Are Weight-loss Products Safe?

Are Weight-loss Products Safe?

It’s that time of year when many people begin to look for weight-loss shortcuts to aid in their New Year’s Resolutions, but there are a number of risks involved with taking products for weight loss. Come in and talk to your pharmacist at Carmi Remedy’s Rx pharmacy, just up from Penticton Regional Hospital in the Carmi Medical Dental Building, and we would be happy to review your current medications and supplements to determine what weight loss aids may or may not be right for you. outlines the risks associated with using health products for weight loss and how to avoid them:

Risks of using health products for weight loss

It is not possible to list the risks associated with every weight-loss product on the market, due to the large number of products available. In addition, the risks of using health products depend on many factors, including:

  • the ingredients of the specific health product;
  • whether the health product is used alone or in combination with other products for weight loss, prescription and non-prescription health products, as well as certain foods; and
  • the age and health status of the person using the product.

However, the following situations represent misuse of weight-loss products, which could lead to serious health effects:
Ordering prescription drugs online that have not been prescribed for you by a health care practitioner who has examined you –
Your health care practitioner needs to examine you to determine whether the benefits of using a prescription weight-loss drug would outweigh the risks in your specific situation.
Taking several different kinds of weight-loss products together, or taking weight-loss products in addition to other health products, without discussing possible risks with your health care practitioner -Certain kinds of weight-loss drugs and natural health products may interact with each other, with foods you eat, or with other medications you take, increasing the risk of adverse reactions. As well, health products for weight loss may not be recommended for individuals with certain health conditions.
Buying weight-loss products online from unreliable sources -Anyone can put up a Web site and offer health products for sale. If you order health products from unreliable sources, you have no guarantee that they will be safe, effective, and of high quality. Certain NHPs promoted online for weight loss have posed serious health risks because they have been mixed with prescription drugs or contaminated with heavy metals. Others products ordered online from unreliable sources, including prescription drugs, may be counterfeit, or contain ingredients other than those being advertised.
In some cases, products contain “proprietary” or trademarked/patented blends of ingredients. This makes it difficult to identify the content of each ingredient or determine whether some combination(s) of ingredients could harm your health.
Using health products “off-label” for weight loss, unless this has been recommended by your health care practitioner -Using a product “off-label” means using it for a purpose other than the authorized purpose(s). Products containing the herb Ephedra (or one of its active ingredients, ephedrine) and the herb bitter orange peel (or one of its active ingredients, synephrine) are often promoted off-label for weight loss. However, Ephedra and ephedrine are authorized by Health Canada as decongestants (conventional or traditional herbal medicines) and in homeopathic medicines. Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) peel is used in traditional Chinese medicine for several conditions, including abdominal pain and constipation, and is used in food to make marmalade, but it is not authorized for the purpose of weight loss. Synephrine has not been approved for use in any health products to date. Health Canada has issued warnings about the potential risks of using Ephedra/ephedrine and bitter orange/synephrine for weight loss, including serious cardiovascular adverse reactions.
Stimulant laxatives (Senna, Cascara, Aloe) may be authorized for oral use as laxatives, but are often promoted for off-label use in detoxifying or cleansing regimens, which are becoming increasingly popular. However, there are serious risks associated with chronic use of laxatives or combining multiple laxatives together, including the risk of electrolyte disturbances that can affect the heart, as well as create bowel problems.
Assuming that a weight-loss product is “safe” because it is “natural” -For example, an active component from a food substance can be extracted, concentrated, and manufactured or sold as a natural health product. While the original food may pose no risk when consumed in moderation, there could be significant risks in taking a much higher dose in the form of an extract. This may be true of certain NHPs containing highly concentrated green tea extract, some of which have been associated with serious liver problems, as opposed to the beverage, green tea, which is very safe.(1)

Reduce Your Risk

Eat healthy, exercise and avoid shortcuts! Whatever you do, make sure you avoid the urge to skip meals or join any fad or restrictive diet. Studies have shown that dieting can cause short-term weight-loss followed by a regain of the lost weight in 95% of dieters. Chronic and repetitive dieting may cause excess weight gain as a result of disruption in appetite mechanisms and metabolism.(2) The healthiest way to be at your optimal weight is by simply making healthy food choices and exercising regularly. Incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables into your diet and avoid overly processed foods with high sugar and low nutrient density.
Talk to your doctor or come in and speak with one of our Carmi Remedy’s Rx pharmacists before you take any weight-loss product. They can help you by discussing your goals and accessing what weight-loss products may or may not be right for you based on your age, your physical fitness, lifestyle, and what medications and supplements you are taking.
(1) Healthy Canadians Government of Canada Website
(2) Kelowna Eating Disorder Unit – “Why Eat” Powerpoint Presentation by Jillian Walsh, Registered Dietitian

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