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Beware Weight Loss Drugs, Say Canadian Experts

"Lose 30 pounds in 8 weeks!"

"Pound-for-Pound, The Most Powerful Weight-Loss Formula on Earth!"

"Lose 10.65 pounds fast!"

Such screaming advertisements are common in many parts of the world and thousands of overweight and obese Canadians fall for them. But the concern is that there are few regulations to govern this booming industry in Canada and not enough people to enforce the ones that exist.

Weight loss is a desperate battle for many of the 20 million overweight and obese Canadians. The struggle to drop pounds often pushes people toward the $40 billion weight-loss industry, where they can get lost in the maze of programs and products that promise to melt away the extra fat.

Overweight people are at high risk of dying from type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Obesity is now the No. 2 cause of preventable death in Canada, with roughly 25,000 people dying from weight-related illnesses every year, compared with 48,000 from smoking.

Predictably it is boom time for weight loss companies, with all its attendant risks.

In a famous case, the Herbal Magic Systems, a diet company settled out of court a suit against it for over three million dollars. In the documents filed with the court case, the patients family alleged the Herbal Magic weight-loss program caused Jane's potassium levels to plummet, a condition called hypokalemia, which in turn triggered the cardiac arrest.

Herbal Magic is currently Canada's largest chain of weight-loss centres with more than 350 outlets. The first opened in London, Ont., in 1996 and the company serves about 40,000 customers per year. It has promoted a "lifestyle-based diet combined with herbal supplements and grocery store bought food," for the past decade with few complaints.

An estimated 20 per cent of Canadians regularly use natural remedies because they believe they are safer than man-made pharmaceutica
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