If you’re struggling with your weight, the many weight-loss supplements marketed on the Internet can be appealing. Some of these diet pills, however, may contain stimulant ingredients that can have dangerous effects on the heart. Because online sales of nutritional supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, they don’t have to pass the usual safety tests. Before you try them, consider one thing: are weight-loss supplements safe?
A Scientific Study On Safety Of Diet Pills
Doctors at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston recently asked this question. They searched for “weight loss supplements” and “diet pills” in three search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN, then ordered the four most popular results from each search (making sure that there were no repeats and buying a total of 12 types of diet pills). After the pills arrived, the doctors inspected the pills’ ingredient lists and searched the Medicine and Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database for connections between each ingredient and various dangerous heart conditions.
Eight substances, some of which were called by different names, were connected to at least two dangerous cardiac effects, including death. Three-quarters of the diet pills studied had at least one of the dangerous ingredients, but none of them warned of the potential life-threatening effects.
One of the dangerous ingredients was ma huang—the Chinese name for ephedra, a drug banned in the United States since 2004. Ephedra, often used for weight loss and athletic enhancement, was responsible for 64% of adverse reactions reported to poison control centers in 2001, despite making up only 1% of herbal supplement sales that year. Bitter orange, also found in the studied diet pills, has been substituted for the same purposes since the ephedra ban, but it is also associated with problems such as irregular heartbeats and cardiac arrest.
Some of the ingredients commonly used in diet pills are not necessarily harmful on their own, but can cause dangerous cardiac effects when used in combination with other substances. One such ingredient, caffeine, was found in some of the diet pills. Caffeine was not always listed as itself; sometimes it appeared in the form of green tea and guarana. Caffeine and caffeine-containing herbs, while not ordinarily harmful to most healthy people, can be harmful when taken in large amounts or with other often-used stimulants like ephedra, bitter orange or guarana.
No Prescription Doesn’t Mean No Risk
Don’t assume that diet pills are safe just because you can purchase them without a prescription. Even though the sale of ephedra is banned within the U.S. due to its sometimes-lethal effects on the heart, it still sneaks into diet pills under a different name. Other stimulant ingredients that are still permitted by the FDA may also have dangerous effects on the heart. The Web sites that sell drugs containing those ingredients don’t accurately warn buyers of the possible risks involved in taking nonprescription diet pills. Since you don’t need medical supervision to order and use them, you might not know that you’re in trouble until it’s too late.