Alternative Health

FDA: Bee Pollen Products Can Have Dangerous Ingredients

Products labeled to contain bee pollen that promise to help you lose weight or reshape your body could actually harm you, warns the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Bee pollen is the pollen that bees collect from flowers; it is the food that nourishes bee larvae. But it’s not a miracle ingredient, says Gary Coody, R.Ph., FDA’s national health fraud coordinator.

Some bee pollen products marketed for weight loss have been found to contain hidden and potentially dangerous ingredients that may be harmful for people who have conditions such as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and bipolar disorders (a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood), says Coody.

FDA recently warned consumers to immediately stop using one of these products—Zi Xiu Tang Bee Pollen—because it contains at least one potentially harmful ingredient that is not listed on the product’s label.

Zi Xiu Tang is just one of several bee pollen products that the FDA has found to contain undeclared sibutramine and/or phenolphthalein. Others include Ultimate Formula, Fat Zero, Bella Vi Amp’d Up, Insane Amp’d Up, Slim Trim U, Infinity, Perfect Body Solution, Asset Extreme, Asset Extreme Plus, Asset Bold and Asset Bee Pollen. All these products marketed for weight loss included bee pollen in the list of ingredients.

The agency has received from consumers and health care professionals more than 50 adverse event reports associated with the use of tainted bee pollen weight loss products. The reports include at least one death, serious cardiac issues, chest pain, heart palpitations, tachycardia (increased heart rate), increased blood pressure, seizures, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, insomnia and diarrhea.

In addition, many bee pollen weight loss products are marketed as dietary supplements with claims to treat or prevent a variety of diseases and signs or symptoms of disease, including obesity, allergies, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. By law, dietary supplements may not claim to treat or prevent a disease.

“When people buy these tainted bee pollen weight loss products, they are unknowingly taking one or more hidden drugs that have been banned from the market,” Coody warns.

FDA labs have analyzed 15 different Zi Xiu Tang Bee Pollen samples from various distributors with a variety of expiration dates and lot numbers. All products tested, including those that claim to be “genuine” and “anti-counterfeit,” had undeclared drug ingredients: sibutramine and/or phenolphthalein.

Sibutramine is a controlled substance that was removed from the market in October 2010 after clinical data indicated that it posed an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Sibutramine substantially increases the blood pressure and/or pulse in some people and can be risky for patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, heart arrhythmias or stroke, says Jason Humbert, a senior regulatory manager with FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs.