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Hum Exp Toxicol. 2013 Jan;32(1):101-6. doi: 10.1177/0960327112436407. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

How safe is the use of herbal weight-loss products sold over the internet?

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Department of Forensic Medicine, Inonu University, Malatya, Turkey.



In recent years, the use of herbal weight-loss products sold over the Internet has rapidly increased; however, the safety of these products has not been well documented yet. More importantly, the declared ingredients in these products could be different than the marketed contents.


Nine different herbal weight-loss products sold over the Internet were obtained. The ingredients of each product were analyzed in the Laboratory of Forensic Medicine and the Scientific and Technological Research Laboratory of Inonu University.


Although all studied weight-loss products were presented as pure herbal, three of them contain sibutramine, three contain caffeine, and three contain caffeine + temazepam. The amount of sibutramine in each capsule was found to be over 10 mg. We analyzed toxic and trace element levels of nine herbal products and found that these herbal products, even in low amounts, contain Pb, Al, Ni, and Ba.


Our results indicate that herbal weight-loss products available without prescription and claimed to be purely herbal may contain pharmaceutical substances like sibutramine or temazepam in high doses. Moreover, they also may become contaminated with toxic metals. Since people commonly use these products unaware of its real constituents and without the suggestion or control of a physician, they might cause various health problems some of which might be harmful. Strict legal rules and control mechanisms must be established to minimize their possible harmful effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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