The facts about weight loss products and programs.
Looking for a quick and easy way to lose weight? You're not alone. An estimated 50 million Americans will go on diets this year. And while some will succeed in taking off weight, very few -- perhaps 5 percent -- will manage to keep all of it off in the long run.
One reason for the low success rate is that many people look for quick and easy solutions to their weight problems. They find it hard to believe in this age of scientific innovations and medical miracles that an effortless weight-loss method doesn't exist.
So they succumb to quick-fix claims Like "Eat All You Want and Still Lose Weight!" or "Melt Fat Away -- While You Sleep!" And they invest their hopes (and their money) in all manner of pills, potions, gadgets, and programs that hold the promise of a slimmer, happier future.
The weight-loss business is a booming industry. Americans spend an estimated $30 billion a year on all types of diet programs and products, including diet foods and drinks. Trying to sort out all of the competing claims -- often misleading, unproven, or just plain false -- can be confusing and costly.
This brochure is designated to give you the facts behind the claims, to help you avoid the outright scams, and to encourage you to consider thoroughly the costs and the consequences of the dieting decisions you make.
The Facts About Weight Loss
Being obese can have serious health consequences. These include an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallstones, and some forms of cancer. Losing weight can help reduce these risks. Here are some general points to keep in mind:
* Any claims that you can lose weight effortlessly are false. The only proven way to lose weight is either to reduce the number of calories you eat or to increase the number of calories you burn off through exercise. Most experts recommend a combination of both.
* Very low-calorie diets are not without risk and should be pursued only under medical supervision. Unsupervised very low-calorie diets can deprive you of important nutrients and are potentially dangerous.
* Fad diets rarely have any permanent effect. Sudden and radical changes in your eating patterns are difficult to sustain over time. In addition, so-called "crash" diets often send dieters into a cycle of quick weight loss, followed by a "rebound" weight gain once normal eating resumes, and even more difficulty reducing when the next diet is attempted.
* To lose weight safely and keep it off requires long-terms changes in daily eating and exercise habits. Many experts recommend a goal of losing about a pound a week. A modest reduction of 500 calories per day will achieve this goal, since a total reduction of 3,500 calories is required to lose one pound of fat. An important way to lower your calorie intake is to learn and practice healthy eating habits.
In Search of the "Magic Bullet"
Some dieters peg their hopes on pills and capsules that promise to "burn," "block," "flush," or otherwise eliminate fat from the system. But science has yet to come up with a low-risk "magic bullet" for weight loss. Some pills may help control the appetite, but they can have serious side effects. (Amphetamines, fro instance, are highly addictive and can have an adverse impact on the heart and central nervous system.) Other pills are utterly worthless.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a number of state Attorneys General have successfully brought cases against marketers of pills claiming to absorb or burn fat. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned 111 ingredients once found in over-the-counter diet products. None of these substances, which include alcohol, caffeine, dextrose, and guar gum, have proved effective in weight-loss or appetite suppression.
Beware of the following products that are touted as weight-loss wonders:
* Diets patches, which are worn on the skin, have not been proven to be safe or effective. The FDA has seized millions of these products from manufacturers and promoters.
* "Fat blockers" purport to physically absorb fat and mechanically interfere with the fat a person eats.
* "Starch blockers" promise to block or impede starch digestion. Not only is the claim unproven, but users have complained of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains.
* "Magnet" diet pills allegedly "flush fat out of the body." The FTC has brought legal action against several marketers of these pills.
* Glucomannan is advertised as the "Weight Loss Secret That's Been in the Orient for Over 500 Years." There is little evidence supporting this plant root's effectiveness as a weight-loss product.
* Some bulk producers or fillers, such as fiber-based products, may absorb liquid and swell in the stomach, thereby reducing hunger. Some fillers, such as guar gum, can even prove harmful, causing obstructions in the intestines, stomach, or esophagus. The FDA has taken legal action against several promoters of products containing guar gum.
* Spirulina, a species of blue-green algea, has not been proven effective for losing weight.
