african american woman taking pill

I’ve been noticing a rather disturbing trend, lately.

I've been seeing that a lot of people with thousands of followers on social media are using their accounts to promote diet pills, supplements with no traceable background and history beyond the person promoting it, and ridiculous magic potions intended to help you “burn fat forever.”

Not only is this extremely inaccurate and unhealthy, but it is also dangerous. Not only are people oftentimes unaware of what the process is for creating these pills, but they oftentimes have no idea what’s in them, or the science behind it.

Trust me, it’s not as air-tight as that Instagrammer is leading you to believe.

When overseas pill-and-powder factories want to find another way to sell more pills, they seek out someone with a marketable appeal and the ability to build an audience to build a brand under which they’ll sell their product. Sometimes, the brand will simply seek out “Brand Ambassadors” to promote their work under the guise of being a “sponsored athlete.” Other times, they will go the route of the “affiliate,” as a “multi-level marketing” campaign in order to get the word out about their products.

Everyone’s making money, but who knows what’s in the stuff? More often than not, it’s not what you think.

Thermogenics, also known as fat burners, rarely contain the items they originally claimed. Far too often, they merely contain multiple kinds of caffeine in powder form and diuretics - which, in excess and without proper hydration, can harm the kidneys, liver, and other internal organs in multiple ways. Because it is rare that these products are actually checked – and they are largely unregulated – none of this information is ever found out.

In fact, NewsHour did an expose on “herbal supplements” a few years back that is, for lack of a better phrase, shocking:

“Some of the studies showed that, when women used black cohosh vs. placebo, they did get relief from their menopausal symptoms, but many other studies showed there were no effects whatsoever.

In addition, reports in the literature of severe liver damage, muscle damage and vein and artery damage from the use of black cohosh, and the summary of those articles suggests that it's not from black cohosh, but from adulteration of black cohosh. […]

We ran around New York and Long Island, and just walked into stores and got 26 different orders of black cohosh.  Or at least 26 different preparations labeled as distinct black cohosh brands. All were subjected to the bar coding test. […] Thirty percent had no black cohosh at all.”

In other words, not only were people placing orders for an item and not even getting what they ordered, but they were suffering muscle and liver damage due to whatever product they received in its place. Can you imagine what would happen if this stuff negatively reacted to a medication that a person was taking?

Not even Jillian Michaels, fitness superstar, was exempt from criticism of her fat burner, and the shoddy firm responsible for it. The story is always the same – lax research, mystery ingredients, questionable marketing practices, all attached to a big brand in the hopes that everyone makes a lot of money quickly.

I really hate to say this, but we beat people over the head with the reality of eating smarter and being more active for your own good; not because it’s the right thing to do, but because doing all the other things is unbelievably dangerous. The most active ingredient in a fat burner is caffeine – often the same amount contained in a single cup of black coffee - which, for many people, is safe… far safer than a mystery pill-and-powder promoted to you by a cutie in a bodycon dress or a diesel-esque gentleman with a six pack. Smile at their progress, and skip the weird, goofy pills. Trust me, your body will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award-winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. Ask her your health and fitness-related questions on twitter at @bgg2wl.