Fat pills thin on the truth

22 July 2013 - 02:02 By Calvin Turnbull
Many weight-loss products are not scheduled so manufacturers are not required to give information about the contents and effects
Many weight-loss products are not scheduled so manufacturers are not required to give information about the contents and effects

Last year I lost 6kg in a month. That may seem like a dream come true , especially for those who suffer from body image issues, like I did.

I did it with weight-loss supplements, and they only cost R120. But it was all too good to be true.

My experiences with XXX-CUTS by Muscle Nutrition exceeded my expectations - at a huge cost.

On the first day of my course (four capsules) I was reduced to a shivering wreck, broke into a cold sweat, felt nauseous, had headaches throughout the day and contracted a rash on my neck and face. I then halved the dose to alleviate the side effects, and it worked - enough to enable me to go about my day.

After a few days I decided feeling terrible couldn't be healthy, so I took the supplements 20 minutes before training, as the bottle instructed, sticking to half the dose. However, as soon as I upped the intensity of my non-cardio workout, my heartbeat increased drastically, making me light-headed and dizzy.

I was 19 and weighed 82kg when I started these particular supplements. I was at a top all-boys school and a sports fanatic, representing my school in two first-team sports. I started taking supplements at 16 and by 17 my consumption had become extreme - I had taken nearly everything the store had to offer, from proteins to creatines to pre-work out supplements.

I was a completely healthy male but the side effects of taking the weight-loss products changed that. The effects were worse with weight-loss pills than any muscle-building supplements I'd taken.

I started having questions about the ingredients in legal weight-loss products and asked why the Food and Drug Administration didn't ban them. The packaging of XXX-CUTS gives a comprehensive breakdown of what is in the capsules , but doesn't give quantities or the recommended daily allowance.

According to Dr Jon Patricios, president of the South African Sports Medicine Association, the companies that make the supplements are not required to give this info because their products are unscheduled and no one monitors them.

A key ingredient of many of the weight-loss products on the shelves is 1.3 Dimethylamylamine, which has an ergogenic effect on the body. This means it increases the body's capacity for mental and physical labour, while having adverse effects on blood pressure and rate pressure product (measure of stress put on the cardiac muscle based on the number of times it needs to beat per minute).

Before you take your next pill consider that consumers have no idea what is inside the capsule. There's no way to accurately predict side effects.

As the supplement salesperson at a store said when I asked about the huge amount of caffeine in a pre-workout supplement: ''They're made for bodybuilders, not for the average man."