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Fad Diets and Weight Loss Products

Approximately 8 million Americans a year, enroll in some kind of structured weight-loss program. Consumers need to be wary of claims that sound too good to be true. Almost all fad diets fail. Fad diets offer only a quick fix and not a solution to the problem. They do not attempt to change the behaviors of the person who is dieting. All too often, dieters are left with feelings of guilt and inadequacy because of their perceived failure to lose weight and maintain weight loss.

Fad Diets and Weight Loss Products

Doctors, dieticians, and other experts agree that the best way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and increase your physical activity so you burn more energy. A reasonable goal is to lose about a pound a week. For most people, that means cutting about 500 calories a day from your diet, eating a variety of nutritious foods, and exercising regularly.

Characteristics of Fad Diets:

  • promises of quick weight loss
  • limits on food choices
  • recommendations for expensive supplements or special products
  • claims to be better than recommendations from doctors and scientists
  • no requirements for physical activity

Be skeptical of any weight loss programs claiming to be:

  • effortless
  • guaranteed
  • miraculous
  • magical
  • breakthrough
  • new discovery
  • mysterious
  • exotic
  • secret
  • exclusive
  • ancient

Facts About Fad Diets and Weight Loss Products:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Fad diets rarely have any permanent effect. Sudden and radical changes in your eating patterns are difficult to sustain over time.

4. Some diet pills may help control the appetite but they can have serious side effects. (Amphetamines, for instance, are highly addictive and can have an adverse impact on the heart and central nervous system.) Some pills are completely worthless.

5. The FDA has banned 111 ingredients once found in over the counter diet products. The Federal Trade Commission and some Attorney Generals have successfully brought cases against marketers of pills claiming to absorb or burn fat.

Beware These Boasts:

When it comes to evaluating claims for weight loss products, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends a healthy portion of skepticism.  Before you spend money on products that promise fast and easy results, weigh the claims carefully. Think twice before wasting your money on products that make any of these false claims:

“Lose weight without diet or exercise!”

Achieving a healthy weight takes work. Take a pass on any product that promises miraculous results without the effort. Buy one and the only thing you’ll lose is money.

“Lose weight no matter how much you eat of your favorite foods!”

Beware of any product that claims that you can eat all you want of high-calorie foods and still lose weight. Losing weight requires sensible food choices. Filling up on healthy vegetables and fruits can make it easier to say no to fattening sweets and snacks.

“Lose weight permanently! Never diet again!”

Even if you’re successful in taking the weight off, permanent weight loss requires permanent lifestyle changes. Don’t trust any product that promises once-and-for-all results without ongoing maintenance.

“Block the absorption of fat, carbs, or calories!”

Doctors, dieticians, and other experts agree that there’s simply no magic non-prescription pill that will allow you to block the absorption of fat, carbs, or calories. The key to curbing your craving for those “downfall foods” is portion control. Limit yourself to a smaller serving or a slimmer slice.

“Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!”

Losing weight at the rate of a pound or two a week is the most effective way to take it off and keep it off. At best, products promising lightning-fast weight loss are false. At worst, they can ruin your health.

“Everybody will lose weight!”

Your habits and health concerns are unique. There is simply no one-size-fits-all product guaranteed to work for everyone. Team up with your health care provider to design a personalized nutrition and exercise program suited to your lifestyle and metabolism.

“Lose weight with our miracle diet patch or cream!”

You’ve seen the ads for diet patches or creams that claim to melt away the pounds. Don’t believe them. There’s nothing you can wear or apply to your skin that will cause you to lose weight.

Factors to Evaluate if Considering a Commercial Weight Loss Program:

(1) the cost of the program and its duration,
(2) the qualifications and credentials of program staff,
(3) the risks associated with the program; and
(4) program outcomes in terms of both weight loss achieved and weight loss maintained short-term and long-term.

Supplements vs. Healthy Eating

If a healthy variety of foods are eaten, supplements are not necessary. Our bodies need a total of 42 nutrients each day. Taking in more nutrients than our body needs does not provide added energy, added brainpower or greater protection against disease.

Single-nutrient supplements or high mineral combinations may be harmful to our health. Taken in high dosages, some supplements may produce side effects such as fatigue, diarrhea and hair loss. Other more serious side effects include kidney stones, liver or nerve damage, and birth defects.

Who Needs Supplements?

People who have a chronic illness or who have very restrictive diets may need to take supplements. Otherwise, most people can receive adequate nutrition by eating a variety of foods and following the standard dietary guidelines.

Potential Risks of Supplement Use

Unlike drug products that must be proven safe and effective for their intended use before marketing, there are no provisions in the law for FDA to “approve” dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they reach the consumer.

Also unlike drug products, manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are not currently required by law to record, investigate or forward to FDA any reports they receive of injuries or illnesses that may be related to the use of their products. Under DSHEA, once the product is marketed, FDA has the responsibility for showing that a dietary supplement is “unsafe,” before it can take action to restrict the product’s use or removal from the marketplace.

Many supplements contain active ingredients that can have strong effects in the body. Taking a combination of supplements, using these products together with medicine, or substituting them in place of prescribed medicines could lead to harmful, even life-threatening results. Also, some supplements can have unwanted effects before, during, and after surgery. It is important to let your doctor and other health professionals know about the vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and other products you are taking, especially before surgery.

 

Here a few examples of dietary supplements believed to interact with specific drugs:

  • Calcium and heart medicine (e.g., Digoxin), thiazide diuretics (Thiazide), and aluminum and magnesium-containing antacids.
  • Magnesium and thiazide and loop diuretics (e.g., Lasix®, etc.), some cancer drugs (e.g., Cisplatin, etc.), and magnesium-containing antacids.
  • Vitamin K and a blood thinner (e.g., Coumadin).
  • St. John’s Wort and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs (i.e., anti-depressant drugs and birth control pills).

 

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