Ancient Chinese slimming secrets rejected as myth
Makers of slimming products have been accused of misleading Hong Kong consumers by claiming their formulas are based on ancient Chinese prescriptions.
The accusation came amid concerns over the safety of some slimming products, which are hugely popular among diet-conscious Hong Kong women.
Professor Leung Ping-chung, chairman of the management committee of the Institute of Chinese Medicine at the Chinese University, said there were no ancient prescriptions for slimming in Chinese medical literature.
But some slimming products claimed to be based on ancient prescriptions contained herbs - such as dahuang, a plant root, and fanshieyie, a leaf - that could cause diarrhoea, Professor Leung said.
The institute's project scientist, Bill Guan Deqi, said long-term use of these herbs, which originally were used to treat ailments such as constipation and bruises, could damage health and cause malnutrition.
Professor Leung said: 'We would also like to find a slimming formula from Chinese medical literature to benefit young ladies. However, we have found none. There is no miracle to shedding weight other than diet and exercise.'
He said the institute had been inundated with phone calls asking about the safety of slimming pills after at least two women in Japan died and almost 300 fell ill after taking slimming products, including diet supplements made by two mainland-based companies. Professor Leung said he was shocked by a rising trend of inaccurate advertising for slimming pills amid a growing obsession to be slim.
'In the past two days, I easily collected the promotion pamphlets of 10 sliming products from stores,' he said.
'Their advertisements are exaggerated in claiming the products can effectively and speedily shed weight, fat and cholesterol - all in one - within a very short period of time without any exercise or diet. But only one of them has a warning against long-term use of the product.'
Professor Leung said the products were manufactured in different places, including Hong Kong, the mainland, Japan, North America and Europe. He said the products did not contain Western medicines and were promoted as health supplements instead of drugs, so they were not restricted under the law.
Tsang Chiu-hing, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Chinese Medicine Merchants' Association, also agreed the ancient prescriptions were mainly for 'improving health' rather than slimming.
The Department of Health said last night there were laws to restrict advertisements and labelling of general products.
The Chinese Medicine Ordinance would provide more specific rules when it took effect in the next legislative session, the department said.