This is the time of year when advertisements for weight-loss fads are a-dime-a-dozen. “Take this magic pill” or “lose weight without diet or exercise” sound irresistible to the person who is desperate to lose a few pounds. But when the claims sound too good to be true, beware! They probably are.
The FDA has published some great tips about how to avoid falling for fad diets, especially those that make promises that can’t be kept and will only leave you discouraged and weighing as much – or more – than when you started.
But even worse than being useless as far as weight loss, many of these diets can cause serious harm. Federal regulators have found dozens of products being touted as dietary supplements for weight loss that actually contain hidden prescription drugs or compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans.
“These products are not legal dietary supplements,” says Michael Levy, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance. “They are actually very powerful drugs masquerading as ‘all-natural’ or ‘herbal’ supplements, and they carry significant risks to unsuspecting consumers.”
He adds: “We’ve found other weight-loss products marketed as supplements that contain dangerous concoctions of hidden ingredients including seizure medications, blood pressure medications, and other drugs not approved in the U.S.”
The dangers cannot be understated. “We have seen deaths associated with these weight-loss products,” Levy says. “Make no mistake—they can kill you.”
For instance, the FDA found weight-loss products tainted with the prescription drug sibutramine which was in an FDA-approved drug called Meridia. Meridia was taken off the market in October, 2010 because it caused heart problems and strokes.
Some of these tainted products include the 7 Days Diet, Extrim Plus, Fasting Diet, IM Fat Reducer, 24 Hours Diet, Body Shaping, GMP, 999 Fitness Essence and many more. This web page gives an extensive list of weight-loss products and the dangerous ingredients found within them.
Another problem has been with products containing HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) which is produced by the human placenta during pregnancy. The FDA has issued a warning to consumers about using homeopathic weight loss products containing HCG in the form of oral drops, pellets or sprays which claim to be able to “reset your metabolism” and shave off 20-30 pounds in a month. None of these claims have any scientific support.
Most people are not aware of the fact that supplements are not FDA-approved. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, dietary supplement firms do not need FDA approval prior to marketing their products. It is the company’s responsibility to make sure its products are safe and that any claims are true. This means that the consumer’s health is in the hands of persons or organizations who are out to make money, which is why this field is ripe with hucksters. So be especially careful with any weight loss scheme that involves the use of a supplement.
“Just because you see a supplement product on a store shelf does NOT mean it is safe or effective,” the FDA warns. “When safety issues are suspected, FDA must investigate and, when warranted, take steps to have the product removed from the market. However, it is much easier for a firm to get a product on the market than it is for FDA to take a product off the market.”
Consumers are also advised never to use any weight-loss supplement without checking with their healthcare provider first. This is because ingredients in supplements can interact with prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
They should also look out for (and report) any exaggerated or unrealistic claims made by a supplement, such as:
• promises quick action, such as “lose 10 pounds in one week”
• that it can cure a specific disease or condition.
. uses the words “guaranteed” or “scientific breakthrough”
• labeled or marketed in a foreign language
• marketed through mass e-mails
• marketed as an herbal alternative to an FDA-approved drug or as having effects similar to prescription drugs
• glowing “testimonials” in place of scientific studies
Consumers should also beware of the fact that many of these tainted weight-loss products are imported and sold through the Internet. This makes it extremely difficult for agencies to monitor and protect the public from potentially dangerous concoctions. The problem is so large, in fact, that the FDA is asking everyone, from the dietary supplement industry to consumers to help eliminate the availability and sale of these products.
If you suspect a dietary supplement sold online may be illegal, FDA urges you to report that information online.
For those who want a different kind of “quick-fix” to get rid of extra pounds, the FDA is also warning consumers away from popular lipodissolve procedures which involve an injection regimen containing phosphatidylcholine (PC) and deoxycholate (DC) and other ingredients such as vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts. Injections are given into deposits of fat with the promise that they will “melt your fat away . . . without surgery . . . without downtime . . . and with great results!”
However, there is no FDA-approved injectable drug that eliminates fat and no credible scientific evidence that any of the ingredients typically used in these injections actually works to eliminate fat. Lipodissolve also comes with risks. The FDA has received reports of permanent scarring, skin deformation, and painful knots under the skin where the injections were made.
Visit this FDA web page for more information about this dangerous procedure.
LipoLasers are another popular gimmick and although not as risky as lipodissolve injections, about the only thing they can slim is the wallet. Coming with a hefty price tag ranging from $1500 to $5000, LipoLaser promoters claim a person can lose 3-7 inches of fat in 3 weeks simply by shining the light of a laser on fat deposits. Promoters say that instead of opening fat cells via hormones released during exercise, “the laser light opens the fat cells – right through your skin. The same stuff comes out of the fat cells.” These fat cells supposedly shrink, or so the purveyors of the laser contend. The cost can run as high as $5000 for the necessary nine one-hour sessions.
There’s no getting around the bottom line – the safest and surest way to lose weight is to cut calories and exercise more.
The following is a list of the top five diets ranked by US News and World Report for both nutrition and safety:
The Dash Diet – Not just great for slimming the waistline, this diet is for anyone who also wants to lower their blood pressure.
The TLC Diet – The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet was created by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program aimed at cutting saturated fat and reducing cholesterol levels. Promises to lower “bad” cholesterol by eight to ten points in six weeks.
The Mediterranean Diet – This is the diet for anyone who wants to lose weight, keep it off, and avoid a host of chronic diseases.
The Mayo Clinic Diet – This diet was designed by world-class health professionals to will help you shed six to 10 pounds in two weeks, then continue losing one to two pounds weekly until you hit your goal.
The Volumetrics Diet – Developed by Penn State nutrition professor Barbara Rolls, this one teaches you how to decipher a food’s energy level. You can shed a pound or two per week on this diet.
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