Planning to shed pounds before an upcoming wedding, reunion or for that summer bathing suit, and thinking that swallowing diet pills will do the trick?
That weight-loss strategy could actually do you more harm than good.
Weight-loss pills are aimed to help you shed some pounds, but there isn’t a lot of science backing up the claims and some have health risks.
One risky example is OxyElite Pro, an “adulterated” weight-loss supplement the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered during an international shipment examination.
According to the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 97 people with acute non-viral hepatitis identified, 72 of whom reported using an OxyElite Pro branded product. At least 47 were hospitalized, at least three received a liver transplant and there was one death reported.
OxyElite is just one of the many hundreds of dietary supplements that FDA regulators have found to contain hidden active ingredients – including ingredients that were in drugs that have been removed from the market and ingredients contained in prescription drugs.
In October 2010, the FDA removed weight-loss product Meridia from the market after discovering the FDA-approved drug was tainted with sibutramine and was causing heart problems and strokes.
The FDA has also found many dietary supplements containing fluoxetine, which is found in Prozac.
“We’ve also found weight-loss products marketed as supplements that contain dangerous concoctions of hidden ingredients including active ingredients contained in approved seizure medications, blood pressure medications and antidepressants,” Jason Humbert, a senior regulatory manager at the FDA, said in a report on the administration’s consumer update page on its website.
The FDA also warns that some of what people might think of as natural dietary supplements may contain hidden active ingredients also contained in prescription drugs.
Just because a supplement is sold on a grocery or drug store’s shelf does not mean it’s safe. Some red flags of potentially tainted products include promises of a quick fix and the use of the words “guaranteed” or “scientific breakthrough.”
Consumers probably aren’t aware that the FDA investigates products only when safety issues are suspected.
After surveying 3,000 Americans, Consumer Reports National Research Center found that about 20 percent of people incorrectly believed that the FDA tests a supplement’s safety and effectiveness.
According to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, dietary supplements’ manufacturers and distributors do not need FDA approval prior to marketing their products. Instead, it’s up to the company to ensure its products are safe and that its claims are true.
But the FDA has received reports claiming harm associated with using weight-loss products. There were claims of high blood pressure, heart palpitations, stroke, seizure and death.
In 2014, the FDA issued over 30 public notifications and recalled seven tainted weight-loss products.