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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19582

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Watson C
Diet pills pose danger
Adelaide Now 2011 May 5

Full text:

WEIGHT-LOSS pills that seem too good to be true probably are – containing ingredients that have no proven effect and could be potentially harmful.

Consumer advocate Choice investigated 10 products that claimed to help dieters shed kilograms fast and found two – Xantrax High Potency and Rapid Burn – contain bitter orange and panax ginseng.

When combined, these may increase the risk of heart arrhythmias, it says.

Other pills examined, including Hydroxycut Advanced and Xenadrine Ultra, contained “extremely high” amounts of caffeine.

Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just said caffeine levels were so high in these products that they had the potential to cause heart palpitations and high blood pressure.

In Australia, weight loss pills must be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, with most classed as complementary or alternative medicines.

“Even though pill manufacturers are required to keep evidence their product works, the literature that Choice looked at was quite underwhelming,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Therapeutic Goods Administration said that listed medicines could only contain pre-approved low-risk ingredients.

“Consumers should be aware that the administration regulates these products for safety but can not guarantee if they actually work,” she said. Ms Just said the most positive conclusion Choice gained from the study was that more research needs to be done to determine the effectiveness of diet pills.

“If you are going to buy expensive weight loss pills, the only thing left lighter in the long run may be your purse or wallet,” Ms Just said.

Dr Jon Buckley, from the Nutritional Physiology Research Centre at UniSA, said that avoiding weight-loss supplements altogether was

the best way to successfully slim down.

“It’s been said many times, but healthy eating and exercise are really the only ways to go,” he said.

“There is some evidence that some nutrients, such as Omega 3, may help with reducing obesity, but there is not much evidence for many of the pills out there.”


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There is no sin in being wrong. The sin is in our unwillingness to examine our own beliefs, and in believing that our authorities cannot be wrong. Far from creating cynics, such a story is likely to foster a healthy and creative skepticism, which is something quite different from cynicism.”
- Neil Postman in The End of Education