If you have a child who is overweight or obese, you are probably desperate to find a weight loss supplement for children that can be both safe and effective. The fight against childhood obesity is a challenge, and it would be wonderful if we could solve the problem with a single pill. Unfortunately, there are no treatments for childhood obesity proven to be safe or effective.
Several products might theoretically enable weight loss in obese children, and some have been marketed without FDA approval to accomplish just that effect. However, to date, there is no evidence that weight loss supplements for children work, or that their risks outweigh the benefits.
Here are a few potential weight loss supplements for children, and why you shouldn’t use them.
PediaLean, a children’s weight loss supplement made from glucomannan, was marketed for years as a children’s weight loss supplement. This gummy fiber supposedly works by making expanding in the stomach and helping kids feel full. Although PediaLean’s manufacturers said that it was “prove” to be safe and effective, the company’s science was very poorly designed. For example, dozens of chidlren dropped out of the clinical trials because of severe stomach cramps. Only children who did not have side effects were included in the trial, so the company concluded that glucomannan had no side effects. Fortunately, this potentially dangerous product is no longer sold in the United States.
Diuretics are popular weight loss supplements for children and adults alike, but they are not effective for decreasing fat volume. Herbal diuretics like dandelion, uva ursi and goldenseal work by increasing the amount of urine that a child excretes. This can cause temporary weight loss from dehydration, but it is not a long-term solution to pediatric obesity. Furthermore, some diuretics, including uva ursi, are dangerous for children.
Several weight loss supplements, including the discontinued product PediaLoss, are made using hydroxy citric acid, or HCA– an extract of the garcinia cambogia fruit. HCA is ultimately nontoxic and possibly safe for children, but there is no solid evidence that it works. Because of its ineffectiveness and possible dangers, it is not recommended for children. No clinical trials have ever investigated its use in overweight children. Stay safe and avoid it entirely.
Green tea– the tea, not the supplement– is safe for children. If you want to allow your child to have a cup of green tea on occasion, that’s fine, so long as you choose a low-caffeine or caffeine-free option. However, it is not appropriate to give your child supplements made from green tea or to allow them to drink the beverage very frequently. Supplements made from green tea can cause stomach problems, growth problems, hyperactivity, behavioral disruptions, insomnia, mineral deficiency and other serious problems in kids. Ask your doctor before letting your child drink green tea more than once or twice per week.
Alison Hoppin, M.D.: Health Concerns about Dietary Supplements for Overweight Children