Dubious weight loss products sold online can harm your health

Adulterated health products, General safety

As you surf the Internet, you are likely to come across various weight loss products through influencers on your social media feeds and advertisements on websites. They promote the perception that being slim equates to looking good, and offer products that supposedly can help you to achieve that.

It may be tempting to take a quick and easy route to losing weight, especially when online weight loss products may be sold at promotional prices and claim to have fast and amazing results. However, purchasing such products online carries significant risks to you.

  • The product claims are often exaggerated or unsubstantiated by any scientific evidence and impossible to verify.
  • You cannot be sure what these products contain, and where and how they were made.
  • Unscrupulous dealers may sell products with undeclared potent medicinal ingredients (i.e. adulterated products) to achieve effects quickly, but taking such products can be extremely harmful to your health.

Slimming products lead to hallucinations and other adverse effects

In 2017, a female consumer experienced insomnia, illusions, heart palpitations and trembling of limbs after consuming ‘Anyang Herbal Blue’ which was sold online. The label said the product contained “100% natural ingredients”, but testing by HSA showed it contained sibutramine. In addition, a variant of the product - ‘Anyang Herbal Red’ was tested to contain undeclared potent medicinal ingredients, diclofenac and phenolphthalein.

  • Sibutramine is a prescription medicine that has been banned for sale in Singapore since October 2010, due to safety concerns. The use of sibutramine and benzyl sibutramine may cause serious adverse effects, including high blood pressure, increased heart rate, anxiety, heart attacks, and irregular heartbeats. Conditions such as anxiety, depression and mood swings associated with these compounds have also been reported.
  • Diclofenac is a potent painkiller and may potentially cause serious gastric bleeding, as well as cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke when used for a prolonged period. It should only be used under close medical supervision, especially in patients with underlying heart conditions.
  • Phenolphthalein was used as a laxative in the past, but has not been registered in Singapore since 2011. Phenolphthalein may cause rashes, abdominal cramps, breathing difficulties, kidney disorders and has been found in animal studies to be associated with cancer.

There is no quick and easy way to lose weight – it’s about achieving and maintaining a lifestyle that incorporates the principles of healthy eating and active living. If you need help in managing your weight, please consult your doctor, dietitian or a trained healthcare professional.

You can help us combat adulterated, counterfeit and substandard health products. Report any suspicious sale or advertising of medicines, cosmetics and health products to HSA through e-mail or phone at 6866 3485.