10 things the diet
companies don't want you to know -- Page 2
5. Don't believe everything you hear.
Nutritionals Inc., a Texas-based company selling the Body Solutions Evening Weight
Formula, advertised on the radio that you could shed unwanted pounds in your sleep
without having to change your diet or exercise.
2002, it was heard on more than 650 radio stations with over 700 endorsers in
110 U.S. cities, making it one of the largest radio advertisers in the country.
"They picked DJs to endorse the product who commanded
and controlled their audience," says Tom Carter, senior attorney in the FTC's
southwest regional office in Dallas, who successfully brought suit against Mark
Nutritionals, as did the states of Illinois, Texas and Pennsylvania.
wasn't just misleading advertising, it was false," adds Carter, who just
settled the case against the company and its two principal owners. In only three
years of operation, Mark Nutritionals amassed $155 million in revenue, most of
it lost to the millions of consumers who believed you could "lose weight
while you sleep." Mark Nutritionals is no longer operational.
'Natural' or 'herbal' doesn't guarantee safety.
don't have a good definition of 'natural,' " laments Dr. Blackburn of the
Harvard Medical School.
Consumers assume that because
a product is natural, it couldn't possibly be harmful, says a Food and Drug Administration
spokeswoman. "It's a buyer-beware industry. Consumers don't realize this,"
The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring
the safety of their products before putting them out in the marketplace. Until
the FDA receives evidence that a product is harmful, the manufacturers are free
to put their products out in the marketplace.
diet supplement in the news lately is ephedra. It's an amphetamine-like diet supplement
derived from the Chinese herb ma huang and has been found to constrict the blood
vessels, speed the heart rate and raise blood pressure.
FDA received more than 16,000 complaints of adverse reactions to the herb, which
is found in more than 200 dietary supplements sold over the counter. It has been
linked to 155 deaths from heart attacks and strokes. Hundreds of ephedra victims
have filed suit.
Recently, after more than six years of study,
the FDA announced plans to ban the "fat-burning" herb ephedra, declaring
it a hazard even for healthy adults.
But ephedra is not the
only "natural" product on the FDA's watch list. It has issued warnings
of "possible health hazards" against herb-supplement products containing
chaparral, comfrey, willow bark and wormwood. Additional items on the watch list
include supplements and so-called dieter's teas that contain senna, cascara, aloe,
buckthorn and other plant-derived laxatives.
Fad diets don't work.
Sudden and radical changes
in your eating patterns are difficult to sustain over time, say the experts. So-called
crash diets often send dieters into a cycle of quick weight loss followed by a
"rebound" weight gain once normal eating resumes, which leads to even
more difficulty when the next diet is attempted.
diet means you get on some type of elimination program and you can't stay with
it," explains Dr. Blackburn. "There's no health benefit from weight
loss regained. If you can't do what you did to cut the calories to lose those
few pounds for the rest of your life, you can't maintain the weight loss."
and hundreds of diet books have been published over the last few decades,"
agrees Mark J. Occhipinti, an exercise physiologist and lecturer on diet and exercise.
"If any one of them truly worked, there wouldn't be the
need for another one."
8. It will cost you.
All three of the largest national weight loss chains -- Weight
Watchers, Jenny Craig and LA Weight Loss -- continue to make millions in revenue.
In 2003, Weight Watchers' revenue was approximately $943 million, while Jenny
Craig saw $280 million and LA Weight Loss climbed from revenues of $105 million
in 2001 to $250 million and counting in 2003.
to the Marketdata's John LaRosa, costs of these programs vary regionally (franchises
have latitude in what they charge) and individually. On average, joining Jenny
Craig will set you back between $199 and $299 initially, plus $70 per week to
buy its meals. Weight Watchers charges $29 to join and between $8 and $12 per
week for meetings. LA Weight Loss sells a year's program in advance and averages
$575 for a full year's service. Costs could go higher, depending on how many of
the company's bars and supplements you buy. Marketdata Enterprises Inc., is an
independent Tampa-based market research firm.
But Dr. Blackburn
thinks programs such as Weight Watchers are worth the expenditure.
costs of obesity are extremely high. It's not a cosmetics issue. Successful weight
loss of even five to 10 pounds can save hundreds of dollars per person and hundreds
of millions of dollars to the economy in health-care costs. Programs that teach
you a healthy diet and lifestyle produce the best outcomes."
Don't count on the 'money-back guarantee.'
to the FTC, you have as much chance of getting back your money as you do having
the product do what it claims.
guarantees -- if honored -- may benefit consumers, there is no reason for consumers
to have any more confidence in them than in a claim that the product will actually
work," says Cleland. The FTC has frequently sued companies that "guaranteed"
to give consumers their money back but didn't, he says.
There is no magic bullet.
dieters place their hopes on pills and capsules that promise to "burn,"
"block" or "flush" fat from the body. But science has yet
to come up with a low-risk magic bullet for weight loss. Some pills may control
appetite but can have serious side effects. Amphetamines, for instance, are highly
addictive and can have an adverse impact on the heart and central nervous system.
Other pills are utterly worthless.
"There is no
quick fix," stresses Dr. Blackburn.
be realistic. You can't solve years of overeating overnight. You have to cut your
calories and you have to keep at it. How do you get to play the piano? You practice!
It's the same for permanent weight loss. You practice and practice healthy eating
until you get it right."