The jig is up for on-line weight loss products, as British teen contracts hepatitis from drinking a green tea she purchased on the internet to “lose weight.” Here’s a wake up call for people purchasing any products that one ingests: it’s just not a good idea to do this sort of thing anonymously. And for you hawkers of weight loss products: herbal and pharmaceuticals carry the biggest risk, why not maintain the highest integrity with quality and support of your product? Oh might be because many, if not most, on-line companies which sell these products are overseas, and I doubt they are reading this post, but you the potential victim are. So here is the truth about many companies that sell supplements or drugs online: they do not care about your health!
The 16 year-old girl from London presented to her doctor with nausea, joint pain and nonspecific abdominal pain, as reported recently in the British Medical Journal Case Reports. Doctors gave the girl antibiotics to treat her for what they assumed was an infection, but she returned to the emergency room jaundiced with worsening symptoms. At that time, the girl told her doctors about drinking the green tea for weight loss.
“I had only lost a couple of pounds but then started having horrible pains in my joints, and felt very dizzy and sick,” she said in the study. “I was very scared when I was admitted to hospital and had lots of tests. I didn’t fully understand what was going on at the time.”
After doing multiple tests searching for viral causes to her illness, the teen’s doctors realized she had acute hepatitis, or an inflamed liver. Once the girl stopped drinking the tea and was given intravenous fluids and medication, she quickly recovered.
Doctors believe the liver damage was from a chemical mixed with the actual green tea, and not the tea leaves themselves, although the tea was not tested for contaminants. Green tea is non-toxic, but never put it past unscrupulous companies, or even unknowing ones, to boost product in either quantity or action. Contamination can occur at any stage from pesticides on crops, to mixing (compounding), to packaging. In this case, it was likely the “weight loss” compound added to the green tea, as green tea itself has no actual weight loss properties.
“We acknowledge that green tea is predominantly a very safe and healthy drink, with antioxidant properties,” the case study authors wrote, explaining secondary additives may cause harm. “This raises the possibility that it is the addition of other chemicals causing hepatotoxicity, (chemical-driven liver damage) particularly in preparations used for weight loss.”
It reminds me of a story that had an enormous impact on, not only my thinking on the subject of purchasing herbal supplements (or pharmaceuticals) on-line, but even merely taking herbal compounds. My longest-standing client (15 years – thank you MV), a director’s assistant at the time, roughly a decade ago, made her television directorial debut after the hired director had to pull out of the job at the last minute after being hospitalized for liver failure following the taking of herbs for “detoxing”, which incidentally she purchased online…from China! C’monnnnnnn… freakin’ duh!
That story stood out for me because I always remember one of my teachers in chiropractic college, Dr. Assibi Abudu, one of the greatest doctors and men I have ever met, a medical doctor, told my class that liver failure from ingesting herbs is a common occurrence; and I believed him, because Dr. Abudu wore his experience like a seasoned veteran, and I knew he’d seen many wars. And this experience my client relayed to me was simply confirmation – I did not need any more convincing, and I have advised people consistently with this information ever since: Unless you get herbs from a licensed and competent (careful, don’t assume) practitioner, don’t take them! At all…
Listen, herbs are no different from pharmaceuticals in that they are foreign substances to your body. At low levels they may be perfectly therapeutic, but at larger doses, they can be lethal. And they can be stepped-on, just like street drugs, by people stupider than you and me. Your body – primarily your liver and kidneys – will need to detoxify (neutralize) the compound, and then excrete it. Further, any active compound in the substance will have its own effects and side-effects. Knowing this, wouldn’t you feel safer with products that have been tested? In this regard, only pharmaceuticals make the grade. Not even nutritional supplements can boast significant numbers of companies testing their products; in fact, this is the number one black cloud over the supplement industry’s head. And herbs…? Fuhgdat! I wouldn’t ever, no sorry…
Be smart and do not buy herbs online. If you want to lose weight, you’d better understand that you will never, ever find a magic bullet; and even in so trying you might damage your health, as this British case shows. I would go as far as saying that you need to practice utmost scrutiny when choosing to buy from any supplement company, as you never know what you might be getting (or not getting, as is the case sometimes). Only buy from companies that you can confirm are legit.
Here is the resource I use to know, with no uncertainty, the quality of the supplements I use or sell: Consumer Labs.
And I live by the principle that if I am going to put a foreign substance in my body, whether pharmaceutical, “nutritional,” or herbal, I must be severely discriminating, and weigh the benefit to risks of doing so. Safety lies in testing, and that’s why pharmaceuticals come out the best, just beneath taking nothing at all, but far better than taking any other foreign substance. By not having stringent testing regulations, herbs and supplements just fall to the bottom of the barrel for me. I know lots of supplement sellers and companies that are going to have their feathers ruffled over what I am saying here, but sorry, if you have not gone through the stringent third party (not your own company or its agents) testing, then you are just not legit in my book. If you would love to show your legitimacy, then submit your product to Consumer Labs for evaluation.
Safety when taking any ingestible should always be top priority, and this should be rule of thumb:
Taking nothing > doctor prescribed pharmaceuticals > practitioner recommended herbs* > herbs sold retail from verifiable source (Whole Foods for instance) > herbs from person in alleyway > on-line.
*I would probably place homeopathic compounds here, although their dosages are so small that I doubt their toxicity, but I certainly wouldn’t take anything for granted.