Consumer Reports Warns that Some Weight Loss Pills Still Not Safe

Supplement makers resort to tricking consumers.

Here are some of the tricks supplement makers are using that prompted a recent warning by Consumer Reports that some weight loss pills still are not safe.


You may feel reassured from news reports that the FDA is finding banned ingredients in some supplements and is therefore making a big difference in supplement safety. However, that might not be the case. According to a new warning from Consumer Reports, a recent study published in the Journal of American Pharmacists Association found that in spite of the FDA banning many ingredients from supplements, “…it is evident that products containing these ingredients remain on the market today,” concluded the study.

In the study, researchers at Regis University in Denver visited one of every vitamin-selling retail chain within a 10-mile radius of their campus which included well-known chain stores such as GNC, Vitamin World, Walgreens, Walmart, and Whole Foods. The supplements they focused on were weight loss pills.

What they found was striking to say the least. Some even blatantly listed known banned ingredients on their labels. The findings were as follows:

• A total of 51 weight loss supplements contained ingredients that were either banned or strongly discouraged by the FDA.

• At least one banned ingredient was found to be listed on the product labels in 17 of the 51 studied supplements (33%) and at least one discouraged-use ingredient was found in 46 of the 51 products (90%).

• Stores dedicated to supplement and sports nutrition had the most supplements that included banned and discouraged ingredients.

• Of the banned ingredients found, two especially harmful―ephedra and DMAA―are linked to multiple deaths among users.

• Many supplements contained a variety of ingredients that are used for the same purpose such as combining different types of stimulants. Consumer Reports provided an example of one product labeled “Commander,” made by a company called 1st Phorm, that lists caffeine, cocoa extract, BMPEA, evodiamine, synephrime, green coffee bean extract, and guarana seed extract among its ingredients―all seven of which are stimulants.


• Some stimulant-based weight loss pills contained additional chemicals that enhances the effects of the stimulants making them more powerful; and thereby, more dangerous.

Tricks Used by Supplement Makers

Especially worrisome, are tactics the researchers found that some supplement makers are resorting to either hide or skirt around banned ingredients usage in their weight loss products. Some of the tactics include:

• Advertising their product as being free of some chemicals like caffeine, but using another in its place that just happens to have near-identical properties. Consumer Reports lists one example as, “… Phenolox, a weight loss supplement made by Metabolic Nutrition, is advertised as being ‘caffeine and yohimbine free,’ but contains several other ingredients that cause similar effects,” and point out that, “While such maneuvers are often legal,
they can present unique dangers for consumers, especially those who need to avoid caffeine due to medical conditions like diabetes, epilepsy, and heart arrhythmias.”

• A second trick is to camouflage a banned or otherwise worrisome ingredient using a technically correct chemical nomenclature in place of a more commonly used and consumer-identifiable name, such as “1,3,7-trimethylxanthine” in place of "caffeine."

For more about the problem with unsafe supplements, here is an article about why employees at Consumer Reports made a dangerous weight-loss supplement.

References: “Some Weight Loss Pills Still Contain Banned Substances

Banned and discouraged-use ingredients found in weight loss supplementsJournal of American Pharmacists Association (2016, Jul 27) pii: S1544-3191(16); Eichner, S. et al.

Image courtesy of Pixabay


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