TESTING BY CONSUMERLAB.COM IDENTIFIES MANY PROBLEMS WITH POPULAR SUPPLEMENTS FOR WEIGHT LOSS, SLIMMING, AND BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL
Westchester, NY — November 15, 2005 — In a series of reports released today, ConsumerLab.com revealed test results for supplements used for weight loss, slimming, and blood sugar control. Among the twenty-three products that ConsumerLab.com selected and tested, only thirteen products passed the testing without problem or warning. Six products were contaminated with potentially harmful metals or had significantly more or less ingredient than expected. Several products also had very high amounts of caffeine. In fact, the daily dose of one product had as much caffeine as 30 cans of cola. Two products contained a mixture of caffeine and synephrine (from bitter orange) that could potentially cause adverse cardiovascular effects. In 2004, nearly $1.7 billion worth of weight loss supplements were sold in the U.S. according to Nutrition Business Journal.
The testing included popular products such EZ-Trim, Lean System7, PatentLean, Ripped Fuel, Thermosculpt, TRIMSPA, Xenadrine, and Zantrex-3, as well as products by Allmax, AST, Bodyonics, BodyTech, Life Extension, MegaFood, Metagenics, Natrol, Natural Max, Nature's Sunshine, New Chapter, PhytoPharmica, Rainbow Light, Solaray and Ultimate Nutrition.
Tod Cooperman, M.D., President of ConsumerLab.com, said, "Some supplements may provide modest benefit in weight loss and slimming, but people need to be wary of minefield of problems identified by these tests." Key findings are summarized below (by ingredient):
- Three products containing 7-keto-DHEA were tested. Preliminary research suggests that 200 mg of 7-Keto-DHEA may help decrease body weight and fat composition. One product did not list a specific amount of 7-keto-DHEA, and was found to provide no more than 71 mg per day. Two other products passed testing.
- Four products containing bitter orange were tested. Bitter orange has taken the place of another stimulant, ephedra, in many supplements that are now "ephedra free." A recent small clinical study at the University of San Francisco, however, suggests that the combination of bitter orange and caffeine may cause significant cardiovascular side effects. One product contained 276 mg of caffeine (equivalent to about 6 cans of cola) along with 55 mg of synephrine mg from bitter orange (it also contained 7-keto-DHEA). Another supplement, marketed to body builders, contained caffeine equal to 14.5 cans of cola and 59 mg of synephrine. Two other products contained their claimed amounts of bitter orange with no other stimulant.
- Six chromium supplements were tested. Chromium is important for insulin function, may produce modest weight loss, and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in some individuals. Only 25% of the labeled amount of chromium was in one product — despite the fact that its label had a "cGMP certified" seal and indicated it to be "laboratory tested." It also contained 180 mg of caffeine per day. A very popular product provided 42% more chromium than claimed, yielding 641 mcg of chromium per maximum daily serving. This is of some concern because of occasional reports of toxicity associated with long-term daily use of amounts over 600 mcg. This product also contained 346 mg of caffeine in a maximum daily serving. Furthermore, this product and one other were found to contain relatively high levels of the form of chromium publicized in the movie Erin Brokavich — hexavalent chromium, a potential carcinogen and toxin. ConsumerLab.com required products to have no more than 0.1% of their total chromium in this form to pass testing. In these two products, 0.4% and 3.8%, respectively, of the total chromium was hexavalent chromium. It is not known whether these amounts are sufficient to cause harm, but it seems prudent to avoid such exposure. Three chromium products passed testing (including one that also contained bitter orange).
- Seven CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) supplements were tested. CLA does not cause weight loss, but may help improve the ratio of muscle to fat in the body. One product contained only 75% of its CLA, while the six others passed the testing.
- One supplement containing hydroxycitric acid (HCA) was tested. HCA, obtained from the fruit of Garcinia cambogia, may aid in weight loss, although results are mixed. The tested product had the labeled amount of HCA but also contained 2.6 micrograms of lead — 5 times the amount allowed by the State of California in a supplement without a warning label.
- Two pyruvate products were tested. Pyruvate occurs naturally in the body and may modestly aid weight loss. One product claimed 1,000 mg of a "pyruvate complex" which turned out to contain only 600 mg of pyruvate. It also did not fully break apart in disintegration testing, raising concern that it might not release all of its ingredients in the body. This product was twice the price of another product that had an equivalent amount of pyruvate but was correctly labeled.
- Two popular products containing proprietary stimulant blends were tested for their caffeine levels. These products were made with caffeine-containing herbs such as guarana, green tea, Yerba maté, and kola nut. One product packed a whopping 1,223 mg of caffeine per day — equivalent to 30 cans of cola. The other had 448 mg of caffeine per day, equivalent to the caffeine in 11 cans of cola or about 4 cups of coffee — despite the label claim that "the recommended dose of this product contains about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee." Consumers should be aware that weight loss products may contain large amounts of caffeine. Doses larger than 250-300 mg per day have been associated with irregular heart rhythm and can cause insomnia, nervousness, tremors, gastric irritation, nausea, headache and increased urination. The product with the highest caffeine also provided 90 mg of niacin per day, which can cause skin tingling and flushing.
ConsumerLab.com screened all stimulant-based products (including those with bitter orange) for potential adulteration with non-listed stimulants such as amphetamine, ephedrine, fenfluramine, methamphetamine, phentermine, and phenylpropanlamine. None of these were detected.
In addition to the products selected by ConsumerLab.com, five products (including one made from green tea) are included in the reports for passing the same testing through ConsumerLab.com's Voluntary Certification Program. These products are from Nutrilite (Nutrilite® Chrompic Extra and Nutrilite® CLA 500), Nature's Bounty (Nature's Bounty® Green Tea Extract), Puritan's Pride (Puritan's Pride® Green Tea Extract) and Vitamin World (Vitamin World® CLA 1000 mg). A CLA raw material (CLAOne® from PharmaNutrients) also passed testing through ConsumerLab.com's Raw Material Testing Program.
ConsumerLab.com's Dr. Cooperman offered the following advice to people who consider using a weight loss supplement:
- Look for single-ingredient products, as they tend to be of more reliable quality. Be wary of "proprietary blends" as they don't tell you the amount of each ingredient.
- Diabetics should first check with a doctor, as these products may affect blood sugar levels.
- Anyone with cardiovascular problems or risks should be extremely careful with supplements containing large amounts of caffeine, caffeine-containing herbs as guarana, and/or other stimulants such as synephrine from bitter orange.
Amounts are often not labeled, so check the findings on www.consumerlab.com.
- Dieting and exercise are the only sure bets to weight loss.
The new reports are available at www.consumerlab.com as three separate Product Reviews: Weight Loss Supplements, Chromium Supplements and CLA Supplements. The reports provide results for each product, ingredient comparisons, and expert tips on buying and using these supplements. Reviews of other popular types of supplements are also available at www.consumerlab.com. New Reviews to be released in coming weeks include calcium and vitamin D, supplements for memory enhancement (ginkgo biloba, huperzine A, and phosphatidylserine), and prostate supplements (saw palmetto and beta-sitosterol). The paperback ConsumerLab.com's Guide to Buying Vitamins and Supplements: What's Really in the Bottle? is available in bookstores, online, or through 800-431-1579.
ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and based in Westchester, New York. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products. ConsumerLab.com is affiliated with PharmacyChecker.com, an evaluator of online pharmacies, and MedicareDrugPlans.com, which reviews and rates Medicare Part D plans. Subscription to ConsumerLab.com is available online. For group subscriptions or product testing contact Lisa Sabin, Vice President for Business Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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