Diet Pills, Diet Miracles – What To Watch Out For

Bathing suit time is fast approaching. Soon there’ll be more ads and infomercials touting “diet miracles” like fat-blockers, diet pills, metabolism boosters, and protein shakes, all assuring you that the “pounds will melt away!” Learn what’s quackery, and what isn’t.

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What works? What doesn’t? Here are 5 tips:

1. Avoid the “diet miracles” on TV and on your grocery store shelves. Instead, go straight to the produce section – and FILL UP YOUR CART.

Just about anything (including drinking a lot of coffee) can produce some weight loss in the short term. What’s far more important is 1) how healthy your dietary strategies are, and 2) if they work long-term.

What works long-term? Researchers at the University of Colorado and Brown Medical School have published excellent data on more than 5,000 men and women who have lost, on average, 66 pounds and kept those pounds off for at least one year. They’re part of an ongoing research project called the National Weight Control Registry.*

The vast majority of these successful long-term losers use strategies that are very similar to those practiced at the Pritikin Longevity Center® & Spa in Miami, Florida.**

For starters, the men and women in the National Weight Control Registy move. They walk on average about an hour every day.

Secondly, their daily diets include a lot of fiber-rich, naturally-low-in-fat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

It’s these two simple strategies – not $90 bottles of fat burners or $300 body wraps – that have helped these 5,000+ Americans lose a lot of weight – and keep it off.

2. If a claim sounds too good to be true, it is.

“Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!”
“Watch your belly fat melt away!”
“Eat your favorite foods and still lose weight.”
“You’ll never have to go to the gym!”

We’ve all seen claims like these on “diet miracle” products. And sure, they’re tempting. “But no credible scientific data support them,” asserts Dr. Jay Kenney, Nutrition Research Specialist at the Pritikin Longevity Center. “And a few, like those that contain amphetamines, ephedra, Ritalin, laxatives, or diuretics, are downright dangerous or illegal.”

The federal government is starting to crack down on these bogus claims. In January, Bayer AG and several smaller companies agreed to pay the U.S. government almost $26 million to settle allegations of false weight-loss claims. Bayer’s claims that its One-A-Day Weight Smart vitamins could increase the body’s metabolism were not supported by scientific evidence, the Federal Trade Commission criticized.

Other companies, including those that promote diet pills Xenadrine EFX and TrimSpa, were also slapped with multi-million dollar fines because of claims, like “rapid and substantial weight loss,” that were false and unsubstantiated.

3. Read labels.

There are “diet” bars, like “Think Thin,” that really ought to be named “Think Again.” The calories packed into these “diet” bars (many tally up 290 calories) are often more than you’d get in a regular candy bar!

And because these “diet” bars are so small (two or three bites and they’re gone), it’s awfully easy to eat one and then eat a regular-sized meal just one or two hours later. So what you’ve done, as a result, is add — not subtract – nearly 300 calories to your daily intake. In one year, 300 extra calories a day could easily add 30 extra pounds of pudge to your waistline.

4. There’s no such thing as a “magic diet pill”.

Very lucrative (and therefore very popular) among diet scam promoters are pills based on herbal ingredients that promise to boost your metabolism and help you burn calories faster. Bayer’s “weight-loss” pill, for example contained a green tea extract that Bayer claimed could increase the body’s metabolism.

“They’re ineffective,” states Dr. Kenney. “And sometimes they’re dangerous.” Until recently, for example, ephedra was found in many herbal diet pills, but in 2004 the FDA banned the sale of ephedra in dietary supplements. The herb was found to cause high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, tremors, seizures, heart attacks, strokes, and even death.

Another popular pill scam are fat-blocking pills. Their promoters claim that they block your body’s absorption of fat, “but once again, there’s no good science to support these claims,” points out Dr. Kenney.

And their effects can be, if not dangerous, certainly unpleasant. “Consumers of fat-blocking pills have complained of gastrointestinal problems like bloating, gas, and diarrhea, so I suppose,” muses Dr. Kenney, “it could be said they work because you’re so wiped out from running back and forth to the bathroom that you don’t feel like eating.”

5. Never drink your calories.

The diet aisles of supermarkets are full of “get slim” protein shakes, “but anytime you drink your calories, you do not get the satiety, or sense of fullness, that you get when you eat solid foods,” explains Dr. Kenney. “So liquid calories don’t keep you from eating more later.”

Worse yet, there are a lot of calories in these protein shakes. Just one 7-ounce serving is often 290 calories (that’s twice as many calories as a can of regular coke).

Bottom Line:

“What credible scientific research has found, time and time again, is that long-term weight control and good health require that we give up calorie-dense, high-fat, and hyperprocessed foods and eat far more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Good health and good weight control also usually require a significant increase in daily physical activity,” sums up Dr. Kenney.

“Anyone who promises weight loss without a healthy diet and exercise program is a con artist or quack.”


** Shick, S.M., Wing, R.R., Klem, M.L., McGuire, M.T., Hill, J.O., & Seagle, H. Persons successful at long-term weight loss and maintenance continue to consume a low calorie, low fat diet. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 1998, 98, 408-413.

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