Weight-loss products you don’t need
There is a product out there for just about anything – especially when it comes to health and fitness.
Many weight-loss products make spectacular claims, promising to melt the pounds away, often with little effort or without even needing to change your diet. But unlike with pharmaceuticals, the vast majority of weight-loss products don’t need to prove their claims or submit them to the FDA. This largely unregulated realm leaves consumers left to guess what supplements they could use and which ones they could do without.
-- By John Zebrowski for MSN Healthy Living
Fans of Dr. Oz have probably heard him extoll the virtues of the primary aroma compound of red raspberries. More than just delicious, it’s supposed to burn fat by regulating a protein that affects metabolism. Dr. Holly Lofton, a physician with the NYU Langone Weight Management Program, induces ketosis in some patients by dramatically reducing carbs, which causes the body to create ketones and consume fat. To ingest ketones, she said, in the hope it will do the same thing, is misguided. She said there is no evidence to suggest raspberry ketones work at all. “It’s like saying that if you want to get a tan, you’ll eat brown pills,” she said. “It will have no effect at all.”
Would you want to consume a product naturally derived from the human placenta and found in the urine of women? Then HCG is for you. Normally used as a hormone for IV fertilization, it has become a popular weight-loss aid when combined with an ultra-low calorie diet. But the FDA says it doesn’t work and has gone after manufacturers who sell HCG as a “homeopathic” weight-loss product. Dr. Louis Aronne, a weight-loss expert in New York, said that despite the FDA actions, a lot of physicians still prescribe HCG, despite no evidence it’s at all effective. “Putting people on 500 calories a day and giving them an injection is just a really expensive placebo,” he said.
The Hoodia gordonii plant grows only in South Africa and Namibia. But its legend is global. Ingested by the Kalahari Bushmen on long hunts, it suppressed their appetites and allowed them to go long stretches without eating. Naturally, the weight-loss industry jumped all over it. Dr. Brian Quebbemann, a weight-loss surgeon in Orange County, Calif., thinks hoodia could be promising, but he worries that there haven’t been any serious studies of its effectiveness. There’s also the fact that a number of products on the market have no actual hoodia in them. Several counties in California banned them on the grounds of making false claims. Quebbemann said that even if it does work to get weight off in the short term, hoodia would do nothing to keep it off long term. “Without changes to eating habits, people eventually gain it all back,” he said.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. There’s a whole sub-industry that believes a great way to lose weight is to get the old colon good and cleaned out. This can be done with supplements or more invasive means. According to this theory, our colons are filled with toxins, plaque and parasites that mess up our metabolism and cause us to gain weight. Flush out the gunk and the fat melts away. But Lofton said the colon cleanse is bunk. Little more than laxatives, she said. Any weight loss is nothing but water weight and quickly gained back. Besides, she said, all that “gunk” is there for a reason. The colon isn’t meant to be clean. “It’s not like you’re living in it,” she said.
There is a relatively new class of weight-loss products that claim to act on the body’s sense of smell to persuade it not to eat any more. The idea is that they work with your olfactory senses to trick your mind into feeling full. You eat less and lose weight. So far, the only studies on this were performed by the doctor who developed Sensa. Quebbemann said that smell plays a role in our sense of satisfaction, but that it varies from person to person and is often influenced by taste and other senses. “There’s a lot of research into what drives hunger,” he said. “Something as subtle as scent is unlikely to have significant long-term effects.”
Green coffee bean extract
Another product that got a serious boost from Dr. Oz, the incredible buzz around green coffee bean extract revolves around chlorogenic acid, which proponents argue promotes weight loss by slowing the release of glucose into the blood after a meal. This was boosted by a study in the journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity that showed an average of 17 pounds lost over 22 weeks. But Aronne said the study’s design is unconventional and its results untrustworthy. For one, it used only a handful of people. There’s also the fact the study was funded by a manufacturer of green coffee bean extract. “Having done 55 trials, this is not what I’d do,” Aronne said.
Lemon juice fast diet
Diets come and go, but some come back. Developed in the 1940s, the Master Cleanse diet has seen numerous revivals, most recently through adherents such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyoncé. The idea is simple: Consume nothing but several glasses of water flavored with lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Throw in a nightly laxative and a little salt water, and repeat for up to two weeks. The diet is supposed to detoxify the body and promote weight loss. Diet experts see two problems with this: One, there’s no behavior modification to keep weight off long term; and two, it can be dangerous. Lofton said that consuming only liquids for a long period of time could deprive the body of needed nutrients and lead to dramatic changes in blood pressure. Quebbemann said he just doesn’t see the point. “You can take anybody and put them on something – a supplement or six glasses of lemon juice per day – that gives them an upset stomach 24 hours per day and they’re going to lose weight,” he said. “That gets you nowhere near the goal of a healthy weight that you can maintain forever.”
Like the Master Cleanse, this is another approach with strong connections to celebrity. QuickTrim took off after Kim Kardashian claimed it helped her quickly lose 15 pounds. She’s now a paid endorser. Basically a combination of laxatives, herbs and caffeine, the different versions of QuickTrim will shed water weight, said Dr. Charlie Seltzer, a weight-loss physician in Philadelphia. But it does nothing to keep it off, and a 2012 lawsuit against Kardashian and QuickTrim alleged the product’s claims were “false, misleading, and unsubstantiated.” Seltzer is also skeptical: “I guarantee Kim Kardashian worked her tail off to lose the fat she did and followed a carefully constructed meal plan.”
Does being stressed out make you fat? According to the makers of CortiSlim, excess stress results in too much cortisol in the body, which leads to weight gain. Block the cortisol and the pounds melt away. There is no evidence that decreasing cortisol in people without a medical condition such as Cushing’s syndrome – where elevated amounts of cortisol leads to a host of problems, including weight gain – will make them lose weight. In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission acted against CortiSlim, accusing it of making false or unsubstantiated claims. “And it disappeared, because people realized it didn’t work,” said Aronne. “But it came back.”