Getty: Maarten Woulters

WEIGHT-LOSS WARNING: The risk of taking certain supplements is higher for black women, because we are more likely to have hypertension or heart disease. (Photo: Maarten Woulters/Getty Images)

The supplements you need to avoid now.

As many of us know, the label “all natural” is not an indication of safety when it comes to the seemingly endless supply of vitamin and herb-based supplements for sale online and at the local vitamin store. While many nutritional supplements are safe and helpful additions to a healthy diet and lifestyle plan, many others are produced by companies that attempt to make money by playing on the ignorance of consumers and gaps in the current laws designed to protect us.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filed charges (both criminal and civil) against 117 dietary supplement makers last week. One of the most notable cases focuses on USPlabs LLC of Dallas, maker of the extremely popular supplement Oxylite-Pro — sold as the “#1 fat-burner on the market,” made with “all natural ingredients.” In fact, the FDA says that the supplement is made with synthetic chemicals produced in China and it has been linked to several cases of acute hepatitis, a form of severe liver damage. The FDA also questions the safety of Jack3d, a bodybuilding supplement made by USPlabs.

Oxylite-Pro was tainted with a chemical called aegeline, a synthetic version of a chemical found in a tree that grows in parts of Asia. In some cases, the liver damage suffered by people who took the supplement was so severe that they needed liver transplants.

Beware of “Super” Supplements

This most recent case is yet another warning that you have to be extremely careful when selecting products even at trusted health food stores, because the current laws do not prevent these products from coming to market until they have been shown to do harm — and that can take years.

Take extra caution with non-prescription, weight-loss supplements not only because they may be toxic, like Oxylite-Pro, but also because they are often stimulants that raise heart rate and blood pressure, increasing your chances of stroke or cardiac arrest. The risk is higher for black women, because we are more likely to have hypertension or heart disease.

It’s best to avoid supplements that include:

  • Bitter orange, also called synephrine, can cause chest pain as well as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Ephedra may cause stroke, heart attack, and seizures.
  • Hoodia increases heart rate and blood pressure.

The best way to lose weight and keep it off is still eating moderate, healthy portions and exercising. Quick fixes to speed the metabolism, such as the supplements mentioned here, may put your health at risk.

Other diet supplement companies charged in this current FDA sweep include:

  • VivaCeuticals Inc. (Regeneca Worldwide), for selling a product called RegeneSlim Appetite Control containing the ingredient 1, 3 dimethylamylamine (DMAA), an unsafe food additive under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, but not declared on the label.
  • Health Nutrition Products, for using fake scientific advertising and fake weight-loss experts to make “false and misleading claims” about the effectiveness of the weight-loss products W8-B-Gone, CITRI-SLIM 4 and Quick & Easy diet pills
  • NPB Advertising Inc., for making fake weight-loss claims about the product Pure Green Coffee.