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'Skinny Pill for Kids' may be harmful

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Experts warn a diet pill for children being marketed over the Internet could cause kidney damage and other problems.

The marketer of the supplement, called "Skinny Pill for Kids," said her company had not done safety tests on children. The pill is being marketed to children age 6 to 12, and contains vitamins, minerals and herbs. A similar pill regimen is available for adults, as well.


Pediatric experts told CNN they're especially concerned about three herbs in the "Skinny Pill" that are diuretics. Uva ursi, juniper berry, and buchu leaf all cause the body to lose water. The Physicians Desk Reference, a doctors' guide to drugs and alternative remedies, states the uva ursi should not be given to children under age 12.

"Diuretics in children can cause kidney problems and electrolyte imbalances if taken long term," said Dr. Alison Hoppin, chief of the pediatric obesity clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital.

In addition, the PDR says the herb could cause liver damage in children.

Niacin, another ingredient, can be toxic to the liver. The National Academy of Sciences sets upper limits for niacin consumption, and, when taken as recommended, the "skinny pill for kids" contains four times the upper limit of what an 8-year-old child is supposed to get.

Experts also warn that there's no data showing this pill helps children lose weight.

Paul Coates, director of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, emphasized that none of the ingredients contained in this pill have been studied in children and it's uncertain if they even help adults lose weight.

"It's absolutely outrageous," said Keith Ayoob, a pediatric nutritionist and an American Dietetic Association spokesman. "It's not going to help people lose weight. It's junk science. "

Edita Kaye, whose Web site markets the "Skinny Pill for Kids" says she's been "assured [by the formulators who make the pill] that what is in this is perfectly safe for children."

She added, "People are making it sound like I'm irresponsible. But I'm not. I've been working on developing this product for six months."

Kaye, who is not licensed as a dietitian, said she came up with the idea to offer something for kids because she gets e-mails from parents asking advice for their overweight kids and she hears from kids wanting to know if it's OK for them to take their parent's "skinny pill."

Kaye said a "Skinny Pill for Teens" is on its' way.

On the Web site, parents can buy a 30-day supply of the pills for $39.99. Orders will ship in late December.

Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In such cases, the agency can step in and remove a product only if it is proven to be dangerous.

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