An unregulated health supplement is filling up Instagram feeds, feeding on insecurities, and sending people to the emergency room. Known as Apetamin, the supplement is a thick syrup that’s advertised towards women looking to gain weight in the hopes of obtaining a “slim thick” Kardashian-esque body. It’s often promoted by influencers on Instagram and YouTube who tell their followers how Apetamin helped them achieve their desired body shape.
However, this stuff is not approved in the US and UK, meaning there’s no guarantee it actually contains the contents listed on the label. It’s also illegal to sell Apetamin since it’s not regulated, although the product is readily available online.
Apetamin is manufactured by Indian pharmaceutical company TIL Healthcare and touted as an “appetite stimulant.” According to the bottles’ label, apetamin is a concoction of cyproheptadine, lysine, and vitamins. Lysine is simply an essential amino acid, but cyproheptadine is an antihistamine used to relieve allergy symptoms like watery eyes, runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. There’s some evidence that cyproheptadine is associated with weight gain, but it’s not exactly clear why.
This syrupy stuff isn’t just harmless snake oil. A new documentary for BBC Three in the UK entitled Dangerous Curves: Get Thicc, Get Sick? took a deep dive into the rising popularity of apetamin, speaking to many women who had taken the supplement and experienced some deeply unpleasant side effects.
Most of the women said the main side effect was drowsiness, so much so one said “it hurt my eyes to be awake.” Others reported unusual tremors, shaking, and nausea after taking too much of the product. One woman even explained how she collapsed multiple times after taking Apetamin, leaving her hospitalized
Despite being unregulated with apparent dangers, many women are taking the drug to strive towards the "slim thick" body ideal – an hourglass figure typified by celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Cardi B. Many people in the documentary spoke about the unrealistic body expectations that women feel pressured to meet. Although unrealistic body ideals have been promoted in some form or another for decades, the rise of social media has turbocharged this pressure and left fertile ground for unregulated drugs such as Apetamin to be peddled.
In light of the recent documentary, the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is now investigating the sale of this product.
“We are grateful to the BBC for bringing this issue to our attention and are investigating. Apetamin is an unauthorised medicine which should not be sold, supplied or advertised without a licence. Taking unauthorised medicines can have serious health consequences,” The MHRA said in a statement given to BBC Three.