Phony Devices and Gadgets
Phony weight-loss devices range from those that are simply ineffective to those that are truly dangerous to your health. At minimum, they are a waste of your hard-earned money. Some of the fraudulent gadgets that have been marketed to hopeful dieters over the years include:
* Electrical muscle stimulators have legitimate use in physical therapy treatment. But the FDA has taken a number of them off the market because they were promoted for weight loss and body toning. When used incorrectly, muscle stimulators can be dangerous, causing electrical shocks and burns.
* "Appetite suppressing eyeglasses" are common eyeglasses with colored lenses that claim to project an image to the retina which dampens the desire to eat. There is no evidence these work.
* "Magic weight-loss earrings" and devices custom-fitted to the purchaser's ear that purport to stimulate acupuncture points controlling hunger have not been proven effective.
Approximately 8 million Americans a year enroll in some kind of structured weight-loss program involving liquid diets, special diet regimens, or medical or other supervision. In 1991, about 8,500 commercial diet centers were in operation across the country, many of them owned by a half-dozen or so well-known national companies.
Before you join such a program, you should know that according to published studies relatively few participants succeed in keeping off weight long-term. Recently, the FTC brought action against several companies challenging weight-loss and weight-maintenance claims. Unfortunately, some other companies continue to make overblown claims.
The FTC stopped one company from claiming its diet program caused rapid weight loss through the use of tablets that would "burn fat" and a protein drink mix that would adjust metabolism. The FTC also took action against three major programs using doctor-supervised, very low-calorie liquid diets, and they agreed to stop making the claims they had been making unless they could back them up with hard data.
Before you sign up with a diet program, you might ask these questions:
* What are the health risks?
* What data can you show me that proves your programs
* Do customers keep off the weight after they leave
the diet program?
* What are the costs for membership, weekly fees,
food, supplements, maintenance, and counseling?
What's the payment schedule? Are any costs covered
under health insurance? Do you give refunds if I
* Do you have a maintenance program? Is it part of
the package or does it cost extra?
* What kind of professional supervision is provided?
What are the credentials of these professionals?
* What are the program's requirements? Are there
special menus or foods, counseling visits, or exercise
Clues to Fraud
It is important for consumer to be wary of claims that sound too good to be true. When it comes to weight-loss schemes, consumers should be particularly skeptical of claims containing words and phrases like:
- easy - new discovery - effortless - mysterious - guaranteed - exotic - miraculous - secret - magical - exclusive - breakthrough - ancient
Sensible Weight Maintenance Tips
Losing weight may not be effortless, but it doesn't have to be complicated. To achieve long-term results, it's best to avoid quick-fix schemes and complex regimens. Focus instead on making modest changes to your life's daily routine. A balanced, healthy diet and sensible, regular exercise are the keys to maintaining your ideal weight. Although nutrition science is constantly evolving, here are some generally-accepted guidelines for losing weight:
* Consult with your doctor, a dietician, or other qualified health professional to determine your ideal healthy body weight.
* Eat smaller portions and choose from a variety of foods.
* Load up on foods naturally high in fiber: fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
* Limit portions of foods high in fat: dairy products like cheese, butter, and whole milk; red meat; cakes and pastries.
* Exercise at least three times a week.
For Help and Information
The Federal Trade Commission has jurisdiction over the advertising and marketing of foods, non-prescription drugs, medical devices, and health care services. The FTC can seek federal court injunctions to halt fraudulent claims and obtain redress for injured consumers.
The Food and Drug Administration had jurisdiction over the content and labeling of foods, drugs, and medical devices. The FDA can take law enforcement action to seize and prohibit the sale of products that are falsely labeled.
Most state Attorneys General have authority under state consumer protection statutes to investigate and prosecute unfair or deceptive acts and practices. Many have the power to seek consumer restitution, civil fines, and revocation of a company's authority to do business.
To get more information or to file complaints about weight-loss products or programs, write: Federal Trade Commission Correspondence Branch Washington, D.C. 20580 or Food and Drug Administration Consumer Affairs and Information 5600 Fishers Lane, HFC-110 Rockville, MD 20857 or Your State Attorney General Office of Consumer Protection Your State Capital
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|Publication:||Pamphlet by: Food and Drug Administration|
|Date:||Sep 3, 1993|
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