What's Lurking in Diet Supplements?

Slimming teas, coffees, and pills: Find out what's not on the label.

By Colleen Moriarty

Your intentions are to lose weight and manage your diabetes, thereby improving your overall health. But, before you reach for dietary supplements that promise weight loss, beware that many contain hazardous hidden ingredients often not listed on the label. Tainted weight loss products—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns—are a dangerous and growing trend. And if you're looking for a quick fix to take off extra pounds, you could unwittingly be putting your health at risk.

"Since 2008, FDA has discovered almost 400 products marketed as dietary supplements that are tainted with undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients," says Stephen King, a spokesperson for the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "These ingredients, generally undeclared in the labeling, can pose considerable dangers to consumers who may take these products without knowing that the ingredients are present, that the ingredients may be associated with serious side effects, or that they may interact in dangerous ways with other products they may be taking," King says. 

Prescription and over-the-counter weight loss products go through the drug approval process at FDA's CDER.  When the FDA grants approval for an over-the-counter or an Rx drug, it means the agency has determined that the benefits of the product outweigh the risks for the intended use. Supplements are not drugs and do not go through the FDA's rigorous approval process. Their labeling must be accurate, according to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act; and they cannot claim to cure, prevent, or treat conditions.

However, recently the FDA has been warning consumers about supplements laced with dangerous ingredients not listed on the label, including counterfeit weight loss medications, controlled substances, and untested pharmaceutically active ingredients. For instance, diet supplements have been found to contain an imitation version of the weight loss over-the-counter drug Alli. In another instance, a weight loss supplement contained the prescription drug sibutramine, a stimulant that could be harmful to patients with cardiovascular conditions.

"Consumers should use caution with products marketed as supplements particularly in the weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding product categories," King says. Also be careful of supplements that claim to be as effective as prescription drugs or ones with labels written in a foreign language.

To date, the FDA has issued consumer advisories for the following products containing harmful hidden ingredients, yet the list only covers some of the tainted products being sold:

Contains hidden drug ingredients

  • MAXILOSS Weight Advanced
  • SLIMDIA Revolution
  • Brazilian Slimming Coffee
  • Japan Hokkaido Slimming Weight Loss Pills
  • Beautiful Slim Body
  • Ultimate Formula Bee Pollen Capsules
  •  Zi Xiu Tang Bee Pollen Capsules
  • Tianji True Slim
  • Japan Rapid Weight Loss Diet Pills Yellow
  • Japan Rapid Weight Loss Diet Pills Green

Contains undeclared drug ingredients

  • Japan Weight Loss Blue
  • Slender Slim 11
  • Advanced Slim 5
  • A-Slim 100% Natural Slimming Capsule
  • Dream Body Slimming Capsule
  • Ja Dera 100% Natural Weight Loss Supplement
  • Leisure 18 Slimming Coffee
  • Lishou
  • Magic Slim Tea
  • Magic Slim Weight Reduction Capsule
  • P57 Hoodia
  • PhentraBurn Slimming Capsules
  • Sheng Yuan Fang
  • Tengda
  • Acai Berry Soft Gel ABC
  • Botanical Slimming
  •  DaiDaiHuaJiaoNang
  • Fruit Plant Lossing Fat Capsule
  • Health Slimming Coffee
  • Lose Weight Coffee
  • Pai You Guo Slim Tea
  • Slim Forte Slimming Capsules
  • Slim Forge Slimming Coffee and Botanical Slimming Soft Gel
  • 10/18/2011 Slim Forte Slimming Capsule and Slim Forte Double Power Slimming Capsules
  • Slim Xtreme Herbal Slimming Capsule
  • Celerite Slimming Capsules

The bottom line is that when it comes to weight loss, diet and exercise are still the best first approach. If you're interested in trying weight loss products, first talk to your health care provider before trying a diet capsule, slimming tea, or weight loss coffee. There are a variety of new prescription options on the market with science on their side. For more information, check out "Weight Loss Drugs." And check out the FDA's list of recalled weight loss pills. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/MedicationHealthFraud/ucm234592.htm

Last Modified Date: July 23, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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