Weight Loss in a Bottle

The feds take aim at bogus claims

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. That was the overall finding of a panel of weight loss experts recently convened by the Federal Trade Commission (the agency charged with maintaining truth in advertising) to review advertising claims for certain types of weight loss products.

The products included OTC drugs, dietary supplements, creams, wraps, devices, and patches. Here are the eight bogus claims. If you see them on a product or in an advertisement for one of these specific types of weight loss products, they're not true!

CLAIM #1
"Works for everyone no matter how many times you've tried and failed before."

REALITY CHECK: Even prescription diet pills don't work for everyone. Only about one-third to one-half of the people who try them lose weight. Nor is surgery 100% successful.

CLAIM #2
"You won't gain the weight back."

REALITY CHECK: No product changes your body's physiology so that once you stop using it, you keep the weight off. Even while still taking prescription diet pills, some weight regain is expected.

CLAIM #3
"Enjoy unlimited high-calorie foods."

REALITY CHECK: You could take out "high-calorie," and it still wouldn't be true. Hundreds of studies have shown that calorie management is the key to weight loss.

CLAIM #4
"It has taken inches off my butt and thighs; I still wear the same bra size though."

REALITY CHECK: Based on current evidence, spot reducing, or losing weight only from specific body parts, is not feasible, however, it may be in the future.

CLAIM #5
"Lose up to 2 lb daily. This ingredient can ingest up to 900 times its own weight in fat; that's why it's a fantastic fat blocker."

REALITY CHECK: Studies on fat and calorie blockers have found that they don't even absorb enough fat (55 g a day) to result in a loss of a pound a week. And even if they could, the side effect (diarrhea) would prevent most people from doing it.

CLAIM #6
"Lose weight safely with this earring, shoe insert, ring, cream, or patch."

REALITY CHECK: In the future, patches and creams may be a method of delivering substances that could help with weight loss. But based on scientific evidence, no such products currently exist.

CLAIM #7
"Eat all your favorite foods, and still lose weight The pill does all the work"

REALITY CHECK: If you don't eat less or exercise more, you'd have to block absorption, change your metabolism, or change your body composition. Based on the products being considered, there are currently none on the market that have been shown to do this. In the future, though, it may become possible.

CLAIM #8
"Safely lose more than 3 lb a week for more than 4 weeks without medical supervision."

REALITY CHECK: Although it is possible to lose more than this a week through extreme dieting, it does increase your risk of adverse effects such as gallstones."

What Works
Based on studies of people who've successfully lost weight and kept it off, the strategies that appear to work the best are eating a low-calorie, low-let diet, and exercising.

NOTE: Similar claims for prescription drugs, meal replacements, low-calorie foods, special diets such as Atkins or Weight Watchers, surgery, or hypnosis were not included.

PHOTO (COLOR): Fat chance!

PHOTO (COLOR): Don't expect a slimmer figure to arrive in the mail.

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By Michele Stanten

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