After the holidays, lose weight easily, without hunger, without sport? This is the promise of many weight loss products. However, a test by the magazine “Öko-Test” shows that the effect is not sufficiently proven in most cases. Some pills can even harm your health.
The testers examined 21 preparations, which sell pharmacies, drugstores and Discounter. None could convince correctly. Only one means evaluated the testers as satisfying, eight further got the note unsatisfactorily, all others were even classified as insufficient.
The tested drugs have different effects: The active ingredient orlistat, for example, inhibits the splitting of fats in the small intestine. This means that the body should absorb fewer calories. It is the only active ingredient whose efficacy has been rudimentarily proven, the testers write. However, lasting success can only be achieved if the intake is combined with a change in lifestyle. The question arises as to whether the change in lifestyle is decisive – not the pill. The testers rated the product in question as “satisfactory”.
In addition, the over-the-counter product can become a danger: Scientists warn against side effects with other drugs. Cancer drugs, for example, threaten to lose their effect if patients swallow pills containing orlistat at the same time.
Eight other products tested are said to bind dietary fats so that the body cannot use them. Others are said to burn fat. The testers complain that neither is sufficiently proven. The other diet pills have a satiating effect. According to the testers, this could indeed favour weight loss for the time being. In the long run, however, it does not help to stay slim.
Hardly any control, no proof of effectiveness
But it is not only the effect of diet pills that is controversial; physicians repeatedly warn of dangerous and sometimes illegal slimming products:
In 2013, for example, the Ministry of Health in North Rhine-Westphalia discovered the toxic substance DNP in pills on the Internet. DNP can lead to shortness of breath and multiorgan failure – in the worst case even to death.
Further alleged “Fatburner” are pills with the active substance Synephrin. They are praised on the Internet as true miracles in the fight against overweight – but they can become life-threatening: As side effects dangerous blood pressure increase, acute heart illnesses and psychological illnesses are to be feared for instance. In 2006, synephrine was discovered in allegedly harmless herbal slimming pills from China – and in significantly higher quantities than the substance is permitted in prescription drugs in Germany.
In the 1990s, about one hundred young women from Belgium experienced mysterious kidney failure after taking supposedly harmless herbal slimming pills from China. The highly toxic Chinese medicinal herb was apparently too highly dosed.
In the 1970s, the diabetes drug Mediator came onto the market, which was also prescribed as an appetite suppressant. In France alone, at least 500 people are said to have died because they swallowed Mediator. Other estimates even assume up to 2000 victims. A total of about five million people are said to have taken the drug. Mediator has been banned throughout Europe since 2009.
In general, many slimming pills are not regarded as drugs, but as food supplements. For this reason, they do not need approval in order to enter the market and, like drugs, are not tested for their safety, efficacy or quality. The German Nutrition Society therefore recommends a balanced and varied diet and sufficient exercise instead of supposed diet miracle pills.