Dear Pharmacist,

I have been taking a dietary supplement to lose weight and it works great. I’ve lost 34 pounds and feel great! I heard on The Today Show that one of the ingredients in my formula (bitter orange) was harmful. Should I stop taking my supplement?

--J.P. Orange Park, Florida

Answer: People who use bitter orange-containing supplements often notice reduced hunger, faster weight loss and more energy. Bitter orange (citrus aurantium) is commonly used in American dietary supplements as a fat-burner, especially those that are labelled “ephedra-free.” Since you feel great, I’d continue taking your supplement while exercising and eating healthy meals.

I watched The Today Show episode and was shocked to see bitter orange named as an ingredient to avoid. The fruit extract comes from unripe oranges and its enjoyed thousands of years of safe usage, especially in Chinese medicine, where it is known as Zhi Shi. It made headlines on the heels of an article published in the September 2010 issue of Consumer Reports which stated, “bitter orange may be associated with fainting, heart-rhythm disorders, heart attack, stroke and death.”

Seriously?! People are picking on oranges now? Prescribed anti-microbial medications kill more than 75,000 people a year, and anti-inflammatory drugs land more than 100,000 people in the hospital each year with internal bleeding? You don’t hear hysteria about that! But oranges can kill you?

Health officials here may want to scare Americans but you should know that overseas, a well-respected governmental agency called the “German Commission E” approves of bitter orange for appetite suppression, dyspepsia and other stomach complaints. I believe the problem occurs when people misuse or overuse weight loss formulas, or combine them with prescribed meds or caffeinated beverages. Some people self-treat when they unknowingly have a weak heart. A handful of adverse events trickle in. Enter the media, with both barrels aimed at frightening you.

Obesity causes tremendous struggling, both physically and emotionally. Do you realize that in 2005, approximately 365,000 deaths were tied to “poor diet and physical activity” according to a 2005 JAMA report? Allowing the orange marmalade extract to be sold as a thermogenic ingredient and dietary supplement makes common sense, especially when compared to certain weight loss drugs which produce amphetamine jolts to your heart!

A clinical trial concluded that bitter orange was “the best thermogenic substitute for ephedra” (Journal of Medicine 2002). Take a combination formula because it contains lower dosages of bitter orange that work synergistically with other ingredients; this should be safer than taking a stand-alone supplement of bitter orange with a very high dosage.

Join a weight loss center that will supervise your metabolic program and offer assistance from a professional weight loss Consultant; this way your vitamin regimen and health status will be constantly monitored. Buy supplements from reputable sources who guarantee quality and contain only approved extracts such as the orange’s fruit and peel, versus the flower.

Did You Know?

Benadryl is useful for allergies and insomnia because it dries you up and helps put you to sleep.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website, SuzyCohen.com

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)
blockquote.article-intro { color: #333333; font-family: "Roboto","Helvetica Neue",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5; }