Abu Dhabi: A recent survey into products available as diet supplements for weight loss in Abu Dhabi emirate has found many containing ingredients that have major cardiovascular and psychiatric side-effects.
Following a study into 82 such products, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) has recommended that ten of them be taken off the shelves because of the health risks they pose to consumers, including Hydroxycut Hardcore, Lipo 6, Dymaburn Xtreme and Redline.
The products were all found to contain yohimbine, an ingredient banned in the UAE by a ministerial resolution in 1988 because it causes cardiovascular side effects, heart failure and even death.
In addition, one product also contained ephedra — which could cause psychiatric symptoms, palpitation and death — while another had tryptophan, which causes a potentially fatal muscle disorder that could lead to death.
"Obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, and people are trying to lose weight using herbal weight loss products. Sadly, however, these supplements mislead consumers about their safety and effectiveness," said Dr. Yasser Sharif, section head of medication and medical products at the HAAD.
Many consumers also have a wrong perception that any product marketed as herbal is safe, he told Gulf News.
"Herbal supplements can interact with any other medication an individual is taking, thereby alarmingly increasing the effect of a prescription drug or reducing its effectiveness. This can be fatal," the doctor added.
According to the HAAD survey, other products for weight loss that are still available off the shelf were found to have inconclusive or non-existent results with regard to weight loss. Among them were products that had chromium picolinate, caffeine, green tea, garcinia and guarana as active ingredients.
"All the products we have recommended for withdrawal were available without prescriptions. But just because a medicine is available does not guarantee its safety, so people who want to take drugs of any kind must always approach their physicians to see if it is safe for them," Dr. Sharif said.
The drugs were found at health stores, pharmacies, health clubs, gyms, and with alternative medicine practitioners and direct distributors. Supermarkets across the emirate were, however, not surveyed because of the comparatively low sales of these products there.
It also emerged that 92 per cent of the products studied were not registered with the Ministry of Health, while 97 per cent included one or more health warnings on their labels. In addition, only 53 per cent had specific weight-loss claims on their labels.
Dr. Joseph Kurian, head of cardiology at Lifeline Hospital, warned consumers against opting for such weight-loss methods.
"While many of these items can lead to serious cardiovascular complications, others are nearly ineffective in helping individuals lose weight. People who start taking these supplements, even if it is harmless, start relying solely on them without following up with exercise and a balanced diet, and this is always counter-productive," Dr. Kurian said.
He said he saw nearly ten patients a week who had tried weight-loss supplements, or were considering them. "I always recommend patients to steer clear of them, as a proper diet and regular exercise are the only effective means of weight loss that can be maintained," he added.
Products to be withdrawn
Products with following ingredients will be taken off the shelves, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi said:
• Hydroxycut Hardcore
• Hydroxycut Max for Women
• Lipo 6
• Lipo 6 Hers
• Lipo 6X
• Lipo 6 Black
• Xenadrine RFA-X
• Dymaburn Xtreme
To find out if a supplement is safe aall 800424 between 7am and 3pm on weekdays to reach the Poison and Drug Information Centre (PDIC) at the HAAD. Email the PDIC at email@example.com
— Health Authority Abu Dhabi