Dr. Manny: I may be fat, but I will never take weight-loss supplements

Yesterday, on national television, MeMe Roth, an anti-obesity activist, called me fat.

I don’t deny that I’m overweight.  I always have been, and I will probably die this way.

I realize that in order to lose weight, you need to eat right, exercise regularly and de-stress – all at the same time. Clearly, I’m missing one of those elements, but I won’t tell you which one.

However, one thing that I will never do is take weight loss supplements.

I mention this because I have noticed an increasing number of stories in the news concerning people who have fallen ill due to complications from taking weight loss supplements. Most of these products are herbal supplements, which when combined, can lead to high blood pressure, low blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, hormonal imbalances and psychotic episodes – all of which can have deadly consequences.

I have also noticed that many of these herbal supplements are marketed to minorities – including Hispanics and African Americans. In other words, these supplements are targeted at hardworking Americans who may strive to stay fit, but don’t always have time to exercise or eat right because they need to go to a second job or help their kids with homework.

It’s easy to understand how people might fall prey to the “miracle wonder drugs” they see coming at them every day in ads on newspapers, television or the Internet.

I know that staying fit takes a lot of responsibility – but many nutrition and exercise gurus have a no-tolerance policy for not being fit. I understand their argument, but on the other hand, I live in the real world. And I will certainly never shame anyone for being obese by calling them a lazy person or an irresponsible parent.

My article today is just to warn you not to fall prey to quick solutions because you feel the psychological pressure put upon you by others in order to be “normal.”

Yes, you should strive to be healthy - but you can achieve that over time and at your own pace.

If you want to understand the level of fraudulent activity that exists in the dietary supplements industry, take a look at the FDA list of medication health frauds. Never in my 30 years of practicing medicine have I seen so many warning letters, mandatory removals and fines.

What you will see on this list are a number of tainted dietary supplements, many of which contain illicit medications. However, you will also find sexual enhancement products – medications that falsely promise to cure or prevent diseases – and a list of scam Internet pharmacies.

Over the last three years, the FDA has cracked down on a number of con artists – most of whom are neither health care professionals nor scientists – who have been preying upon the good intentions of the American public. They are painting bottles with pretty labels or sexy images of models in  bikinis, and they’re offering false promises in order to coerce you into buying their lies for a few dollars.

The real question to me is: Why is this out of control? I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I would argue – especially after having recently been called overweight on television – that in our society, compassion is lost.

Judging others, or making them feel guilty about their weight, is contributing to the shame that allows people to feel confused, and they ultimately become victims of con artists who have only one thing to gain: your hard-earned dollars.