Slimming pills in the spotlight

By admin
19 February 2010

The advertisement instantly caught Mandy Saayman’s attention. “Forget about demanding gym sessions, starvation diets and those continuous feelings of frustration and heartbreak,” the ad declared.

Mandy (45), a Pretoria lawyer, didn’t need much encouragement to try a new diet product. Over the past few years she’d accumulated weight around her waist and a pill that was 100 per cent natural and guaranteed miracle results sounded fantastic, she thought.

But Mandy wasn’t surprised when she recently heard news that all might not be well with Simply Slim. She knew from day one that there was no way the capsule she took in the morning contained only herbs.

She lost 7 kg in two months and, like many other users, paid little attention to the news the product contained high dosages of sibutramine, a Schedule 5 stimulant and appetite suppressant that may be used only under doctor’s supervision.

Soon after the news was released the Medicines Control Council (MCC) summarily banned sales of Simply Slim early this month.

Mandy openly admits her appearance is so important to her she doesn’t mind taking a chance with her health.

Graham Alexander, clinical psychologist at Chrysalis Clinic in Cape Town, says he’s not surprised people put their health on the line for an attractive figure. He has treated people with eating disorders and weight problems for 20 years.

“There is no slimming product that offers an instant cure for obesity,” he says. “Advertisements should be strictly regulated or completely banned.”

This is exactly where the problem lies - advertisers of slimming products aren’t properly regulated.

Harris Steinman of Cape Town, a medical doctor and consumer activist, believes South African consumers have been misled for so long it’s little wonder people don’t realise the dangers of slimming products such as Simply Slim.

“The Medicines Control Council expects companies to be able to produce scientific research to prove supplementary medicines are safe and effective but this is rarely evaluated or monitored,” he says.

He has made more than 100 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) and through his efforts several advertisements with unfounded slimming claims have been banned, such as those of Homemark’s Peal Away the Pounds, Homemark Slender C, Homemark SlimCoffee, Bioslim’s Fat Attack, Once a Day and Soup Lite, Glohealth Hoodia Slender Gel, LeanOR and Verimark 02-Lean.

Some manufacturers simply change the product’s name or replace one ingredient when they’re criticised.

“The authorities who were supposed to protect our health over the past 10 years have failed lamentably. Any company can put a life-threatening product on the market and there are no proper controls preventing them from doing so,” Steinman says.

Read more on the subject in YOU this week (25 Feb issue).

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