An investigation done by a consumer group, Which?, revealed that a number of weight loss products being sold in online marketplaces have dangerous substances that could induce a stroke or heart attack. These products are usually highly sought out by bodybuilders, gym enthusiasts, and people who are generally looking to lose weight.
According to Which? there are dozens of listings on websites like Wish, eBay, and AliExpress that range from £2.39 to £80 and beyond, which contain plant extracts that could potentially increase the heart rate and blood pressure of users. Two of these concerning extracts are yohimbine and synephrine.
Yohimbine is an active chemical that is derived from an evergreen tree found in Africa. It is popularly used as an aphrodisiac and to treat erectile dysfunction, however it is also a stimulant that raises the heart rate and blood pressure.
Synephrine is another active ingredient that is found in the skin of a bitter orange. While it is used for weight loss purposes around the world, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that it works.
In 2009, France’s Agence Nationale Sécurité Sanitaire Alimentaire Nationale (ANSES), found a very possible link between the ingredient and a number of conditions including liver and neurological damage.
Drugs containing either of these substances are not permitted to be sold without a prescription in the UK.
During their investigation, Which? managed to procure nine products that contained these two hazardous ingredients. Of the nine products, only two issued health warnings. Therefore, most users taking the supplements had no idea of the risks the were putting their body in.
Although the group did not disclose the names of the weight loss supplements, they said that eBay and AliExpress have already taken off the products from the website.The Guardian has reported that Wish is also in the process of doing the same.
Sue Davis, Head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy at Which?, said:
It is concerning that our investigation has revealed these slimming supplements containing potentially dangerous ingredients are readily available on online marketplaces.
The limited regulation of these sites is not working – and that’s leaving people exposed to substances that can be harmful.
Online marketplaces must be given greater legal responsibility for the safety of products sold on their sites, so that shoppers are far better protected. Regulators also need to be more proactive in policing potentially dangerous products.