Tongue patches & tapeworm pills: the dodgiest ways to lose weight

In the wake of the Secret Fat Burner scandal, we look at some other questionable diets and weight-loss products that have done the rounds over the years

18 March 2018 - 00:00 By Jessica Brodie
Make sure you know exactly what ingredients are in a diet pill before you take it.
Make sure you know exactly what ingredients are in a diet pill before you take it.
Image: 123RF/citalliance

Secret Fat Burner, a weight-loss product that's available locally online, recently caused a stir after it was discovered that it contains the illegal ingredient sibutramine, as well as other substances that were not disclosed on the label. 

Sibutramine was banned in South Africa and Europe in 2010, after a study of 10,000 people showed that this appetite suppressant was linked to a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and death.

In the wake of this scandal, we look at some other dodgy diets and weight-loss products that have done the rounds over the years:

THE TONGUE PATCH

What is it? A patch is stitched to the tongue of the dieter to make the consumption of solid food painful. Invented by a plastic surgeon in America, it's been criticised as being a modern version of wiring mouths shut.

THE TAPEWORM PILL

What is it? The original bad idea, tapeworm eggs or larvae were encapsulated in pill form. Once in your digestive system the tapeworm hatches and attaches itself to your intestine, it begins to feed off your body's nutrients and grows by reproducing proglottids, its chain-like body segments.

THE JAPANESE WEIGHT LOSS PILL

What it is? A supplement imported from Japan known as Xiushentang, marketed as Japan Rapid Weight Loss Diet Pills in three colours: green, yellow, and blue. The active ingredient is not legal in most countries due to proven links to heart attack and stroke.

CLEN FAT BURNER

What is it? Clenbuterol is a steroid used to treat respiratory illnesses in horses. It's not approved for human use, but is taken illegally by athletes and models to boost muscle mass and lose weight.

THE BRAZILIAN DIET PILL

What is it? Nutritional supplements imported from Brazil, sold under the name of Emagrece Sim and Herbaslim. Ingredients include Librium, the antidepressant Prozac, and stimulant Fenproporex. The uppers-downers combination can cause mood swings.

THE K-E DIET

What is it? Otherwise known as the ''feeding tube diet", a naso-gastric tube is inserted through the nose, delivering a nutrient solution directly into the stomach, which is carefully kilojoule controlled to promulgate weight loss.

• Additional reporting by Katherine Child.