Apetamin, an unregulated weight supplement that has been aggressively marketed to Black women on social media, has dangerous side effects.
Jahnelle Owusu, a 24-year-old college student from Maryland, had always had a slim figure, with curves complementing her 5-foot-10-inch, 140-pound frame. She had even been scouted for modeling opportunities in the past.
“Being so tall and so slender, I think I peaked in height, like, I don’t know maybe, like, 12 or something like that. I was always praised. It was always complimented when it came to my figure,” she told BuzzFeed News. But in 2017, as she began noticing the popularity of women with voluptuous figures on Instagram, she contemplated taking the weight-gain syrup Apetamin for the first time.
Manufactured by the Indian pharmaceutical company TIL Healthcare and marketed as an “appetite stimulant,” Apetamin has not been sanctioned for safe consumption by the FDA or the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (the UK equivalent of the FDA). It contains cyproheptadine hydrochloride, a sedative antihistamine used for allergies available in the US and the UK by prescription only. The MHRA told BuzzFeed News in a statement that the sale and supply of Apetamin are unauthorized in the UK and that it is investigating a number of reports.
Yet the syrup is readily available to buy online from sites like Instagram, Amazon, and Pinterest.
Apetamin is so popular online that there are now even knockoffs. Some vendors have waiting lists, and viral images circulate online that are supposed to help people decipher if their bottle is real or fake. TIL Healthcare has never addressed the sale of copycat Apetamin despite a growing market for potentially dangerous copies of its syrup.
“I know a lot of people who take this and have seen the benefits they wanted in terms of weight gain,” Tai Ibitoye, a registered dietitian and nutritional researcher based in London said. “However, I tell individuals that it’s not always about what is on the outside. It’s also about what’s happening on the inside.” The side effects of consuming Apetamin include joint swelling, drowsiness, vomiting, and blurred vision.
Still, the ubiquity of social media ads for the syrup among Black influencers has made the supplement appealing for Black women trying to attain a more curvaceous figure. The Shade Room has promoted the syrup in the past and so have the influencers Aaliyah Jay and Lala Milan.
Nutritionist Ibitoye called on individuals to take steps to “protect” themselves instead of opting for quick fixes. “The more you dwell on what is presented on social media and diet culture, you will see yourself being consumed and thinking that your current body size or body shape isn’t ideal or desirable. That’s where self-love comes into play.”
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