Hydroxycut is a family of dietary supplements that is marketed for weight loss. Their products include drink mixes, protein bars, chewable “gummies,” caplets, and powder that you can sprinkle on to food. Ingredients include kelp fiber, green coffee, spinach extract, and caffeine.
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Limited medical research indicates that some of the herbs in Hydroxycut, along with its caffeine content, can help people lose weight, but only a little. Indeed, even the company’s marketing literature reminds users that its products only work in conjunction with exercise and a reduced calorie diet.
A Source of Controversy
Hydroxycut products came onto the market in 2002. Early formulations contained ephedra, a plant extract said to increase energy. Some forms of ephedra extract were banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004, and the supplements were reformulated.
In 2009, the FDA issued a consumer warning on all Hydroxycut supplements, and the company voluntarily recalled its products. The agency pointed to 23 cases of liver-related problems associated with the use of Hydroxycut. These included jaundice, brown urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. The agency said that while adverse events were rare, they were still cause for concern.
Hydroxycut products later returned to the market with different ingredients, including herbs. While the current ingredients are deemed safe, Hydroxycut has continued to be linked to a few health problems.
What Are the Dangers?
Hydroxycut has reduced or eliminated some of the ingredients that caused concerns in its early formulations, most notably ephedra. However, since 2009 there have been a number of reported cases of liver failure, among other problems, that researchers have linked to Hydroxycut.
A case report from 2011 suggested that one case of ischemic colitis was caused by Hydroxycut. This condition occurs when blood flow to the colon is reduced because your arteries are narrowed or blocked. The researchers speculated that the high levels of caffeine or perhaps one of the herbs in Hydroxycut could have caused the problem.
Hydroxycut products differ on how much caffeine they contain. Some have no caffeine at all. The formulas with high doses, such as Hydroxycut Max Advanced for Women, contain as much caffeine as three cups of coffee, around 400 mg. Most people shouldn’t have more than 300 mg of caffeine a day. A caffeine overdose can cause shortness of breath and nervousness, or even an irregular heartbeat.
The caffeine in Hydroxycut was also cited as a possible cause in the exertional rhabdomyolysis of three American soldiers in a 2013 case study. Skeletal muscle tears that release fluid into the circulatory system cause exertional rhabdomyolysis, which can lead to metabolic, blood, and liver problems.
Hydroxycut has been suggested as a contributor to some cases of ulcerative colitis. And psychiatric researchers in Australia and New Zealand have studied Hydroxycut as possibly triggering manic episodes.
If you have struggled with being overweight, you probably feel very frustrated. It’s easy to see why you’d want to try a weight loss product like Hydroxycut, which, since its multiple reformations, seems somewhat safer. But why gamble with a possible urgent health complication, or risk triggering a dangerous condition you didn’t even know you had? The goal of weight loss is better health, not endangerment.
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If you want to achieve sustainable weight loss, reduce the number of calories you consume so that it’s lower than the number of calories you expend.
Consider trying mindfulness meditation or joining a 12-step program like Overeaters Anonymous for support. Treat yourself to little indulgences and celebrate small victories as the weight drops off. Yes, losing weight will require patience. But don’t fool yourself by thinking products like Hydroxycut will accelerate your progress or make a weight loss miracle happen overnight.