A case study released late last month has detailed a case of liver injury in a woman who used the SlimQuick weight loss supplement. The study, published April 27 in the World Journal of Hepatology, linked the patient’s drug induced liver injury to green tea extract contained in SlimQuick.
While green tea extract is thought to improve health due to antioxidant and anticarcinogenic effects, the study authors point out that it is known to have pro-oxident effects, primarily due to epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). According to the report, a number of studies have linked EGCG to hepatotoxicity:
- In 2010, a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology reported dose-dependent hepatotoxicity in mice associated with pro-oxidant effects of high-dose EGCG.
- A weight loss supplement called Exolisem, which contained EGCG was recently withdrawn from the market in Europe because of hepatotoxicity.
- The Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network reported in 2008 that in 6 of 28 cases of hepatotoxicity secondary to herbal and dietary supplements, green tea extract was the major component of the supplement.
- A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2008 reported that on 8 patients who developed drug-induced liver injury (DILI) due to Hydroxycut, three of whom required liver transplantation. The authors concluded that green tea was likely the major ingredient in Hydroxycut resulting in severe liver injury.
This new case study reports on a 24-year-old woman who developed severe hepatotoxicity while taking SlimQuick (n herbal weight-loss product containing green tea extract. The woman presented to her primary care physician with complaints of dark urine, acholic stools, right upper quadrant pain and progressive fatigue. She reported taking two caplets of SlimQuick orally on an empty stomach twice per day for three months to improve energy for marathon training. She took no other dietary supplements or medications except for oral tetracycline 500 mg/d orally for eleven months for acne. She stopped both drugs eight days after the onset of symptoms.
Because the patient demonstrated no laboratory or clinical improvement three weeks after stopping SlimQuick™ and liver biopsy was consistent with marked inflammation with necrosis, treatment with Prednisone was initiated, according to the report.
According to the report, the major ingredient in SlimQuick caplets is green tea extract (Camellia sinensis leaf) containing 135 mg of EGCG. Previous research has indicated that drinking 3 to 5 cups of green tea per day provided at least 250 mg catechins per day and might be considered safe. The report authors calculated that this particular patient was exposed to green tea extract that contained catechin in amounts higher than these suggested safe levels. Moreover, she was also directed to take it while fasting.
The study authors also noted that the patient also suffered from heterozygous for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which might be a risk factor for chronic liver disease or liver failure. They concluded that, in light of the patient’s baseline normal liver function, the likely presence of alpha-1 antitrypsin MZ phenotype increased her vulnerability to severe hepatocellular injury. Tetracycline-induced liver injury was excluded as an offender based on her histopathology, leaving SlimQuick as the likely cause of her liver injury.