Herbal diet product poses heart risk

A herbal diet product sold in Canada contains two potentially risky ingredients and can lead to serious heart problems, Health Canada says.

Herbal Diet Natural has been found to contain an ingredient similar to sibutramine, a prescription drug used to treat obesity but only under the guidance of a medical professional, Health Canada said Thursday.

Herbal Diet Natural isn’t authorized for sale in Canada, but the product, without listing sibutramine as an ingredient, has been found on the market, the department says.

Sibutramine can cause side-effects such as increased blood pressure, chest pain, a higher risk of stroke, as well as dry mouth, trouble sleeping and constipation.

The drug should not be taken by people with cardiovascular problems or a history of stroke, heart attack or high blood pressure or by people suffering from depression or other psychiatric illnesses, the advisory says. Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should also not take sibutramine.

Herbal Diet Natural also contains glucomannan, a dietary fibre that can help in weight loss, Health Canada says.

“In January 2010, Health Canada advised Canadians that natural health products containing the ingredient glucomannan in tablet, capsule or powder form, which are currently on the Canadian market, have a potential for harm if taken without at least eight ounces of water or other fluid,” the advisory says.

“The risk to Canadians includes choking and/or blockage of the throat, esophagus or intestine.”

The health agency is advising consumers to return Herbal Diet Natural to the stores where they bought the product. The department is also trying to block Herbal Diet Natural shipments to Canada.

Health Canada said it has had no reports of adverse reactions.