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‘Weight-loss’ nut product highly toxic

Ingestion of the nuts has been reported to cause vomiting‚ gastrointestinal pain and diarrhoea.

IT is marketed as an all-natural‚ 100% organic‚ certified non-toxic product which results in weight loss‚ detoxifies and lowers cholesterol‚ but the nut has been described as highly toxic to humans.

In November, South Africa’s Medicines Control Council – now the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority – issued a strong warning that the nuts of Aleurites moluccanus (L.) Willd. – also known as Indian Walnut‚ and marketed in South Africa as the Wondernut – had reported toxic effects in humans‚ ranging from severe gastrointestinal irritation to death.

That was because it contains compounds that have irritant properties and are very strong purgatives‚ the regulator said.

“They may also act as potent tumour promoters and be very irritating to the skin and eyes.

“Ingestion of the nuts has been reported to cause vomiting‚ gastrointestinal pain and diarrhoea.

“Health agencies in countries such as Spain‚ Argentina‚ Chile and Brazil have prohibited the use of the seeds due to deaths reportedly caused by their ingestion for weight loss purposes.”

A Port Elizabeth accountant – who asked not to be named – said this week that during the first two weeks of taking Wondernut‚ she had severe health issues – extreme nausea‚ diarrhoea‚ and stomach cramps “so bad I could not stand up straight”.

“As I wasn’t losing weight‚ I stopped taking it‚ and a week later I started noticing that my ankles and lower legs had started to swell.

“Now‚ three weeks later‚ I still have the swelling‚ and when I went to my doctor‚ he said my liver is enlarged and my blood pressure is high.”

She is awaiting the results of blood tests.

The then MCC warned consumers to avoid the product‚ and reminded those selling it that such products had to be registered as medicines.

But five months on‚ the “Wondernut” is still being actively marketed online in South Africa.

The writer received an unsolicited e-mail from a Wondernut agent this week‚ claiming that the product was effective for “faster weight loss” and that it detoxifies‚ maintains energy‚ lowers bad cholesterol and reduces appetite.

The Wondernut website states: “This organic weight loss seeds (sic) has not been evaluated by the MCC. [It] is not intended to diagnose‚ treat‚ cure or prevent any disease.”

The website features a series of video interviews with sales agents‚ conducted by director and co-founder Maureen Botes‚ who makes health statements‚ including: “It has worked on cancer patients‚” and: “It can make your blood pressure drop.”

She repeatedly says those taking the product have seen a dramatic reduction in their cholesterol levels.

Contacted for comment‚ Botes said: “Our legal team has asked us not to talk to you people.”

  •  Get in touch with Wendy Knowler via e-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za or on Twitter: @wendyknowler.
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