• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Weight-loss drugs make hefty claims

March 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
You're at the drug store and you eye a bottle that promises to help lose weight rapidly. Should you give it a try? Some products could be a waste of money. Others might even be harmful. An expert tells us what we need to know about all these products.They tempt you with claims of rapid weight loss and more energy. These nicely packaged promises contain natural herbs and substances manufacturers say block fat, reduce fat and even speed up metabolism. Every year, millions of people get lured in.

"It's surprising to me that people buy them because they think they are medicinal products. A sucker is born every minute," said

Chitosan, chromium, green tea -- they're touted as fat blockers, muscle builders and calorie burners, but Huntington Hospital internal medicine expert Dr. John de Bexeidon says you shouldn't believe any of the hype, because none of these herbs are regulated.

"So they can make any claim they want and the claims never have to be based in reality," said Dr. de Beixedon.

He says when you boil them down the active ingredients are basically diuretics, laxatives and stimulants.

"There is no weight loss over a long period of time and it's almost a placebo effect," said Dr. de Beixedon.

While many ingredients are ineffective, Dr. De Beixedon says beware of bitter orange and country mallow, which are similar to ephedra, also known as muhuang.

"So if you ever see the something that says 'muhuang' on them, don't take it, because it can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks, incredible nervousness," said Dr. de Beixedon. "Like caffeine, but even more deleterious."

Alli, a drug designed to block dietary fat, has been through rigorous testing since it's based on the prescription drug Xenacol.

Even then, Dr. de Beixedon tells his patients to stay away.