According to court documents, the unnamed plaintiff in the lawsuit is suing Michaels and Thin Care International, makers of "Triple Process Total Body Detox & Cleanse," for $10 million for "actively and fraudulently conspiring to hide the alleged dangers" of the product, TMZ reports.
Though the verdict is still out on whether or not this product is as dangerous as the court documents claim, experts agree that the product is no doubt ineffective at providing any of its purported benefits, such as reduced "belly bloat," increased energy, and reduced "body waste buildup."
The class action suit was filed in the Stanley Mosk Court House in Los Angeles by one R.D. (the plaintiff wishes to be known only by her initials), according to the public information office at the L.A. County Superior Court.
This marks the fourth time that Michaels has been sued over her supplements. Three separate cases were filed in February concerning other products, including the Jillian Michael Maximum Strength Fat Burner and Jillian Michaels Maximum Strength Calorie Control.
Less than a year ago, Michaels introduced Triple Process Total Body Detox & Cleanse as a way to jump start a diet by "detoxifying" the digestive tract.
According to the packaging, using the product for a seven-day course will "reduce belly bloat," "support the colon and digestive system" and "support the liver's natural detoxification process," and make you feel "lighter and more energized."
According to R.D.'s suit, however, several of the ingredients included in the product, such as Irish moss powder, uva-ursi (also called bearberry), and Chinese rhubarb can be harmful to your health.
R.D. alleges that Irish moss causes "gastrointestinal ulcers," bearberry is "known to cause nausea and vomiting" and Chinese rhubarb is "a harsh laxative and dangerous diuretic…that may cause irreversible liver damage," and the supplement as a whole "might kill you," TMZ reports.
While diet and toxicology experts said it was extremely unlikely that the cleanse could be lethal, or even particularly dangerous, they agreed that some of the gastrointestinal symptoms mentioned by R.D. in the lawsuit may have some merit.
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Chinese rhubarb is a known laxative, and can cause cramping and diarrhea, but is usually safe when used for eight days or less, says Elisabetta Politi, nutrition director of the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center.
The main ingredient, magnesium oxide, is also a laxative, says Lynn Willis, professor emeritus of pharmacology at Indiana University, but the dose in the cleanse is less than half needed for a laxative effect.
Many of the herbs are also diuretics, meaning that they can cause you to shed water weight through frequent urination, but again, they are probably not given at large enough doses to be dangerous, says Dr. Keith Ayoob, director of the Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
The packaging also warns consumers to discontinue use if diarrhea or loose stools occur as the supplement could aggravate these conditions.
Of course, a big roadblock to assessing the safety, or the effectiveness, of the cleanse is that none of the individual doses of the herbs are listed on the product, merely a dose for the overall "proprietary blend" of herbs.
For instance, bearberry is known to cause liver damage in children under 12, says Ayoob, and can be harmful in adults, though only at higher doses. From the packaging, it's impossible to tell how much of the herb you're getting in each tablet.
Because Michaels' products are all considered supplements, not drugs, they do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, and hence are not required to report how much of each ingredient is included.
But Willis says he wouldn't be surprised if the pills contained insignificant amounts of the herbs. Because the FDA doesn't monitor supplements, manufacturers aren't required to put high enough doses of ingredients to be pharmacologically effective -- and often they don't, for fear of adverse side effects.
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Overall, experts said Michaels' "Triple Process Total Body Detox & Cleanse" was probably not a dangerous supplement, just an ineffective one.
"This product is an absurdity," says Willis. "It's completely bogus that this would detoxify the gut. Someone takes a laxative and they lose two pounds of water weight, but it will come right back."
Ayoob agreed that using diuretics and laxatives as a way to supposedly cleanse the gastrointestinal tract is an ineffective and unhealthy approach to jump starting a diet.
"It may change what the scale says, but it can be harmful" because it dehydrates you in order to shed the water weight, he says. Ayoob also criticized the supplement's goal of reducing "body waste buildup" as a bogus claim, saying that the gut excretes waste on its own.
Michael's supplement also comes with a seven-day probiotic course, which dieticians say is the only thing about that might be beneficial in the product.
If you are bloated or constipated, increasing fiber, would be a healthy way to address that problem, and sheding excess water weight is best done by reducing the amount of salt in your diet, says Politi, but using a cleanse, of any variety, is not something that she recommends.
"Bottom line: if you have any of these problems or need help losing weight, see your physician, not Jillian Michaels," Ayoob says.
A request for comment on the supplement from Michaels' agent, Jonathan Swaden, was not immediately returned.