In recent years, a new obsession emerged around the world, an obsession with ‘’fitness’’, and specifically weight loss. Due to the increase in the rate of obesity people have been searching around for ‘’magic pills’’ that can help them stay in shape. With the rise of social media, people nowadays rush towards supplement markets to buy products that promise them results such as fat loss, fat burning, lean muscle gain, and weight loss with no serious side effects. With hundreds of brands in the markets and thousands of stores, supervision over such sales has not been efficient. The market is full of fake, illicitly obtained, or simply dangerous products that are sold daily all around the globe.
What is Hydroxycut?
Hydroxycut is a variety of products sold by Iovate Health Sciences International and MuscleTech as weight loss supplements. Since it is a supplement and not a drug, it does not need approval to be sold, and similar to other brands promising weight loss, the evidence behind the claim is greatly insufficient. Very few studies have been made on the effectiveness of fat-burning products including the Hydroxycut family. The primary ingredients in the product line include caffeine, lady’s mantle extract (Alchemilla Vulgaris), wild olive extract (Olea europaea), cumin extract (Cuminum cyminum), wild mint extract (Mentha longifolia), and, in some products, green coffee bean extract (Coffea canephora).
The history of Hydroxycut
Since its emergence in the early 2000s, the Hydroxycut family has been subject to several lawsuits and reformulations. The first issue with the product occurred in 2004. Ephedra, a component in Hydroxycut at the time, was banned by the FDA due to reports of seizures among users. MuscleTech reformulated the product and removed Ehephedera yet the product was still not touted safe.
Even after reformulation the supplement still contained several substances with the potential to harm the liver such as Hydroxycitric acid. With the product selling to millions each year, it was only a matter of time before reports of health issues began to surface. Several studies and researches showed evidence of liver-related issues due to the use of the product. After receiving 23 reports on the product, the FDA issued a warning to consumers to stop using Hydroxycut products. Following the FDA warning in 2009, MuscleTech Company recalled their products for the market in plans of new reformulations. Ingredients suspected of causing liver damage (such as Hydroxycitric acid from Garcinia cambogia and EGCG from green tea) were taken out. The main ingredients of the final formulations are Arabica and Robusta coffee.
Side effects of Hydroxycut
Yet despite the changes made, reports of related side effects remained. Users of the product reported the following symptoms.
- Manic episodes
- Caffeine Overdose
- Increased heart rate
- liver damage
- Brown urine
- Abdominal pain
- and vomiting
Although the manufacturers claim that the product is clinically proven and safe, many reports suggest otherwise. The 23 reports to the FDA mentioned liver damage in Hydroxycut users — ranging from inflammation to liver transplant due to tissue death. The supplement was also linked to one death
In a new study, reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers inspected 17 cases of liver damage among Hydroxycut users. The researchers reviewed the patients’ medical histories and risk and found no possible causes of liver damage.
Does Hydroxycut really burn fat?
The research as mentioned above is limited and not comprehensive, yet some studies show some positive results. Nonetheless, the studies provided by the company are regarded as insufficient in terms of the subject pool and period of testing.
Another problem lies in one of the main ingredients and in the way that it works. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, preventing the activation of an enzyme that breaks down cAMP. This increase in cAMP promotes fat breakdown. However, long-term caffeine intake triggers an increased production of adenosine receptors, which leads to tolerance.
Why people buy unsafe products
A major reason why such products are on-demand is that companies launch huge marketing campaigns promoting their products. They recruit famous people as brand ambassadors, spread good reviews and results, and even pay researchers to focus on the positives of their brand.
Despite experts insisting that the key to weight loss and good health is a balanced diet and an active lifestyle, people still look for shortcuts. The fitness culture of our time is affected to a great degree by social media and trends. People who are frustrated by their weight are often desperate enough to believe an advertisement that they see on Instagram or Facebook. They look at a world champion who uses a product and think that it will do miracles for them, when in fact professionals and athletes follow strict diets and lifestyles to reach their goals.
Health experts and searchers have shown over the years that the ideal way to achieve and maintain the weight loss is through dieting. There are different options to choose from and each person will find a diet that is more suitable. The most common way to lose weight is by consuming fewer calories than what your body burns. Another important factor is the quality of food. Since most jobs today are sedentary, exercise can prove vital in increasing metabolism and promoting fat burning. In terms of supplements, there are many products that are approved by the FDA and are well researched. For those looking for a lifestyle change and weight loss, take a look at our page.
“FDA Warns Consumers to Stop Using Hydroxycut Products”. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Dara, L., Hewett, J., & Lim, J. K. (2008). Hydroxycut hepatotoxicity: a case series and review of liver toxicity from herbal weight loss supplements. World journal of gastroenterology, 14(45), 6999–7004. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.14.6999
Kaswala, D., Shah, S., Patel, N., Raisoni, S., & Swaminathan, S. (2014). Hydroxycut-induced Liver Toxicity. Annals of medical and health sciences research, 4(1), 143–145. https://doi.org/10.4103/2141-9248.126627
Tyler Stevens, MD, Asif Qadri, MD, Nizar N. Zein, MD
Sharma, T., Wong, L., Tsai, N., & Wong, R. D. (2010). Hydroxycut(®) (herbal weight loss supplement) induced hepatotoxicity: a case report and review of literature. Hawaii medical journal, 69(8), 188–190.
Hollands MA, Arch JR, Cawthorne MA. A simple apparatus for comparative measurements of energy expenditure in human subjects: the thermic effect of caffeine. Am J Clin Nutr. 1981 Oct;34(10):2291-4. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/34.10.2291. PMID: 7293955