Gov't: Supplements Have Misleading Labels

October 3, 2012 Updated Oct 3, 2012 at 10:13 PM EDT

By WKBW Programming

October 3, 2012 Updated Oct 3, 2012 at 10:13 PM EDT

(WKBW/ABC News) It is a $20 billion industry, but dozens of weight loss and immune system supplements have illegal labels and lack scientific evidence to back up their health claims, according to a government report.

Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News says, "It is really an unregulated wild west. People are taking these for all kinds of conditions, and there is no evidence that they work."

The report, released by the Department of Health and Human Services, found that 20 percent of the 127 weight loss and immune-boosting supplements investigators purchased on line and in retail stores across the country carried labels that made illegal and unsubstantiated claims to cure or treat disease.

Some products even claimed to cure or prevent diabetes or cancer.

The Department's inspector general says, "Supplements that make disease claims could mislead consumers into using them as replacements for prescription drugs or other treatments for medical
conditions with potentially dangerous results."

For a drug to be marketed, it has to prove its claim.
Vitamins and supplements: all companies have to do is say that it is safe.

Dietitian Laura Jeffers of the Cleveland Clinic says, "It's really important that consumers do a lot of research, but then are upfront with their physicians on everything that they're taking."

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.