Cara Reynolds, a 24-year-old woman from Edinburgh, Scotland, died last year after swallowing a handful of raspberry ketone diet pills she purchased over the internet for just $30, and now her father is pleading for changes in the way diet pills are sold and marketed, saying the caffeine-packed pills are too dangerous to be obtainable as easily and cheaply as his daughter Cara was able to get them.
Michael Reynolds, 55, recalls the heartbreaking moment he held his dying daughter in his arms as she told him that she swallowed a large dose of the legal, over-the-counter raspberry pills "in a fit of madness" after a painful split with her former fiancé.
Reynolds said that Cara told him that she did not want to die. After buying the raspberry ketone pills online in an effort to lose weight, she had earlier taken two of them and suffered heart palpitations -- which caused her to swear them off completely.
According to her dad, Cara "wasn't overweight at all," weighing about 140 pounds at a height of 5'4". But she felt she needed to slim down anyway, as do many young women who suffer from various degrees of body image insecurity as they compare themselves to images of models and Hollywood starlets who often appear unnaturally thin, but whose body types are promoted as ideal.
"She told us the slimming pills were made from natural ingredients, so we didn't think they were anything to worry about," said her father.
But according to a report in the new edition of the British Medical Journal, "Many slimming products have concentrations of up to 250mg of caffeine per tablet which is equivalent to more than four cans of Red Bull or seven cans of Coca Cola."
"Raspberry ketones are the naturally occurring chemical compounds that give raspberries their scent. They are promoted as 'fat burners,' although there is little evidence for this," the report went on. "In Cara's case, the cause of death was caffeine toxicity with a blood level of caffeine per liter which is within the fatal range."
Doctors attempted 44 times to restart her heart, but to no avail.
Raspberry ketones are often promoted online, including in paid ads on Facebook, accompanied by celebrity endorsements. But those endorsements have turned out to be bogus. Such prominent female celebrities as Kate Middleton, Adele and Victoria Beckham have been falsely cited in ads as endorsing the use of raspberry ketone pills for weight loss.
Cara Reynolds took so many raspberry ketone pills that 18,000 milligrams of caffeine, about that same as in 225 cans of Red Bull energy beverage, were found in her system, according to the Medical Journal report.