Apetamin Promises Weight Gain, but FDA Warns Against Dangerous Side Effects

a syrup poured into a spoon against a dark background
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Key Takeaways

  • Apetamin is an illegal weight gain supplement that has recently gained popularity on social media despite FDA warnings.
  • Apetamin contains a strong antihistamine known as cyproheptadine, which could be an appetite stimulant, but it comes with dangerous side effects in overdose cases.
  • Since the supplement is not regulated, it’s hard to know the exact ingredients and recommended dosage in the products.

Apetamin is a weight gain supplement that has gained popularity on social media among people who want to enhance their physique.

But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned that Apetamin isn’t approved in the United States and the agency has restricted imports of the product. The supplement is mainly promoted and sold through social media and online marketplaces, according to the FDA.

The safety and efficacy of Apetamin are not well-researched. A June 2020 case report found that a 40-year-old woman developed autoimmune hepatitis after six weeks of daily Apetamin use. The FDA also warned against dangerous side effects from overuse, such as hallucinations, convulsions, coma, and death.

TikTok has censored any mention of the supplement, but some users got around the platform’s censor by using hashtags with misspellings of the word.

What Is Apetamin? How Does It Work?

Apetamin comes in a syrup or tablet form. It contains cyproheptadine, a potent antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms. In some cases, doctors may prescribe it to help increase appetite, according to Frank Greenway, MD, a board-certified internist and chief medical officer at Pennington Biomedical.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how cyproheptadine promotes weight gain, but some have hypothesized that it can activate the hypothalamic appetite center, thereby increasing calorie intake.

Manufactured in India, Apetamin also contains vitamins and an amino acid called lysine. Limited research shows that lysine may help the body with creating protein and repairing muscles.

Why Is Apetamin Dangerous?

Cyproheptadine is a “very old” antihistamine that’s hardly ever prescribed for treating hay fever because of its side effects, including sedation and central nervous system impairment, said Anne Ellis, MD, a clinician-scientist specializing in allergies at the Kingston Health Sciences Center in Canada.

Older antihistamines could cause delirium and dryness of the nasal passages, and they should really be avoided, Ellis said. However, second-generation antihistamines such as Claritin (loratadine) and Allegra (fexofenadine) are safe even in overdose situations, she added.

Anil Nanda, MD, a board-certified allergist-immunologist, said it’s unclear how much cyproheptadine is in Apetamin, as the supplement is often sold under different brand names and formulations.

Since Apetamin is illegal in the U.S., it’s hard to know what effects it may have or if it even contains the supposed ingredients at all, Nanda added. Those looking to gain weight could easily take more than a safe dose, and the recommended dosage remains unclear.

“Be careful who you take advice from on the internet. You don’t know their certification, purpose or background,” Nanda said.

What Are Some Safer Alternatives for Weight Gain?

If you struggle to gain weight, you may not be eating enough calories, protein, and fat, according to Juliana Tamayo, RD, MS, a clinical dietitian based in Washington, DC.

Making some changes to your diet might help. Doubling portion sizes slowly and adding more protein by using protein shakes or powders can help create more muscle gains, while healthy fats like olive oil or avocados can help gain weight without putting your heart health at risk, Tamayo explained.

Other protein sources like salmon, tuna, and poultry are great options with high protein and low cholesterol. Carbohydrates like bread and pasta can also help add calories to your meals.

What This Means For You

Apetamin is an illegal weight gain supplement that’s manufactured overseas. The FDA warned consumers that Apetamin is potentially dangerous and hasn't been reviewed for safety or effectiveness.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Garland V, Kumar A, Theisen B, Borum ML. Apetamin hepatotoxicity: potential consequences of purchasing a body enhancement drug off the internet. ACG Case Rep J. 2020;7(6):e00398. doi:10.14309/crj.0000000000000398

  2. Lin YC, Yen HR, Tsai FJ, et al. Effects of cyproheptadine on body weight gain in children with nonorganic failure to thrive in Taiwan: a hospital-based retrospective study. PLoS One. 2021;16(10):e0258731. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0258731