Fantasy, Futility and Fraud in the Weight Loss Business.
Thousands of weight loss books, products and schemes have been marketed -some sincere but flawed,
others frankly fraudulent. Some estimates of cost suggest over 40 billion
dollars a year is spent in the USA alone on weight loss while increasing numbers
of people are becoming obese. Diet Plans such as the Atkins diet, Weight
Watchers, Nutrisystems and the South
Beach variant are pitched by persistent advertising and many people join the
parade of followers. Some lose weight, but almost all regain the weight they
lost. Infomercials, shown on cable TV promise that you can lose all the weight you
want while you eat everything you want are false and not to be believed. This is
what everyone wants of, course, a quick cure, but there is no easy path. It
doesn't matter what they are trying to sell you - packaged food, shakes, crab shells (chitin), fat
absorbers, fat burners, magic mushrooms, wonder bark from Brazil, magic
cellulite pills, pyruvate, creatine, garcinia cambogia, green goop, algae, magic
genies in a bottle - it's all a great fantasy that will not come true.
Every year, new weight-loss books appear on the bookstalls, and magazines run
repetitious articles on the subject. Millions of people have proven that it is
easier to gain weight than to lose it. Dieters have proven that weight-loss
attempts by following a "weight-loss diet" may succeed for a short time but
ultimately fail. There is no magic diet. None of the weight loss schemes printed
in any book over the past 50 years has had any real advantage over common sense.
This constant barrage of weight loss fantasy and fraud has become an integral
part of the overweight problem. An essential part of the solution is to erase
this book and product marketing nonsense from your mind, learn to adopt
realistic goals and reasonable strategies of self-management. Research has shown
several important features of body weight management. There are powerful
biological controllers of eating behaviors, appetite and weight regulation.
There are genetic tendencies toward excess weight and obesity-causing gene
mutations have been discovered. European and North American diets are flawed.
There is too much fat and sugar in all the foods and food is too abundant.
Eating has become entertainment. This is a bad idea if you want to stay slim.
The modern lifestyle is flawed. There is too much sitting, too much convenience
and too little physical work. One of the first challenges you face is to
abandon recreational eating in favor of recreational exercise. You must change
the way you interact with family, friends and the community at large. Obviously,
the task is very demanding.
The medical community, food industry, dietitians government health and
regulatory agencies, magazine publishers and diet businesses are all watching
helplessly as Americans and Canadians consume excessive amounts of food and
become increasingly obese. This epidemic of obesity threatens to bankrupt the
health care system in both countries in the next 50 years.
The Reality Shows A new wave of "reality" shows on TV show people
attempting to lose weight and reveal how difficult it is to lose, how hard you
have to work, how much you have to change your food choices and how much you
will depend on other people to support your effort.
Here are some reasonable consumer rules
Red Flag - claims that are never true:
- You can eat whatever you like
- You don't have to exercise.
- Fat stores "burn" off spontaneously.
- Celullite disappears
- Carbos are bad, fats and proteins are good
We have been unable to substantiate any claims that any substance on the
market actually "burns fat". The idea is intriguing but no product does that.
Calcium pyruvate is not "exercise in a bottle." The herbal substance "garcinia
cambogina" has been studied and show no fat burning ability and will not cause
Everyone wants an easy fix for weight problems. Every drug company wishes
they could market a magic pill that made you feel full and promoted fat burning
without bad effects. Every prescription drug that has been marketed for weight
loss has been a disappointment and a few have been a disaster for some people.
Since this is an intelligent guide to weight loss, we advise against drug use
and encourage all overweight people to seek a healthier life and achieve weight
goals without the use of drugs.
In a review of the history of drug use to treat obesity, Haddock et al
concluded: “Overall, the medications studied produced medium effect. Four
drugs produced a larger effect (amphetamine, benzamphetamine, fenfluramine and
sibutramine). The placebo-subtracted weight losses for single drugs vs. placebo
included in the meta-analysis never exceeded 4.0 kg. No drug, or class of drugs,
demonstrated clear superiority as an obesity medication.” This means that
if your take any one of these drugs, the most you can expect if a 4 kg weight
loss advantage over taking a placebo or taking nothing. The advantage of drug
use is minimal and short term with many disadvantages, including death.
There are regrettable problems encountered by users of the weight loss drugs, Redux and fen-fen, should remind everyone that weight-loss drugs have a
history of poor long-term efficacy and intolerable side effects.
Evidence suggested that dexfenfluramine (Redux) caused irreversible pulmonary
hypertension and that the combination of this drug with phentiramine (fen-phen)
causes heart valve defects in human subjects and brain damage in lab animals
triggered increasing concern about their use.