Almost 10% of teens have used unprescribed, potentially harmful products to try and lose weight, according to a new study.
Adolescents without access to trendy weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy are turning to dangerous alternatives to shed pounds fast, according to new research published in Jama Network Open on Wednesday.
The systematic review and meta-analysis of 90 different studies, with a total of 604,552 participants from around the world, found that 9% of the general adolescent population had reported using weight loss products at some point in their lifetime. This includes diuretics, laxatives, and diet pills.
"Almost 1 in 10 adolescents have used ineffective and potentially harmful nonprescribed weight-loss products in their lifetime," the study said, "suggesting that interventions are required to reduce use of weight-loss products in this population."
The study found that 2% of the general adolescent population said they’d use these products in the past week, 4% in the past month, 6% in the past year, and 9% in their lifetime.
On TikTok, influencers call laxatives "budget Ozempic," endorsing their use as a quick weight loss method that is easily accessible without a prescription. The study authors said they present health risks when used at such a young age.
Using these products to lose weight in adolescence without a prescription increases the risk of unhealthy weight gain in adulthood, and it’s also associated with an increased risk of being diagnosed with an eating disorder, the study said.
Research has also found that nonprescribed use of weight-loss products is associated with low self-esteem, depression, and poor nutritional intake. There is also a demonstrated link between nonprescribed use of weight-loss products and substance use.
The study found that diet pills were most frequently used by adolescents to lose weight, followed by laxatives and diuretics. Girls were also found to be much more likely to use these products than boys, with nearly one in 10 girls having used them in the past year.
The majority of the studies analyzed were from North America, and the authors said further research on the subject is particularly needed in African, South American, and Middle Eastern countries.
"Better understanding of the prevalence of weight-loss product use in adolescents and adolescent subgroups may allow for policy developments, further research, and targeted education strategies among particular at-risk groups," the authors wrote. "Given the individual and public health issues associated with adolescent use of nonprescription weight-loss products, interventions are urgently required to prevent and regulate use of [these] products in this population."
- JAMA Network Open. Global Prevalence of Adolescent Use of Nonprescription Weight-Loss Products.