“Dangerous” weight loss products that contain substances that can cause a stroke or heart attack are sold on sites like eBay with no health warnings, a study found.
The consumer group Which? found dozens of products on the internet that contain plant extracts that can upset or make users aggressive and increase their heart rate and blood pressure.
They all contained either yohimbine or synephrine, substances that the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) said “could have significant potential for harm if used without medical supervision or advice”.
Which? Bought nine such products through the online marketplaces eBay, Wish and AliExpress, which are used by some people who want to lose weight, bodybuilders and gym goers. Of these, two did not contain any health warnings or dosage information.
Buyers could have the supplements shipped from countries such as India, the USA, Ukraine and Poland at prices ranging from £ 2.39 to £ 80.
Dr. James Coulson, a toxicology expert who sits on the UK Toxicity Committee, warned that the extracts are dangerous and could harm users’ health.
“When it comes to these drugs, the critical effects we are concerned about are their effects on the sympathetic nervous system, and particularly their effect on blood pressure,” he said.
If someone ingested enough of the substances, “one would see the effects of secondary organ damage due to the rise in blood pressure”. [and] You would expect potential damage to the cardiovascular system, ”he added.
Coulson is a lecturer at Cardiff University, an advisor to the NHS in Wales and an advisor to the UK’s National Poisons Information Service. He has treated people who had side effects after taking yohimbine and edited reports of complications from taking synephrine.
Many of the products contained yohimbe, which is extracted from the bark of the African tree Pausinystalia johimbe. Photo: mauritius images GmbH / Alamy
He and other health professionals fear that people assume that herbal extracts are harmless because they occur naturally and don’t know they are potentially risky.
Sue Davies, who? Consumer Policy Director, said, “It is worrying that our research has shown that these slimming supplements with potentially dangerous ingredients are readily available in online marketplaces.
“The restricted regulation of these websites doesn’t work and leaves people exposed to substances that can be harmful.”
The MHRA and other regulators “need to be more proactive in monitoring potentially dangerous products for sale on these websites,” she added.
Which? found a post on an online forum where the person said they had a “sky-high” heart rate and blood pressure after taking 300 mg of yohimbine before a workout at the gym and was so concerned about the effects that they considered the effects to go to the hospital.
Ebay and AliExpress removed the listings for the products the consumer group had brought them to their attention, while Wish said this was among them.
An eBay spokesperson said: “We take the safety of our users very seriously and work closely with the MHRA to ensure that sellers and listings on eBay comply with laws and regulations.”