese child is an unhappy child — and an unhealthy child. Obese children are at risk for the same health problems as obese adults, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. However, using dietary supplements for your child’s weight problem may not only be ineffective; these over-the-counter “weight loss pills” can have dangerous side effects.
Cause of Childhood Obesity
Obesity in children and teens may have several causes. Bad eating habits or overeating coupled with a sedentary lifestyle can be at the root of your child’s problems. A stressful period in your child’s life, such as divorce or death, low self-esteem, depression and poor peer relationships can trigger overeating. Also, a family history of obesity and certain medical conditions and drugs can also factor into childhood obesity.
About Dietary Supplements
There are no natural or herbal supplements that are guaranteed fat fighters — not for children, nor for adults. This is because the nature of these over-the-counter weight loss aids is that of a dietary supplement, as classified by the FDA — an oral supplement that’s made to enhance the diet. Michelle Rusk, an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, stated in a consumer press release: “Parents shouldn’t assume that supplements work the same way in children as they do in adults. What’s safe for an adult may be risky for children.”
Federal law precludes manufacturers of dietary supplements from making express claims that their products give the same benefits as prescription weight-loss drugs. Dietary supplements are not guaranteed to be safe or effective; without pre-market approval by the FDA, you rely solely on statements the manufacturer makes about a product. Dietary supplements don’t come with the same guarantees as do prescription weight-loss medications because they are not classified as drugs.
Most diet pills and weight loss supplements are bad for kids. The side effects of these OTC options can be just as bad as those associated with prescription anti-obesity medications, such as diarrhea, bloating and heart problems. Of concern to the FDA is that some weight loss supplements contain dangerous, undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients found in prescription medications, such as sibutramine, a controlled substance that functions as an appetite suppressant, and fenproporex and phenolphthalein, which are not approved for use in the United States.
Weight Loss for Children
Seek a medical consultation with your child’s pediatrician to determine if there’s an underlying cause for his weight gain. Barring a physical cause, if your child is obese, the best way for him to lose weight is to cut calories and increase his level of physical activity. Because obesity typically affects more than one member of the family, making weight management a family affair increases your child’s chance for successful, permanent weight loss.