Overweight and obesity continue to be a growing challenge for the U.S. population. With new products coming into the market almost daily claiming to help with weight loss, supplement companies are making a fortune at the dispense of America’s health. Although some supplements have research to back their claims, many do not. Not to mention the hefty price tag most of them carry.
So why do Americans continue to feed these companies their money despite the lack of evidence, and in most cases, benefit from taking these supplements? Losing weight is hard. If there is a promising shortcut promoted to those who have been struggling, it can be very enticing. Once that supplement fails to do what it claims, there’s another one waiting to take its place.
Weight loss supplements can come in many different forms, but they all have one thing in common, they claim to assist or result in an overall reduction in weight. Often marketed as a health aid, these supplements are typically taken by mouth and incorporate a wide range of ingredients from vitamins and minerals to fiber, herbs, caffeine, and more.
Most weight loss supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as anything other than food, which limits the ability of consumers to determine the proper safety and efficacy of the product. Below are some weight loss statistics that show the large market for these products as well as consumers’ use of them, and more.
Weight Loss Supplement Statistics – Highlights
- Approximately 70% of Americans are obese or overweight
- Losing 5-10% of body weight through diet and exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in overweight or obese adults.
- 15% of adults have used a weight-loss supplement at some point in their lives
- More women (21%) report using weight loss supplements than men (10%)
- The global weight loss supplement market was valued at 33.4 billion in 2020
1. A comprehensive review of 315 clinical trials for weight loss supplements showed most supplements did not produce weight loss among users.
Out of 52 low risk of bias studies, only 16 showed a statistically significant difference in weight compared to those in the placebo group. This shows that dietary supplements and other alternative weight loss therapies have limited efficacy evidence.
2. Americans spend an estimated 2.1 billion a year on weight loss pills
Because of their enticing nature, many Americans are tricked by clever marketing schemes from supplement companies that promise quick and easy weight loss. Although these supplements claim to offer an easier alternative to traditional diet and weight loss methods, many of them note that the best results come from those who take their supplements in conjunction with diet and lifestyle changes.
3. Nearly half (49.1%) of U.S. adults attempted to lose weight in 2018
With overweight and obese populations increasing, attempts to get the weight off are following suit. With numerous studies coming out showing the detrimental effects carrying excess weight can have on our health, Americans are becoming more desperate than ever to find new ways to shed the pounds, holding a spotlight on weight loss supplements in particular.
4. Only 5 weight loss supplements are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for long-term weight loss management
The five supplements include orlistat (Xenical, Alli), phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia), naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave), liraglutide (Saxenda), and semaglutide (Wegovy). These supplements require a prescription along with strict monitoring by a physician. As with medications, these are not without possible side effects and health risks. All of these are encouraged to be taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise routine.
5. Weight-loss medications are rarely prescribed to eligible patients
Of a study completed on a total of 2,248,407 patients, only 29,964 (1.3%) filled at least 1 weight loss medication prescription. Because prescription medications are so limited in their use and require a prescription and strict monitoring by a physician, many consumers opt for an over-the-counter option that does not have research to back up its effects.
6. 37.7% of Americans have a body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m2, and 7.7% have a BMI ≥40 kg/m2
A BMI ≥25 kg/m2 is considered overweight, while a BMI ≥30 kg/m2 is considered obese. This means that over 1/3 of the U.S. population is considered obese, an alarming number for many to see. Since this study was completed, numbers were estimated to continue to rise.
7. Obesity is more common among lower-income individuals, those with less education, and some ethnic/racial minorities
This study shows the impact advertising for weight loss supplements can have on those who are of lesser education or lower-income trying to find a way to lose weight. Because health foods are higher in price than convenience options, it’s common to see lower-income populations reaching for supplements that are believed to support weight loss as an alternative to shifting their eating patterns.
8. In 2021, maintaining a healthy weight is the primary concern for 59% of women and 47% of men, with 51% wishing to reduce weight.
A large percentage of both men and women have a high concern regarding their weight, making supplements a more likely option if they feel diet and exercise has not been successful for them. The higher the priority for weight loss, the higher likelihood of reaching for a quick fix to help boost or kickstart their progress.
9. According to a recent survey, 71% of Americans gained weight during the pandemic.
With the pandemic still lingering not too far in the rearview, some of the habits Americans have developed during this time continue. Because of the stress and fear inflicted during this time, a lot of people looked to food for comfort and ditched the crowded gyms, thus resulting in a steady increase in weight for many. Now that things are starting to slowly return to normal, the desire to drop the pandemic weight rises, leaving room for supplement companies to market to this population.
10. A 2019 study found that 1,000 participants, ages 25 and under, experienced health issues linked to dietary supplements for weight loss between 2004 and 2015.
According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, a large portion of younger participants had adverse effects from taking dietary supplements. Of those 1,000 participants, 166 were hospitalized and 22 died. This study shows to major health risks some of these supplements can have on consumers, specifically those who are younger and more impressionable.
Want to learn more about the supplement industry? Here are 18 supplement industry statistics that are very interesting.