15 July 2010

Slimming not so 'simple'

The "new" sibutramine-free Simply Slim diet pill has left many desperate slimmers dismayed at the lack of results. DietDoc comments.

I am constantly asked by users to comment on “new” over-the-counter slimming pills or slimming diets which are launched with monotonous regularity at a rate of about 1 or 2 a week. The problem with all these “magic” diets, pills and potions that promise you instant and exaggerated weight loss, is that most of them cost a lot of money but don’t work and many of them can have serious side-effects. But the public in South Africa, like their counterparts all over the world, are frantic to lose weight and will grasp at any chance to shed unwelcome kilograms, even if they know that a product can potentially be harmful.

Duping the public becoming more difficult

I am glad to see that in some cases it is becoming more difficult for diet pill manufacturers to dupe the public. The slimming scene in South Africa was rocked by scandal earlier this year when the product Simply Slim was recalled by the Medicines Control Council (MCC) (see Simply Slim in the firing line and The slimming saga continues). Users of the original Simply Slim product started experiencing serious side-effects such as palpitations, heart arrhythmias, angina pain and other cardiovascular symptoms that generated so much negative publicity that the MCC stepped in.

Investigations by the MCC revealed that the original Simply Slim which had been promoted as a "safe, herbal, 100% natural product without side-effects" actually contained a chemical called sibutramine in doses that far exceeded the recommended levels of this drug which is used in registered pharmacological slimming pills such as Reductil and Ciplatrim. The original Simply Slim contained nearly double the dose of sibutramine that is used in Reductil or Ciplatrim.

In addition the presence of sibutramine in the product was not disclosed on the label and there were no warnings that the product should only be used under the strict supervision of a medical doctor. Reductil and Ciplatrim are classified as Schedule 5 drugs which may only be prescribed by a medical doctor with the proviso that anyone with heart, blood pressure or circulatory problems should not use medications containing sibutramine.

A recent report suggested that the EU is considering the ban of all medications that contain sibutramine (Richwine, 2010), because the SCOUT Study found that 11.4% of subjects receiving sibutramine had died, or had a heart attack, a stroke or cardiac arrest compared to 10% of the subjects who were given placebo treatment.

The original Simply Slim was, therefore, recalled from the market in February of this year.

The 'new' Simply Slim

Understandably the manufacturers and distributors of the original Simply Slim were anxious to recapture what must have been a gold mine and have rapidly launched the 'new' version of Simply Slim. Everywhere giant billboards proclaim that the new product is now available and just as effective as the old one.

While I am not prepared to fork out nearly R600 to buy a packet of the "new’" Simply Slim to check the ingredients, I was curious to determine if users of the new product were satisfied with it, now that sibutramine had probably been removed from the formulation. A quick visit to showed that the revamped Simply Slim probably minus its sibutramine, does not seem to be delivering the promised slimming results.

Ever since May of this year when the "new" Simply Slim returned to the SA market, users have been registering their dissatisfaction and dismay at the lack of results they are experiencing. Leigh (25 May 2010) suggests that the product should rather be called "Simply Gain" and complains that the company has to date refused to give her a refund when she regained all the weight she had initially lost with the original version of the product.

Other irate users slate the "new" Simply Slim as "false advertising" (Sunita P, 31 May 2010), and complain that instead of suppressing appetite, the "new" product seems to stimulate appetite and cause weight gain instead of weight loss (JoJo, 13 June 2010). The latter user advises other slimmers to consult a medical doctor to change over to Ciplatrim which does contain sibutramine and can assist weight loss.

The general consensus is that the "new" Simply Slim is no longer as effective as the original formulation. At a price that is quoted to vary from R590 to R599, it is simply not worthwhile spending so much money on a product if it does not produce the desired results.

The sensible approach

So what should desperate South Africans do who want to lose weight now that they have been deprived of a quick, though potentially highly dangerous, solution to their problem?

The answer is to use a balanced, low-fat, high-fibre diet with a moderately reduced energy content and regular aerobic exercise like brisk walking, jogging, skipping, rowing, swimming (find a heated pool during winter!), or working out in a gym for 30 or more minutes a day.

If you find that you are not losing cm or kg after a month on this regimen, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the use of sibutramine as an appetite suppressant. The doctor will decide if you are a candidate for using sibutramine (e.g. if you don’t have heart, blood pressure or circulatory problems) and monitor your progress and any side-effects you may develop.

Patients who do not respond with weight loss after a month or two should stop using sibutramine and change over to a low-fat, low-glycaemic index (GI) diet. It is always better and safer not to use any medications to achieve weight loss.

To successfully implement a low-fat, low-GI diet it is advisable to consult a dietician because it can be tricky to apply this type of diet until you get used to how it works. Using a low-GI diet does not mean you can eat as much low-GI carbohydrate as you like. You also need to reduce your energy intake and increase your energy output if you want to achieve weight loss, hence the importance of having expert advice and guidance from your dietician. Visit the Association for Dietetics in SA's website to find a dietician in your area.

Don’t expose yourself to the negative and often disastrous effects of using over-the-counter slimming pills and fad diets to lose weight, no matter what their ads promise, and also try to avoid all pharmacological slimming medications. The sensible approach may take a bit longer, but you won’t ruin your health and waste money if you approach weight loss intelligently.

Request from DietDoc

I would appreciate it if a user who has purchased the "new" Simply Slim, would carefully list the ingredients of the new formulation and post them on the DietDoc Message Board for me.


( - Simply Slim comments; Richwine L (2010). EU agency ban on diet drug. Reuters Health.2010-01-21)

-          (Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc, July 2010)

Any questions? Ask DietDoc


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Read more:

The dodgy ingredients of diet pills
Simply Slim in the firing line
The slimming pill saga continues

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