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Melanie Haiken, Contributor
I'm insatiably curious about how to stay healthy & where to go next.
This week, the FDA issued two new warnings about popular weight loss supplements the agency found to be contaminated with other substances, some of them quite dangerous or even banned. In December, the FDA published warnings about 7 additional products, part of an ongoing campaign in which the agency tracks and tests weight loss supplements available both online and in stores.
The FDA began listing tainted weight loss supplements in 2009, and has been adding to the list ever since. The agency has also created a YouTube video on weight loss supplement risk and fraud, “Being Fooled By Empty Diet Promises.”
Here, organized by active ingredient, are the top 6 weight loss supplements the FDA says you should not take. (And if you’re in search of safer weight loss supplements, see this list of weight loss supplements that have received high Natural Standard ratings for efficacy and safety.)
1. Dream Body Slimming Capsule, Asset Extreme, SlimEasy Herbal, SlimExtra Herbal
According to the FDA’s most recent laboratory testing, samples of Dream Body Slimming Capsule, SlimExtra Herbal, SlimEasy Herbal, and Asset Extreme capsules were found to contain sibutramine (brand name: Meridia), a drug that was banned by the FDA in 2010 as unsafe. The risks of sibutramine include spikes in blood pressure and pulse rate that could potentially trigger heart attack or stroke, particularly in someone with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sibutramine was originally sold as an appetite suppressant until 2010, when clinical studies found an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in people taking the medication.
Meridia, manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, was pulled from the U.S. market. Subsequently the drug, marketed as Reductil in Great Britain and Apotex in Canada, was banned in those countries as well, and Abbott voluntarily ceased manufacturing Meridia. The FDA’s ever-growing list of supplements found to contain sibutramine now includes 70 different products.
The diet supplements listed on the FDA’s warning list are imported, the majority from China, and efforts to track down and contact the manufacturers and distributors were unsuccessful. The FDA lists Slim Beauty USA as a source for Dream Body, but the phone number listed for the website is no longer in service. On some packaging, Guangzhou Beili Biology Technology Company Ltd is listed as the maker of SlimExtra Herbal, but the company does not have a website. Calls to one of the primary importers of record, Greenbuy International Trade Co., Limited, went unanswered.
2. Magic Slim, Dr. Ming’s, Super Slim, Lipo-X, Perfect Slim 5x, Diet Master
On January 21st the FDA issued a warning about Magic Slim, the latest in a group of dietary supplements that contain phenolphthalein. This organic compound is an extremely strong laxative, the effects of which that can last for as long as three to four days. According to the FDA, phenolphthalein is considered genotoxic, meaning it can cause genetic damage, and is a possible carcinogen. Phenolphthalein can also cause an unpleasant skin rash and irritate the kidneys.
Phenolphthalein has also been linked with extreme mood swings. A few days ago, ABC news reported on an army reservist’s lawsuit claiming that tainted diet pills containing phenolphthalein sold under the brand name Lipo-X, were responsible for an extreme episode of paranoid rage that caused her to destroy her home, lose her job, and enter a mental hospital. Sainah Theodore is suiting the health food store that sold her the Lipo-X supplements and the owner of the store.
The FDA’s list of other drugs containing phenolphthalein includes Imelda Perfect Slim, Royal Slimming Formula, 8 Factor Diet, Fatloss Slimming, and Zhen de Shou. The majority of these medications, including Magic Slim and Dr. Ming’s, contained sibutramine as well.
The products on the FDA’s warning list are imported, most of them from China. Magic Slim is also listed by the FDA as sold by Slim Beauty USA. Packaging of a previous Magic Slim product tested by the FDA in 2011 named Floyd Nutrition LLC as the distributor, but the company’s website no longer lists the product for sale, and the company did not return calls. Magic Slim also has its own product website, (although the packaging pictured is not identical to the packaging of either product tested by the FDA) and emailed requests to that website also received no response.
3. 3X Slimming Power, Extrim Plus