What Teens Need to Know About Diet Pills
Teen girls are famous for taking drastic measures to copy the wiafishly thin figures of starlets like Nicole Richie and Mary-Kate Olsen. Just how drastic? A new University of Minnesota study found that nearly 20 percent of 19-year-old girls use diet pills to trim pounds.
"Girls start taking diet pills as early as the seventh grade," warns Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, the study's lead researcher.
Ironically, habitual pill poppers are three times more likely to be overweight, probably because of other unhealthy weight loss behaviors like binging, vomiting and skipping meals.
According to Neumark-Sztainer, the ease of obtaining weight loss aids helps fuel this disturbing trend. Here are a few diet drugs your kids can readily purchase over-the-counter or on the Internet.
TrimSpa X32, diet teas, and weight loss patches contain Hoodia Gordonni, an herbal supplement of unproven safety and questionable weight loss benefit. Many of these products don't actually contain the ingredients listed on the label but when they do, beware. Side effects include chest pain, migraines and interaction with prescription drugs. But the most immediate danger is a thinning wallet: few teens can afford to shell out $15 or more for a week's supply.
Fat and Carb Blockers:
Fat blockers like Chitosol and Fat Absorber TDSL typically contain chitosan, a shellfish extract that can unleash a whole host of nasty reactions including diarrhea, oily discharge and allergic reactions -- plus there's zero scientific proof it works. Carb blockers like EZ-Trim, TrimSpa and CarbSpa list chromium picolinate and/or vanadium as active ingredients; both have demonstrated minor weight loss effects in the lab but the dosage your teen would have to take to see any results puts her at risk for kidney or liver damage.
Claim to boost body temperature, burn fat, cook through calories. That's what Hydroxycut, Xenadrine EFX, and other products containing ephedra, bitter orange, green tea extract, caffeine and a long list of other stimulants purport to do. Most are worthless attempts. However, in some studies, ephedra users lost an extra pound or so a month -- hardly worth the gamble of developing high blood pressure, having a heart attack or dropping dead before the age of 20. These dire consequences are why the FDA banned high doses of the herbal supplement in 2004 and why your teenage girl shouldn't use any product that contains it.
Supplements in this category claim to cut the production of the cortisol, a hormone associated with stress-related eating and excess belly fat. High cortisol levels aren't an issue for most teens and besides, no studies back up the claims made by brands like CortiDiet, CortiSlim, CortiSol, and Relacore that they actually lower cortisol levels or help battle weight gain at any age. Even more of a concern, tests of some products reveal high levels of metal, lead and chromium contamination and large amounts of stimulating agents like caffeine and ephedra not listed on the label.