WATCHDOGS has seized nearly 7,000 banned diet pills this year as thousands of Irish women influenced by photoshopped celebrities turn to a potentially deadly ‘quick fix’.
The twisted social media reality associated with the obesity problem in Ireland is pushing desperate people towards “magic” pills.
And the deadly DNP – a chemical often used as a fertilizer and pesticide but which was also present in the slimming pills that killed British college student Eloise Aimee Parry – still finds its way into Ireland. An online operation was closed at Co Tipperary earlier this year.
Nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly told The Irish Sun: “A lot of these pills are targeting a vulnerable population right now. Unfortunately, unlike the pharmaceutical industry or the food industry, it is very lightly regulated.
The Irish Sun can reveal that the Irish Health Products Regulatory Authority has seized 6,961 potentially fatal tablets, vials or capsules so far this year – after detecting 4,305 in 2020.
In May 2015, a man in his twenties died after taking banned diet pills he bought online, which experts said was the first of its kind in Ireland.
He took tablets containing the highly toxic substance dinitrophenol (DNP), which is commonly used in diet pills.
A year earlier, the English Eloise Aimee Parry, 21, died after taking DNP.
Her mother Fiona said two pills was a lethal dose and her daughter accidentally took eight.
She said Eloise had no intention of killing herself, adding, “She never really understood how dangerous the pills she took were.”
Ireland currently has a weight problem with a quarter of the population classified as obese.
The pill market is booming with one in five women between the ages of 18 and 24 admitting to taking pills to try and lose weight, according to a body survey in 2014.
Nutrition by Laurann boss O’Reilly said the industry is still “very unregulated”.
She explained: “A quarter of the Irish population is obese and we are one of the most affected countries in the EU in terms of obesity. We have a huge obesity epidemic among adults and children. One in five children in this country is obese.
“Covid has seen a lot of people turn to food for comfort and to be more sedentary. There were a lot of vulnerable people before, but there are a lot more now.
“Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of vulnerable people looking for a quick fix. They want a magic pill that they can take overnight that can solve all of their problems without having to exercise or eat a healthy balanced diet.
Some tablets claim to suppress the user’s appetite while others promise to burn fat which could damage the user’s body.
In 2019, Elaine Gormley, then 30, of Belleek, Co. Fermanagh, told The Irish Sun about her lucky escape after a terrifying reaction to the pills.
She said: “I ordered the pills online and they were delivered to me in a black jar.
“They were lime green and smelled a bit of marijuana. I got the impression they weren’t good. But the first day I took them I went to work and it was like an adrenaline rush.
“As the day went on, my hands were shaking. I ate more for lunch and got hot and cold.
“By day three, I had lost 8 pounds and I was like, ‘It’s okay. But on the fourth day I took them and within five minutes I thought I was having a heart attack.
Elaine later found out that Dexaprine tablets, which were banned for sale in the UK in 2014 but remained available for purchase online, were linked to a number of deaths.
Dexaprine is described as the “most powerful fat burner available on the market” and one tablet contains the caffeine dose of 40 cups of coffee.
Many are turning to the web to buy pills, but Laurann warns that it can get very dangerous because it’s hard to know what you are getting.
She said, “Unfortunately if you buy these pills online there is no going back. There is no quality control or security measures. You really don’t know what you are getting.
“It’s a bit of a lottery in terms of what you might get in the mail. It is very dangerous to go down this route when you are not sure what to buy.
“If you go this route alone and don’t do it in conjunction with your GP, nutritionist, or dietitian, there is a risk of developing an eating disorder.”
WHAT ARE DIET PILLS
DIET pills have different types of strategies for how they work. It depends on the ingredients they contain, and some can be safe, but some are not guaranteed.
They all do different things and make certain promises. Some promise reduction in fat absorption like fat fixation while others act as appetite suppressant.
Some are thermogenic and generate heat in the body of the person who took the tablet, causing them to burn for energy. Some of these pills work as a spicy food and contain capsaicin, an active component in chili peppers.
A common capsule is a capsule of cayenne pepper, which bursts in a person’s stomach and can cause bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, vomiting, headache. or gastrointestinal disturbances.
Laurann said: “It would be very rare that someone could actually tolerate these things, unless you have a stomach of steel.”
Other people may choose to take laxatives which Laurann describes as “very dangerous”. Laxatives are substances that dislodge stools and increase bowel movements, they are generally used to treat and prevent constipation.
They can become very addicting as a weight loss tool.
Many pills contain an excessive amount of caffeine.
A seemingly innocent ingredient until too much of it is ingested. Laurann said: “Caffeine stimulates the nervous system. It can also cause negative effects if taken in high doses. This can cause nervousness or a high heart rate.
“You might find that even 200 to 250 mg of caffeine in diet pills can work. “
According to the nutritionist, there are also “innocent” weight loss pills. Some pills contain chromium; which helps stabilize our blood sugar levels.
According to Laurann, that’s okay because chromium is a mineral that we need in our body. Another approach is to take pills that contain fiber.
However, she warned that there were most likely other ingredients in these tablets that might not be good for our health.
In February, an online business selling Tipperary’s “diet pills” was shut down when the Food Safety Authority discovered it contained the life-threatening DNP – which is not safe for human consumption.
In other diet pills, Laurann has said that fillers such as talc are used regularly in the small white tablets.
Laurann called for a government campaign designed to educate the public about the damage diet pills can do to your body.
She added that meal replacements that come in the form of low-calorie powdered foods can be just as bad for the body.
They can leave a person severely deprived of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients – and Laurann warned people need to be “really careful” of companies trying to hook vulnerable people with a subscription to their service. .
She added: “It is possible to enjoy a really healthy diet and lose weight at the same time.”
Meanwhile, an HPRA spokesperson said: “Any member of the public with concerns or information about the illegal supply of drugs containing anabolic steroids or slimming products should contact the HPRA Enforcement Section at 01 6343436. “