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Herbal slimming pills can be a health risk

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 - 4:11pm IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
Times have never been so good for the weight-loss industry in India, and diet-pill popping has become a rage unseen before.

Times have never been so good for the weight-loss industry in India, and diet-pill popping has become a rage unseen before.

However, this unbridled affinity for such pills is fraught with danger. Various ingredients used in slimming or diet pills may pose a serious health risk if not taken without proper medical guidance, a study conducted by Ahmedabad-based Consumer Education and Research Center (CERC) finds.

“The claims made by the manufacturers of such pills are too good to believe, no proper research has been done so far to ascertain the efficacy of these drugs. Further research in this regard is really the need of the hour, as the weight-loss industry is booming in India and herbal diet pills enjoy a significant share of the market,” says the study appearing in magazine ‘Insight’ published by CERC.

A study was conducted on five herbal ingredients - bitter orange, chitosan, green tea extracts, chromium picolinate, hydroxycitric and capscicum annum – widely used in some of these slimming pills.

“Bitter orange is linked with serious threats like fainting, heart attacks while chromium picolinate can cause DNA damage if taken in high doses. Green tea extracts is the most widely marketed product. However, it can cause liver toxicity if taken on an empty stomach,” editor of Insight, Preeti Shah said. There are many herbal weight loss supplements available in the market, which have either conflicting or insufficient evidence regarding their efficiency. Some of these products include green tea and hydroxycitric acid (HCA). These supplements are generally known as ‘fat burners’ and they work by boosting the body’s metabolism. When doctors prescribe these weight loss supplements, they monitor the patient’s condition closely.

“Diet pills, at the most, only reduce the appetite of the person. This reduces the food intake and thus calories are burnt. But once the person is off the pill, the earlier appetite returns, in some cases even increases,” the study adds.

Lack of awareness and blind faith regarding herbs as not harmful to body are reasons for wide usage of such products. There are government norms and policies to be followed for getting approval for selling such products. “A rigorous procedure of clinical trials is not performed on such products. One needs to take slimming pills only under proper professional medical guidance,” Preeti adds.

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