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Weight loss products - Are they for real

Some dieters peg their hopes on pills and capsules that promise to "burn," "block," "flush," or otherwise eliminate fat from the system. But science has yet to come up with a low-risk "magic bullet" for weight loss. Some 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.) Other pills are utterly worthless.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a number of state Attorney General have successfully brought cases against marketers of pills claiming to absorb or burn fat. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned 111 ingredients once found in over-the-counter diet products. None of these substances, which include alcohol, caffeine, dextrose, and guar gum, have proved effective in weight-loss or appetite suppression.

Beware of the following products that are touted as weight-loss wonders:

  • Diet patches, which are worn on the skin, have not been proven to be safe or effective. The FDA has seized millions of these products from manufacturers and promoters.
  • "Fat blockers" purport to physically absorb fat and mechanically interfere with the fat a person eats.
  • "Starch blockers" promise to block or impede starch digestion. Not only is the claim unproven, but users have complained of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains.
  • "Magnet" diet pills allegedly "flush fat out of the body." The FTC has brought legal action against several marketers of these pills.
  • Glucomannan is advertised as the "Weight Loss Secret That's Been in the Orient for Over 500 Years." There is little evidence supporting this plant root's effectiveness as a weight-loss product.
  • Some bulk producers or fillers, such as fiber-based products, may absorb liquid and swell in the stomach, thereby reducing hunger. Some fillers, such as guar gum, can even prove harmful, causing obstructions in the intestines, stomach, or esophagus. The FDA has taken legal action against several promoters containing guar gum.
  • Spirulina, a species of blue-green algae, has not been proven effective for losing weight.

Phony weight-loss devices range from those that are simply ineffective to those that are truly dangerous to your health. At minimum, they are a waste of your hard-earned money. Some of the fraudulent gadgets that have been marketed to hopeful dieters over the years include:

  • Electrical muscle stimulators - although they have legitimate use in physical therapy treatment, the FDA has taken a number of them off the market. They were being promoted for weight loss and body toning, and ther eis no proof they can treat those conditions. When used incorrectly, muscle stimulators can be dangerous, causing electrical shocks and burns.
  • "Appetite suppressing eyeglasses" - those are common eyeglasses with colored lenses that claim to project an image to the retina which dampens the desire to eat. There is no real evidence that these devices really work.
  • "Magic weight-loss earrings" - devices custom-fitted to the purchaser's ear that purport to stimulate acupuncture points controlling hunger. Again, those were never proven to be really effective.
  • Source: : Excerpted from FDA/FTC/NAAG Brochure 1992: The Facts about Weight Loss Products and Programs

    Adapted by Editorial Staff, July 2007
    Last update, August 2008


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