December 31, 2014 — An investigation by Consumer Reports has found that many Americans are misinformed about the ingredients and dangers of taking weight-loss supplements.
According to a national survey of nearly 3,000 Americans, about one in four people use diet pills. Among the people who use supplements, more than one in four tried the pill because they thought it was safe and would help them lose weight.
The survey also showed that many people are confused about how the FDA regulates supplements. About 20% of everyone who was surveyed thought that the FDA guarantees supplements are tested for safety and effectiveness.
About 20% of people surveyed also thought that “natural” supplements were safer than prescription medications. In reality, many weight-loss supplements that are labeled as “all-natural” actually contain illegal hidden ingredients, like sibutramine or phenolphthalein, with dangerous side effects.
Another serious problem is that many people who use weight-loss supplements don’t tell their doctor. Even if the supplement really is “all-natural,” there are many herbs and vitamins that can interact with other medications a person is taking — sometimes in life-threatening ways. The risk of drug interactions is worse when the supplement contains hidden pharmaceutical ingredients.
Last year, the weight-loss supplement OxyElite Pro was linked to an outbreak of liver damage, including nearly 100 cases of hepatitis (liver inflammation), resulting in 47 hospitalizations, three liver transplantations, and one death.
Liver damage has also been linked to weight-loss supplements that claim to contain green tea extract (EGCG), such as SlimQuick and HydroxyCut. In August 2014, the journal Gastroenterology published a case report of liver damage in a woman who used Saba ACE, a weight-loss supplement with green tea extract and another stimulant.
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