In December 2013, plaintiff Ashley Brady filed a class-action lawsuit against Basic Research, the company behind Zantrex-3. In the suit, reality TV star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was cited for false advertising by endorsing Zantrex-3, a weight-loss and energy pill. The charges against the manufacturer claimed that Zantrex-3 was a glorified caffeine pill that could be harmful to both people with heart disease and the obese. The lead plaintiff argued that the combination of caffeine, yerba mate, green tea, and guarana were not only unsafe, but also ineffective for weight control and appetite suppression. Brady won on charges of unsubstantiated representations of the dietary supplement. These false advertising claims were namely that the pill was sold as effective for rapid weight-loss without the need for diet and exercise.
Saninah Theodore, an Army Reservist, is suing Natural Food Health Center in New York for selling Natural Lipo-X after she experienced some troubling side effects after taking the drug. These side effects included debilitating insomnia, auditory hallucinations, and uncharacteristic aggression. After she took the yellow and green pill, violent outbreaks required Theodore to be committed to four days of involuntary psychological treatment. The Natural Lipo-X supplements allegedly contain a variety of illegal chemicals not listed on the label which the plaintiff argues made her suffer both psychologically and financially. The lawsuit is still being argued.
In 2009, the FDA issued a recall of Hydroxycut diet pills, drinks, and powders after 23 consumers filed reports of serious liver problems. Other reported health issues include seizures, cardiovascular disorders, and muscle damage that could lead to kidney failure. The supposed benefits of these products were marketed to boost energy, burn calories and fat, and suppress appetite. Since Hydroxycut was sold as a “dietary supplement,” it didn’t need to comply with FDA regulations or approval. The diet products have since been reformulated.
In 2012, Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian were sued for $5 million in a lawsuit that implicated them in Quicktrim’s false advertising. The plaintiffs argued that Quicktrim’s marketing claims were false, and that the pills did not work as the Kardashian spokespeople alleged they did. Although the lawsuit was eventually dismissed, the FDA has not deemed caffeine, the main ingredient in the supplement, a safe or legitimate weight-loss product.
In 2010, fitness celebrity Jillian Michaels was sued for endorsing Triple Process Total Body Detox & Cleanse, a diet cleanse supplement. Along with manufacturer Thin Care International, Michaels was accused of wrongdoing because the pills contained allegedly harmful ingredients. It was reported that it didn’t reduce belly bloat, increase energy, or reduce “body waste buildup” as it was marketed to do. The harmful ingredients in question were Irish moss powder (which the plaintiff argues causes ulcers), bearberry (which can cause nausea and vomiting), and Chinese rhubarb (a natural but potent laxative). This was the fourth time that Michaels has been sued for endorsing and selling dangerous diet pill supplements, but all four lawsuits were later dismissed.
In 2013, the FDA recalled OxyElite Pro Supplements after being linked to a number of complaints including acute liver failure, hepatitis, one death, and liver damage that resulted in the need for a transplant. One of the dubious ingredients that may have caused these side effects is aegeline, which was never proven to be safe. The pill manufacturers added this ingredient to their supplement without notice to the FDA. OxyElite Pro also contains methylhexanamine (DMAA), which has been shown to have similar side-effects to those of amphetamines, including increased blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
Xenadrine is a nutritional supplement made up of ephedrine, which is extracted from the ephedra plant. Although it is extracted from a natural ingredient, xenadrine has similar physical effects to those of amphetamines, and can significantly raise a person’s heart rate and blood pressure. In 2002, 100 ephedrine-related deaths were reported to the FDA, mostly due to heart-related side-effects. People have also reported dangerous psychotic episodes and its mind-altering side effects are even marked on the label. Because of numerous complaints about the harmful nature of the substance, the FDA, medical associations, and watchdog groups are demanding better labeling or an eventual ban of supplements that contain ephedrine.
Sensa weight-loss products come in the form of small crystals that you sprinkle on your food before eating. The company’s ads claimed that you “simply sprinkle Sensa on, eat all the foods you love, and watch the pounds come off.” Unfortunately, there’s no scientific evidence that Sensa works, nor are there any controlled case studies that can prove that they do. The FTC fined the company $46.5 million for false advertising.
LeanSpa was recently fined for promoting acai berry and “colon cleanse” diet supplements through fake news websites. They are now forbidden from promoting their products until they are tested in at least two legitimate clinical trials. LeanSpa settled for $7 million in cash and real estate with the FTC.