Toxicity of weight loss agents

J Med Toxicol. 2012 Jun;8(2):145-52. doi: 10.1007/s13181-012-0213-7.


Introduction: With the rise of the obesity epidemic in the United States over the last several decades and the medical complications seen with it, weight loss and dieting have become a national public health concern.

Discussion: Because of their increased use and availability through internet sales, several different dieting agents were reviewed for potential toxicity. These included: syrup of ipecac, cathartics, human chorionic gonadotropin hormone, 2,4 Dinitrophenol, guar gum, phenylpropanolamine, ma huang/ ephedra, caffeine, clenbuterol, fenfluramine, sibutramine, thyroid hormone, orlistat and cannabinoid antagonists.

Conclusions: With the internet making even banned products readily accessible, healthcare providers need to be aware of the potential toxicities of a wide range of weight loss agents. Our review covered topics we thought to be most historically significant as well as pertinent to the practice of medical toxicology today.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 2,4-Dinitrophenol / toxicity
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / toxicity*
  • Caffeine / toxicity
  • Cannabinoids / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / toxicity
  • Fenfluramine / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Ipecac / toxicity
  • Laxatives / toxicity


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Cannabinoids
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin
  • Laxatives
  • Fenfluramine
  • Caffeine
  • Ipecac
  • 2,4-Dinitrophenol