In the days following the FDA warning on the dangers of taking Hydroxycut and the manufacturer’s recall, the reaction has been more sliced than divided. There were the oft-seen reactions: NaturalNews headlined its commentary, “FDA Floats Hydroxycut Scare to Discredit Yet Another Supplement Company.” The personal injury law firm of Onder Shelton O’Leary & Peterson issued a press release that called for stricter controls regarding both the safety and weight loss claims of supplements like Hydroxycut.
Outside the industry, the viewpoints were more pragmatic. Scot Long, an exercise physiologist and professor from Mississippi, weighed in, writing: “Bottom line, do I think that Hydroxycut is an evil product? No. I think many people abused this product (taking too much) and some may have even had pre-existing medical conditions. Do I recommend it to my students, clients and friends? Of course not. I do think, however, that Iovate Health Sciences could have made a safer product. But it shouldn’t shoulder all the blame.”
Marion Nestle, author of “Food Politics,” wrote in her San Francisco Chronicle column, “I freely concede that most supplement companies make reliable products, but without federal oversight how is anyone – even a store clerk – supposed to know which ones they are. Some clerks may know their business, but in my experience few think critically about the products they are selling and most appear to take the manufacturers’ words at face value.”
After a Hydroxycut recall article was posted on FitSugar.com, a commenter who goes by the name Mondaymoos offered this first-person experience : “I never took diet pills for the purpose of losing weight. Me, and a lot of other people in the military, used them as a tool to work 12 hour shifts and still go out and have a life afterwards without racking up massive calories in energy drinks and soda. Was it a healthy decision, probably not. Did it work? Definitely yes.”
Consumers seem to know that there are no magic diet pills and that abusing a product is probably harmful. Thus, rhetoric that casts the FDA — or a manufacturer — as hero or villain does not sway consumers. They would rather know the benefits and risks of a product, and make an informed choice based on that.