Weight-Loss Quick-Fixes Can Be Tainted, FDA Warns

cropped view of caucasian young man measuring waist with yellow tape. Horizontal shape, mid section, side view
Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

Losing weight is one the most common new year's resolutions, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned on Monday that popping pills or downing drinks that claim to accelerate the process could have serious consequences.

The FDA said hundreds of purported miracle weight loss products -- typically sold as supplements -- have been found to contain the ingredients of prescription drugs that have been pulled from the market because they are dangerous. Among them is sibutramine, which was in the weight-loss drug Meridia, whose was halted in 2010 after being linked to heart attacks and strokes.

The drug was found in V26 Slimming Coffee and the supplement Slim-K, the FDA said. A list of tainted weight-loss drugs can be found here.

"When the product contains a drug or other ingredient which is not listed as an ingredient we become especially concerned about the safety of the product," said Dr. James P. Smith, acting deputy director in FDA's Office of Drug Evaluation.

It's not always clear what is in these supplements, which come in a variety of forms. And, the FDA warned that many ingredients haven't been properly studied for safety or are outright dangerous.

'Natural,' but Still Tainted

"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 FDA regulatory manager said.

The FDA said the active ingredient in the depression-treatment Prozac and the diuretic fluoxetine have been found in these products. Using these types of drugs without medical supervision could lead to serious side effects, the FDA warned. In addition, the amount of drugs in the supplements can vary, creating further complications.

The questionable supplements are sold mainly online, can be found in some stores, and tend to be "heavily promoted on social media sites," the FDA said. Most come from overseas and even those called "natural" could be tainted with prescription drugs.

Here is a list of some warning signs the FDA says could indicate a product is tainted with unapproved drugs:
  • Promises of a quick fix, for example, "lose 10 pounds in one week."
  • Use of the words "guaranteed" or "scientific breakthrough."
  • Products marketed in a foreign language.
  • Products marketed through mass e-mails.
  • Products marketed as herbal alternatives to an FDA-approved drug or as having effects similar to prescription drugs.
Read Full Story