05 February 2010

Simply Slim in the firing line

Popular diet product Simply Slim has been in the firing line of the press and online forums over reports that the product causes serious side-effects. DietDoc comments.


2010 is turning into “The Year for Debunking Slimming Myths”. In January, networks were buzzing with the news that pharmaceutical diet pills containing sibutramine such as Reductil and Ciplatrim have been found to cause heart and circulatory problems and may soon be banned in the EU and other countries.

Now Simply Slim is the latest diet product to be in the firing line of newspapers and internet sites. According to a host of postings on the Weight Loss section of Health24, readers have been reporting serious side-effects after taking Simply Slim.

According to an article by Antoinette Pienaar published in Beeld, a Johannesburg cardiologist Dr Andrew Sarkin, is concerned about the negative effects of Simply Slim because he has had to treat four patients, who reportedly took this diet pill, for heart symptoms.

Sarkin listed palpitations, respiratory problems, dizziness, abnormal ECGs, insomnia and angina pain as some of the symptoms his patients reportedly developed when using Simply Slim (Pienaar, 2010A).

Other doctors reported that their patients had developed severe abdominal pain, high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias (Pienaar, 2010A).

Does Simply Slim contain sibutramine?

Another controversy that is raging in the press at the moment, concerns the allegations that Simply Slim contains sibutramine, the compound that is being investigated for its negative effects on heart health and hypertension as reported last week.

According to another article published in Die Burger, Gys Nieuwenhuizen, a chemical engineer of the Pharmaworx Laboratory in Midrand, reported that tests conducted at the laboratory had found sibutramine in capsules marked Simply Slim.

Other diet pills such as Forme Slim, Nu-Evo and HNS New Me, were also found to contain sibutramine (Pienaar, 2010B).

Pharmaworx carried out their tests after the SABS had found sibutramine in the contents of a carton with the Simply Slim label (Pienaar, 2010B).

Justin Adriaanse, the Executive Head of Simply Slim has denied that his product contains any sibutramine and intimated that there is a “conspiracy” against the company.

The Medicines Control Council of SA is at present investigating these claims and counter-claims and will hopefully publish their conclusions in the not too distant future.

Ingredients of Simply Slim

Although we currently don’t know with certainty that Simply Slim does contain sibutramine, the other ingredients that are listed on the packaging are also cause for concern.

According to the label, Simply Slim contains that following ingredients:

  • Bitter Orange Extract (Bigarade Orange or Neroli)
  • Cassia seed
  • Aloe Vera
  • Alisma orientalis
  • L-Carnitine
  • Lotus or Water Lily
  • Evening Primrose Oil
  • Dietary Fibre
  • Dextrose

Potential Side-effects and Functions


The Bitter Orange Extract contains synephrine and is an appetite suppressant. Synephrine is a form of epinephrine that can cause a whole list of negative side effects including palpitations, insomnia, psychotic states and worst of all, addiction.

Other forms of epinephrine have been banned in over-the-counter products and slimmers should not use any product that contains synephrine. 


Cassia seed and aloe vera are laxatives that may cause loss of normal bowel movements and dehydration if taken in excess.

Alisma orientalis

This herbal extract acts as a diuretic. Excessive use of diuretics can cause electrolyte depletion (loss of potassium and sodium via the kidneys), which can in turn lead to serious conditions and even be fatal. Reports that Simply Slim users drink vast volumes of water may be related to the presence of a diuretic in the formulation.

While maintaining adequate hydration of the human body is essential, overdoing water and/or liquid intake can literally be fatal as has been demonstrated in the Comrades’ Marathon where athletes die as a result of drinking too much water and lowering their body potassium and sodium levels to dangerously low levels.


L‑carnitine should not be taken by anyone with thyroid problems as it suppresses thyroid function.

Lotus or Water Lily

It is not clear why Lotus or Water Lily is being added to a slimming product because it is usually used as an aphrodisiac. It may be added to make users “feel euphoric” as one advertisement for Blue Lotus states.

Evening Primrose Oil and Dietary Fibre

Evening primrose oil and dietary fibre should basically not be harmful and can probably be used without serious ill effects. However, some forms of dietary fibre used in slimming pills can cause abdominal pain and bloating.


Dextrose is probably added as a sweetener to improve the taste.

Sensible Weight Loss

As one of my readers pointed out on the DietDoc Message Board: "People who continue taking potentially harmful slimming product are Simply Stupid!"

I agree wholeheartedly.

My recommendation would be not to use this kind of product and to rather stick to a balanced, low‑fat, low-GI diet and regular exercise to achieve safe, sensible weight-loss.

But we live in a world where quick fixes are the rage and most people are not prepared to give their bodies a chance to lose weight slowly and sensibly.

Hopefully the Medicines Control Council will provide us with the results of their investigation of Simply Slim, Forme Slim, Nu-Evo and HNS New Me and let the public know if these over-the-counter slimming products also contain sibutramine or not, and if necessary withdraw them from the market.

(References: Pienaar, A (2010A): Verslankers se hart raak op hol, Beeld, 23 January 2010. Pienaar, A (2010B): Omstrede middel in kapsule vir verslanking, Die Burger, 28 January 2010. )

Any questions? Ask DietDoc

(Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc, February 2010)

Read more:

Will diet pill be banned?

Another diet scam exposed

Lose 19kg in 3 weeks!


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