A UAE doctor issued a warning to the public over the health hazards of online pills promising a quick-fix weight loss.
Dr Monther Al Saad, a consultant gastroenterologist and endoscopist at Al Madar Medical Centre in Sharjah, said unlicensed medication should be "strictly forbidden" and called on people to adopt more nutritious diets and better lifestyles to boost their health.
His message came after health authorities cautioned against buying weight-loss products online, because some may contain chemicals that can cause health problems.
“Unlicensed weight-loss medicine can cause an increase in heartbeat, allergies and other health problems. It poses a danger to our health and should be strictly forbidden,” Dr Al Saad said.
“There are approved herbal pills from the health authorities in the UAE that are available at pharmacies. These can be used to reduce weight.”
He said people should have a healthy lifestyle and avoid sugar, sweets and carbohydrates to reduce weight.
Last week, the Department of Health in Abu Dhabi urged people not to buy a Dh200 capsule package that promised rapid weight loss.
Laboratory results showed the product contains phenolphthalein, a chemical that the US Food and Drug Administration has classified unsafe.
“Studies have shown that phenolphthalein can be carcinogenic and can cause genetic defects,” the Department of Health in Abu Dhabi said in a statement.
“The product is not registered with the Ministry of Health and Community Protection.”
It also said some people use such weight-loss supplements without understanding what they contain and how they can affect their health.
Side-effects of taking health shortcuts
Personal fitness and kick-boxing trainer, Egyptian Mustafa Ismail, 28, said using slimming drugs promoted online can be very dangerous and may threaten lives.
He said one of his clients suffered severe side effects after using slimming products.
“The lady weighed 150 kilograms and asked me to train her. She was using weight-loss tablets that she bought online and which gave her mood swings, sleeping problems, depression, high blood pressure and increased heartbeat,” he told The National.
He said she did not lose weight after using the capsules for two months.
“I told her to stop taking the tablets and put her on a diet. A few days later, she stopped suffering from the symptoms caused by the drug,” Mr Mustafa said.
“We should not try any slimming pill that we see online or any new diet that we hear of. Our bodies are not an experimental lab and these things could kill us.”
In less than six months of proper dieting and working out, she lost nearly 25kg, he said.
A Jordanian woman, 39, who spoke anonymously, said she bought slimming tablets online to help her to lose weight after she gave birth to her second child.
“To be honest, I wasn’t very fat, but for a while, I became obsessed with the idea of having the same figure I had before I gave birth to any of my children,” she said.
“There were tempting offers and glamorous advertisements online with probably fake reviews, and I didn’t think twice before buying the drug.”
Days after taking the tablets, she said she started suffering from digestion and sleeping problems and increased heartbeat.
“I would spend between two to three hours rolling in bed before I could finally fall asleep. It was scary, my heart was beating fast and this continued for at least 10 days before I noticed it must have been caused by the drug,” she said.
She said a pharmacist friend told her to stop taking the drugs and the symptoms disappeared a few days later.
“I was disappointed and felt scammed because they are selling us false hopes and risking our lives,” she said.