Of Dietary Supplements and Flying Unicorns

Why is the diet industry replete with so many phony claims?

Recently, I was exposed to yet another “miracle diet product” that got my hackles up — and rest assured you don’t want to be around when I have elevated hackles.

The radio ad began something like:

“We are looking for a select few people in this listening area that want to be involved in a new weight loss study who want to lose no more than two pounds a day.”

Firstly, announcements referencing “this listening area,” are not from “this listening area;” they’re part of a national or regional campaign pretending to sound local. Should they be homegrown, they would say something such as, “We need people in Northern California…” Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with national advertising; however, the fact that it’s disingenuous raises the first in a series of red flags.

Speaking of such, let’s wave some more.

Indeed, there are countless people “in this listening area” who would easily want to shed the required poundage at approximately two pounds every 24 hours. It ain’t gonna happen. Granted, they reference “no more” than two pounds a day. I mean, who would be upset if all they shed was a pound a half a day?

In one month, I have the perfect body. How cool is that?

An important admonition: One cannot lose weight — and sustain it (and that’s essential) — that rapidly without sacrificing one’s health. Therefore, the set up is not only promoting unrealistic and unhealthy expectations, but it’s setting up “participants” to feel like failures should they lose the more realistic one to two pounds per week.

Being your dedicated diet detective, I ventured to the website to suss out the details. What I discovered was that we could purchase a new miracle supplement “electromagnetically encoded to copy the effects of homeopathic formulas.” To get the aforementioned results, one consumed a few drops regularly and followed a “VCLD” (very low calorie diet) of approximately 500 calories per day.

Let’s put that in perspective.

An average 45-year old, 5’ 4” woman, weighing about 140 to 150 pounds, and not excessively active; needs about 1,800 daily calories to maintain her weight. Anything less causes weight loss. Should she drop to 1300, she’d shed about a pound a week.

Therefore, based entirely on math, if one only consumes 500 calories a day – with or without supplements — she’s got no choice but to get thinner. The question is, “At what price?” After all, if you lose your weight and damage your health, was it worth it? Personally, I’d rather be pudgy and relatively healthy than “at my correct weight” while on the verge of keeling over.

To sum it up, at the bottom of the site, in a minute, faint, grey font, almost blending in to the page, is this text:

“…(Product) has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity. There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or ‘normal’ distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets …”

‘Nuff said.

I’d like to flap my arms and fly. I’d also love a pet unicorn. The likelihood of those is equal to me losing a whole lot of weight without changing how I eat, move, and think. And, at least I don’t have to spend $10.25 in shipping to be disappointed.

To hear the audio podcast of this column – and some of the background in writing it – follow this link.

 

 

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