Junkfood Science: What are you really buying?

August 20, 2008

What are you really buying?

No matter where on the planet you’re shopping, or if you're shopping virtually on the internet, you’ll find supplements promising to help you lose weight. Since they’re sold as being all natural, herbal or even homeopathic, it’s tempting to trust that they’re safe. Over recent months, health departments around the world have been issuing warnings to consumers about increasing numbers of weight loss supplements being found to be adulterated with prescription medications and hormones that can result in serious health risks.

A number of consumer health advisories have warned of diet aids adulterated with the prescription drug sibutramine (Meridia) in unknown amounts or purities. Health Canada is among the countries advising consumers not to use these products because of concerns of possible side effects:

The Hong Kong Department of Health warned it was found to contain an undeclared chemical similar in structure to the prescription drug sibutramine. It also contained the prescription drug L-carnitine, as well as synephrine, which is not authorized for sale in weight loss products in Canada.

More Slim
The Hong Kong Department of Health warned it was found to contain the undeclared pharmaceutical ingredient sibutramine.

Karntien, Karntien Easy to Slim
The Hong Kong Department of Health has warned these were found to contain undeclared pharmaceuticals and were adulterated with sibutramine and a compound that is similar in structure to sibutramine (N-desmethylsibutramine).

Dan Bai Shou Shen Su
The Hong Kong Department of Health has warned this was found to contain undeclared thyroid hormones and sibutramine.

Therma Power (red and blue varieties); Grenade Fat Burner
The U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warned these products have been associated with serious adverse reactions. Therma Power (blue variety) also was found to contain synephrine and caffeine, a combination associated with adverse cardiovascular reactions.

JFS readers may remember that the prescription weight loss drug sibutramine was recently reviewed by doctors from the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, Canada, and Dr. Susan M.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and found not to result in notable weight loss, with only modest short-term effectiveness reported in clinical trials. But they raised serious concerns about its safety, due to high blood pressure and heart rate and palpitations. During the 1996 FDA review of Meridia (sibutramine), the Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee voted against approving it on the grounds that the risks of raising blood pressure and heart rate could be dangerous for many patients and outweigh the “meager amount of weight loss seen in clinical trials.” The FDA approved it against the advice of its expert advisors.

The Public Citizen’s Health Research Group petitioned the FDA on March 19, 2002 to remove sibutramine from the market for safety reasons, noting that the FDA’s own public data showed that from the drug’s introduction in February 1998 to September 30, 2001, there were nearly 400 serious adverse reactions, including 19 cardiac deaths (10 in people under age 50, and 3 in women under 30). The Public Citizen again petitioned the FDA on September 3, 2003, for increasing reports of such harm, adding 54 reports of adverse effects from maternal exposure including “heart birth defects, spontaneous abortions, stillbirths and congenital malformations.” The FDA rejected the Public Citizen’s petitions in August, 2005, saying it couldn’t conclude that the heart attacks were caused by the drugs, since heart attacks are “very common” in obese people, reported Consumer Affairs.

And just for men

No herbal supplement for erectile dysfunction really works, guys. But supplements being sold, often on the internet, that promise to help you in the bedroom are especially endemic with contaminants and likely to be adulterated with potentially dangerous pharmaceutical drugs. Remember, it’s an unregulated Wild West out there and dietary supplements aren’t FDA-approved, nor have their advertising claims been validated by the FTC or any government agency.

Just in the past couple of months, health authorities in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Netherlands, UK, Denmark, and Singapore have issued warnings for herbal supplements found to contain prescription drugs and other contaminants associated with serious side effects, from liver damage to cardiac problems. For example:

· Xiadafil VIP Tabs

· Oyster Extract Caps

· Herb Vigour, Natural Vigour ou China Vigour

· 3rd Generation In Homoeopathy Arthrit Indica Tablet

· Viril-Ity-Power (VIP) Tabs

· Wodibo

· Super Shangai Strong Testis, Shangai Ultra, Shangai Ultra X, Lady Shangai, Shangai Regular (also known as Shangai Chaojimengnan), Actra-Sx, An unknown product containing the plant Lycium barbarum L., Adam Free, NaturalUp, Erextra, Yilishen, Blue Steel, Hero, Naturalë Super Plus

· Zhong Hua Niu Bian

· Nangen Zengzhangsu (may also be known as Nangen or Nangeng), Sanbianwan, Jiu Bian Wang, Tian Huang Gu Shen Dan, Zui Xian Dan Gong Shi Zi, and Power Up

· Armstrong Natural Herbal Supplement, Enhanix New Extra Men's Formula, Power 58 Extra and Platinum Power 58 Extra

Please be careful out there.

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