When Weight Loss Isn’t Worth It: Teen Gets Hepatitis From Chinese Green Tea

A 16-year-old girl has contracted acute hepatitis after drinking Chinese green tea she purchased online that claimed to have weight-loss benefits, ABC News reported. The case was part of a new study published in the British Medical Journal, which claims the girl consumed three cups of the internet-ordered green tea daily for approximately three months as an aid for weight loss. Researchers called this a “recurring theme” and hope that the case study raises awareness about the links between herbal and dietary supplements and hepatitis.

“An association between green tea containing Camellia sinesis and hepatitis has been reported.”

The unidentified patient reportedly came to her doctor’s office with nausea, joint pain, and nonspecific abdominal pains, which prompted physicians to give the teen antibiotics for a presumed urinary tract infection, but less than a day later she checked in to a Birmingham emergency room with jaundice. The girl told doctors at the hospital that she had been drinking the Chinese tea for weight loss and later said in the study that she was very scared when doctors told her she had acute hepatitis.

“I had only lost a couple of pounds, but then started having horrible pains in my joints, and felt very dizzy and sick.”

Although the medical team did not test the green tea for toxic substances, they found that once she stopped drinking the tea and was treated with intravenous fluids and medication, the symptoms quickly subsided. As a result, they believe the tea itself was likely contaminated with secondary additives that affected the girl’s liver function.

“This raises the possibility that it is the addition of other chemicals causing hepatotoxiciy, (chemical-driven liver damage) particularly in preparations used for weight loss.”

Although green tea is typically safe – even healthy – to consume, some additives and unknown chemicals used for weight loss may make the drink dangerous when purchased from a little-known source online. Dr. Donna Seger, who is head of the Tennessee Poison Center in Nashville, said there are still too many people who don’t realize weight loss substances can be dangerous.

“Because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. They can have very significant toxicity.”

Seger advises against purchasing weight loss supplements online without knowing exactly where they come from. Depending on the regulations in place where the supplements are manufactured, they could potentially contain unlisted herbs and other materials that cause severe health problems.

[Photo courtesy of Flickr]