A bill aimed at limiting the sale of weight loss and sports nutrition supplements to minors has made significant progress in the New York State Legislature. However, industry stakeholders are expressing concerns, arguing that the legislation is based on questionable scientific grounds and may have unintended consequences.
The proposed law, known as AB 5610-D, has already passed the State Assembly and will now proceed to the New York State Senate for further consideration. Let's delve into the details of the bill and explore the reactions it has elicited.
Supplements for Body Enhancement Face Tighter Regulations
The key focus of the bill is to identify and regulate dietary supplements designed for weight loss or muscle building. Target products are those “labeled, marketed or otherwise represented for the purpose of achieving weight loss or muscle building.”
The legislation excludes protein powders and drinks from this definition, except when they contain specific additional ingredients such as creatine, green tea extract, raspberry ketone, Garcinia cambogia, and green coffee bean extract. By narrowing down the scope of products, the bill aims to restrict access to those supplements that may potentially be linked to eating disorders.
The Governor's Previous Veto and Potential Implications
Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a similar bill in December due to concerns regarding the expertise of the state health department in analyzing numerous products subject to the proposed restriction. She said this should be the scope of the FDA.
She also highlighted the burden it would place on retailers, who may face civil penalties. However, if the bill passes in the New York State Senate, its final fate will once again rest with Governor Hochul. Notably, in September 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a comparable bill on similar grounds. He believed that it would be difficult for the state health department to create a list of banned products.
Industry Stakeholders' Reactions
The advancement of the bill has drawn swift responses from industry stakeholders. Steve Mister, President and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), expressed his concerns about relying on "quick fix" tactics, stating that issues such as body dysmorphia and eating disorders require more comprehensive approaches. “Childhood obesity affects 1 in 5 children in this country, yet we don’t kid ourselves into thinking that age-restricting junk food and sodas would put an end to that epidemic.”
Kyle Turk, Director of Government Affairs at the Natural Products Association (NPA), criticized the bill for limiting consumers' ability to make their own health decisions and urged Governor Hochul to consider scientific evidence before making a final decision.
“The New York legislature wants to take health care decisions out of the hands of consumers by prohibiting access to some of the most researched supplements in the world like creatine,” he said in an emailed statement.
Questioning the Scientific Rationale
Beyond the practicality and authority issues surrounding the bill, critics have also questioned the scientific basis behind the proposed legislation. Dr. Susan Hewlings, Vice President of Research Affairs at Radicle Science, published a peer-reviewed paper addressing this topic. Her research concludes that there is no causal relationship between dietary supplements and eating disorders.
While some associations may exist, especially among older sufferers, they are more likely symptoms or associated behaviors rather than causes. Dr. Hewlings emphasized the importance of focusing on established prevention and treatment programs, rather than implementing product bans, to address eating disorders effectively.
“Attention to the complex genetic, environmental, psychological, and cultural factors already identified may be useful to specific treatment approaches. Public health policy and resources should be focused on scientifically established approaches to reduce the prevalence of eating disorders.”
The New York State Legislature's progression of AB 5610-D, a bill aiming to restrict the sale of weight loss and sports nutrition supplements to minors, has sparked a heated debate. While proponents argue that the bill is necessary to safeguard the well-being of young individuals, industry stakeholders, and some experts question its scientific foundation and feasibility.
As the bill moves to the New York State Senate, the final decision will lie with Governor Kathy Hochul, who will need to weigh the potential benefits against the concerns raised by various parties. The conversation surrounding this legislation highlights the need for evidence-based approaches to combat eating disorders and emphasizes the complexity of addressing these pressing public health concerns.