More and more Canadians are turning to prescription drugs and natural health products to lose weight. These products can be beneficial when used correctly as part of a weight management program. However, improper use can lead to serious health risks.
The number of Canadians who are overweight or obese has been growing steadily for 25 years. Overweight and obesity increase the risk of serious diseases or conditions: high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancers, including breast, colon or endometrial.
The sale of weight-loss products is growing at the same rate as the obesity rate. In Canada, the various types of drugs prescribed to facilitate weight loss are intended exclusively for people at risk because of their weight. In addition, these products should be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional as part of a weight management program that also includes an appropriate level of physical activity and a reduction in caloric intake.
Many natural weight loss products are also available over-the-counter at various retail outlets, including pharmacies, health food stores, supermarkets, and on the Internet. Under ideal circumstances, some of these natural health products can be safe and effective as part of a weight management program that focuses on low calorie diet and physical activity. But the magic pill that makes you lose weight effortlessly does not exist.
If you are considering using a weight loss product, it is important that you know the possible risks so that you can make informed choices.
Risks associated with the use of weight loss products
It is impossible to list the risks associated with each of the weight loss products on the market, as there are too many. In addition, the risks associated with the use of health products depend on various factors, including:
the ingredients contained in the product in question;
the use of the product alone or combined with other weight loss products, health products, prescribed or not, as well as certain foods;
the person’s age and state of health.
However, the following situations are examples of misuse that could have serious health consequences:
Online purchase of prescription drugs that were not prescribed to you by a medical professional after examining you –
Your healthcare professional should examine you to determine if, in your situation, the benefits of taking prescription weight loss medications outweigh the risks.
Taking different types of weight-loss products at the same time, or taking weight-loss products in combination with other health products, without discussing the possible risks with a healthcare professional –
Certain types of weight-loss medications and natural health products can interact with each other, certain foods, or other medications, increasing the risk of side effects. Also, weight loss products may not be recommended for individuals with certain health conditions.
Online purchase of weight loss products from uncertain sources –
Anyone can set up a website and sell health products. If you order these products from dubious sources, there is no guarantee of their safety, effectiveness and quality. Some weight loss products sold on the Internet pose serious health risks because they contain prescription drugs or traces of heavy metals. Other products sold on the Internet from questionable sources, such as prescription drugs, may be counterfeit or contain ingredients other than those advertised.
Some products contain proprietary blends of ingredients. It is therefore difficult to determine the content of each ingredient or whether certain combinations of ingredients can harm health.
Use of a weight loss product that differs from that recommended on the label, except on the recommendation of a healthcare professional –
Sometimes a product is used for purposes other than those for which it is approved. Products containing extracts of the plant ephedra (or one of its active ingredients, ephedrine) and bitter orange peel (or one of its active ingredients, synephrine) are often sold to aid weight loss. However, in Canada, ephedra and ephedrine are only approved for use in decongestants (conventional or traditional herbal medicines) and homeopathic remedies. Bitter orange peel (Citrus aurantium) is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments, such as abdominal pain and constipation. It is also used in marmalade, but it is not approved for weight loss. To date, synephrine has not been approved for use in any health product. Health Canada has issued advisories regarding possible risks associated with the use of ephedra or ephedrine and bitter orange or synephrine for weight loss, including adverse cardiovascular effects. To learn more about this, see the section for more information.
Stimulant laxatives (senna, cascara, aloe) may be approved for oral use, but are often purchased for unapproved use for detoxification or cleansing, a practice that is becoming increasingly popular. However, serious risks are associated with the chronic use of laxatives or the combination of different laxatives, in particular electrolyte imbalances which can affect the heart and create intestinal problems.
Impression that a weight-loss product is safe because it is “natural” –
You can extract the active ingredient from a food, concentrate it, manufacture it and sell it as a natural product. Even if the food in question poses no risk when consumed in moderation, significant risks could be associated with a much higher dose in extract form. This could also be the case with natural health products containing high concentrations of green tea extract, some of which have been linked to serious liver problems, as opposed to the drink, green tea, which is very safe.
In some cases, product advertisements may contain claims that are not based on solid scientific data. For example, some advertisements may claim that a particular product promotes weight loss by suppressing appetite, stimulating metabolism, or blocking the absorption of carbohydrates or fats. While the products Health Canada has authorized for sale have been assessed and found to be safe, effective and of high quality if used for the authorized purposes, some of the unlicensed products may be unsafe, while others are downright wasteful. silver.