Health & Lifestyle

Two ‘natural Ozempic’ weight loss supplements may contain a deadly poisonous ingredient, CDC warns

  • Two people in New Jersey and Maryland were poisoned by yellow oleander
  • Several ‘natural’ weight loss supplements were made entirely of the toxic plant
  • READ MORE:  Could your plant be killing your pets and harming your kids?

Fraudulent dietary supplements that gained popularity on TikTok as ‘natural’ alternatives to weight loss drugs have been found to contain a deadly plant species.

The federal government issued a pair of warnings about products masquerading as herbal weight loss supplements that were actually made up entirely of yellow oleander, a shrub so deadly it has become a common form of self-harm in Sri Lanka.

The Food and Drug Administration called out two manufacturers of diet nut mixes labeled Nuez de la India, also known as a candlenut after a man in Maryland was hospitalized with yellow oleander poisoning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, found that nine out of 10 products labeled as tejocote root and marketed as weight loss supplements, were pure yellow oleander after a toddler in New Jersey ate his mother’s Eva Nutrition Mexican Tejocote Root and was poisoned.

Supplement manufacturers can often sidestep FDA oversight because the agency does not require manufacturers to prove ahead of time that their ingredients are safe and effective, allowing for a Wild West-type regulatory environment.

Authentic candlenuts can sometimes be mistaken for yellow oleander seeds

Authentic candlenuts can sometimes be mistaken for yellow oleander seeds

Alipotec tejocote root products such as the one shown was explicitly mentioned in the CDC's warning to the public

Elv Mexicant Tejocote Root was also named in the CDC's investigation into nine offending supplements

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested 10 products reporting to contain tejocote root. Nine of them were made up entirely of yellow oleander, including the two brands shown

A person in Maryland was hospitalized after eating the Nut Diet Max mix purporting to be made up of candlenuts

Todorganic Natural Products brand Nuez de la India seeds were also included in the Food and Drug Administration's warning notice

Weight loss supplements that purport to contain candlenut, or Nuez de la India, were named in the FDA’s warning after they were found to be poisonous

In the case of the Maryland patient, emergency department doctors did not know what was causing his nausea, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, and high blood level of potassium until poison control suggested yellow oleander to be the culprit.

These symptoms could indicate a wide range of possible diagnoses, from malfunctioning thyroid and kidney problems to heart attacks, and doctors have a hard time finding the underlying cause without a patient admitting to taking a questionable supplement.

Doctors in Texas recently detailed a similar poisoning case involving candlenuts. A 21-year-old woman went to the hospital with severe nausea and vomiting but clinical testing including X-rays and urinalysis appeared normal. 

Which brands were targeted by FDA & CDC 

  • Alipotec tejocote root pieces 
  • Alipotec tejocote root pieces 
  • Alipotec tejocote root capsules 
  • Elv Alipotec Mexican tejocote root pieces Positive Negative
  • Eva Nutrition Mexican tejocote root pieces
  • Eva Nutrition Mexican tejocote root pieces 
  • Niwali tejocote Mexican root pieces 
  • Science Alpha Mexican tejocote root pieces 
  • Tejocotex tejocote root pieces
  • Nut Diet Max brand Nuez de la India capsules
  • Nut Diet Max brand Nuez de la India seeds
  • Todorganic Natural Products brand Nuez de la India seeds.

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She later said she had eaten a candlenut brought to her by an uncle who’d recently visited Latin America and got sick about 45 minutes later.

She went on to develop heart block, which occurs when electrical signals from the top two chambers of the heart do not travel to the two lower chambers, causing the heart to beat too slowly or skip beats.

Doctors did not say outright that the nut she ate was yellow oleander, but they conferred with poison control and decided her symptoms were consistent with poisoning from the toxic plant.   

And in the case of the 23-month-old in New Jersey, an emergency physician called poison control on September 8 to report the child had an abnormally low heart rate and low blood pressure. 

The patient eventually returned to normal after receiving an antibody antidote to yellow oleander poisoning

The FDA in its announcement specifically targeted Nut Diet Max brand Nuez de la India capsules, Nut Diet Max brand Nuez de la India seeds and Todorganic Natural Products brand Nuez de la India seeds.

The agency said: The FDA is advising consumers to stop using Nut Diet Max brand (seeds or capsules) or Todorganic Natural brand (seeds) products marketed as Nuez de la India, India nuts, or India seeds because they may contain yellow oleander… consumers who have taken any of these products of concern to contact their health care provider immediately.’

A CDC-affiliated lab in Oregon tested 10 products purporting to be tejocote root, which has thousands of fans touting their dramatic weight loss on TikTok. All but one of them were made up entirely of the poisonous plant, not the plant on the labels.

The CDC said: ‘Misbranded dietary supplements are frequently found to contain potentially dangerous substances. Tejocote (Crataegus mexicana) root, a supplement promoted online through social media for weight loss, is readily available from online retailers.’

The products are sold at major retailers including WalMart and Amazon for around $26 for 90 capsules.  


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