Dietary supplements are for dieters

Product formulators can rethink weight management supplements with innovative ingredients that target new ways that pounds get put on. Download the April Natural Products Insider digital magazine on weight management here.

Todd Runestad, Content Director,

April 7, 2023

3 Min Read
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The U.S. dietary supplement industry has long been inextricably linked with weight loss pills. It’s right there in the governing legislation: The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). Back in the billion-dollar ephedra days—before the keystone ingredient in weight loss pills, ephedra, was banned by FDA in 2004 (and so much for being an “unregulated” industry, eh?)—many consumers’ access to supplements was for diet pills.

Even in Europe, they are referred to as “food supplements” and that actually comes closer to the truth of how these natural bioactives are governed in the States—not as drugs but as foods. That’s why DSHEA puts the onus on FDA to conclude a supplement is unsafe before acting to remove it from the market, versus premarket approval as is the case with drugs.

Farmers don’t need to file a New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) dossier before introducing to the market a new variety of lettuce. These products are presumed safe. Same goes for food supplements.

Referring to supplements as “dietary supplements” really does a disservice to the larger supplements industry. I wish the pills, powders, gummies and shots were instead called “health supplements.” That way, the uninitiated would look at them as safe, health-promoting compounds.

Related:Weight game: Rethinking supplements – digital magazine

But here we are, stuck with calling our industry “dietary supplements.” For 20 years the industry has been casting about for an efficacious ephedra alternative and, truth be told, has not really found one.

Yet even as America has continued to expand its waistline with every passing year, our understanding of the many ways bodies put on unwelcome weight has also expanded.

The recent expansion of protein has an element of the healthy-halo ingredient helping with the battle of the bulge by making consumers feel fuller longer. Same goes with fiber. The combination of the two is a foundation of most meal-replacement powders.

Turns out the simple math of calories in/calories out is not exactly true. Some calories are more important than others. Some compounds enhance satiety, or the feeling of fullness. Others cause an uptick in metabolism—maybe not as much as ephedra, but thoughtful formulators can combine ingredients to attack the bulge in different ways.

David Foreman’s article in this issue of Natural Products Insider on 11 different contributors to weight control is a fascinating look at unique yet interconnected areas to consider when addressing underlying connections to weight control. This piece is a road map for ideation and innovation in the weight management space. Download the free Natural Products Insider digital magazine here.

But that’s not all. This issue contains eight ingredient innovations and 20—count ’em—underlying metabolic contributors to weight gain. This represents opportunity for product formulators who can rethink weight management supplements with ingredients that target new ways that pounds get put on.

As seen in the market data charts on pages 6-7 of the issue, this space is experiencing steady growth, no doubt thanks to all too many people sitting around for a couple years during the pandemic.

That spells opportunity for makers and marketers of—OK, let’s just embrace the term—dietary supplements.

Download the free April issue of the Natural Products Insider digital magazine here

About the Author(s)

Todd Runestad

Content Director,, Natural Products Insider

Todd Runestad has been writing on nutrition science news since 1997. He is content director for and Natural Products Insider digital magazines. Other incarnations: supplements editor for, Delicious Living!, and Natural Foods Merchandiser. Former editor-in-chief of Functional Ingredients magazine and still covers raw material innovations and ingredient science.

Connect with me here on LinkedIn.


Todd writes about nutrition science news such as this story on mitochondrial nutrients, innovative ingredients such as this story about 12 trendy new ingredient launches from SupplySide West 2023, and is a judge for the NEXTY awards honoring innovation, integrity and inspiration in natural products including his specialty — dietary supplements. He extensively covered the rise and rise and rise and fall of cannabis hemp CBD. He helps produce in-person events at SupplySide West and SupplySide East trade shows and conferences, including the wildly popular Ingredient Idol game show, as well as Natural Products Expo West and Natural Products Expo East and the NBJ Summit. He was a board member for the Hemp Industries Association.

Education / Past Lives

In previous lives Todd was on the other side of nature from natural products — natural history — as managing editor at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He's sojourned to Burning Man and Mount Everest. He graduated many moons ago from the State University of New York College at Oneonta.


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