7 Easy Ways To Spot Fad Diets

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Issues, Obesity

The FTC Finally Targets Deceptive Advertising

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Fad DietsI think it was P. T. Barnum who said “There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute”. That’s particularly true in the diet world where hucksters seem to be all around us – especially this time of year.

You’ve seen the weight loss ads touting:

  • Pills or powders that suppress your appetite or magically prevent you from absorbing calories.
  • Fat burners that melt the pounds away.
  • New discoveries (juices, beans, foods) that make weight loss effortless.
  • The one simple thing you can do that will finally banish those extra pounds forever.

You already know that most of those ads can’t be true. You don’t want to be a sucker. But, the ads are so compelling:

  • Many of them quote “scientific studies” to “prove” that their product or program works.
  • Their testimonials feature people just like you getting fantastic results from their program. [You can do wonders with “computer enhanced” photographs.]
  • Many of those products are endorsed by well known doctors on their TV shows or blogs. [It is amazing what money can buy.]

So it is easy to ask yourself: “Could it be true?” “Could this work for me?”

Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stepped up to the plate to give you some guidance. Just in time for weight loss season, they have issued a list of seven claims that are in fact too good to be true. If you hear any of these claims, you should immediately recognize it as a fad diet and avoid it.

7 Easy Ways To Spot Fad Diets

Here are the seven statements in ads that the FTC considers as “red flags” for fad diets that should be avoided:

  1. Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without changing your diet and exercise routine.
  2. Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much you eat.
  3. Causes permanent weight loss without lifestyle change even after you stop using the product.
  4. Blocks absorption of fat or calories to enable you to lose substantial weight.
  5. Safely enables you to lose more than 3 pounds per week for more than 4 weeks.
  6. Causes substantial weight loss for all users
  7. Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on your body or rubbing it on your skin.

I’m sure you have heard some of these claims before. You may have actually been tempted to try the products or program. You should know that the FTC said that it considers these to be “Gut Check” claims that simply can’t be true.

Operation Failed Resolution

Unfortunately, the FTC guidelines didn’t exactly make it to the front page of newspapers and blogs. They weren’t featured in the network news shows. So the FTC went one step further. In a program called “Operation Failed Resolution”, the FTC:

  • Sent letters to 75 publisher and broadcasters asking them to review the FTC’s “Gut Check” claims when screening ads for publication.  The implication, of course, is that the publishers and broadcasters could be held liable for false advertising if they ignored the FTC guidelines in accepting advertisements.
  • On January 7, 2014 they initiated legal action against what they considered the four most outrageous weight loss claims. Those were:

Shake, Shake, Busted

Sensa, the company who’s ads claimed that you could just “shake, shake” their ‘fairy dust’ on your food and lose weight, was required to pay $26 million for unfounded weight loss claims and misleading endorsements (testimonials).

And, as for those clinical studies Sensa claimed to have had, the FTC alleged that one study was based on fabricated data, and the other two studies were equally flawed. The FTC also alleged that Sensa paid people for their testimonials.

Acai Nonsense

LeanSpa was fined $7 million for claiming that a mixture acai berry and a colon cleanse could help you lose weight. Among other things, the FTC prohibited LeanSpa from claiming that products were clinically proven to work when they are not.

Rub A Dub, Dub

L’Occitane was fined $450,000 for claiming that a skin cream called Almond Beautiful Shape would slim a person’s body “1.3 inches in just 4 weeks.”

HCG Deception

HCG Diet Direct was fined $3.2 million for claiming that human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) plus a very low calorie diet could help you lose a pound a day. The FTC alleged that HCG had not been proven to provide any more weight loss than the low calorie diet alone. The FTC stated that HCG “has been falsely promoted for decades as a weight loss supplement.”

Don’t Wait For the FTC to Act

You probably recognize that there are a lot of other companies out there hawking similar products. There are lots of similar weight loss ads that seem just too good to be true. The FTC is watching them and will probably try to shut them down one by one. When the actions against these four companies were announced, the FTC said:

“We cannot comment on companies that either we haven’t brought an action against in the past or we aren’t announcing today, because our investigations are non-public. We do have other investigations going on in the health area, but we can’t identify the companies we’re investigating”.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait for the FTC to act. They have given you “7 Easy Ways To Spot Fad Diets”. All you need to do is to avoid diets that make those kinds of claims.

The Bottom Line

  • Don’t be a sucker. Don’t fall for those enticing weight loss ads that sound too good to be true. The FTC has given you 7 simple rules for identifying the weight loss products that you should avoid, based on the claims they make. I listed those at the beginning of the article.
  • The FTC has taken enforcement action against manufactures of appetite suppressants, acai berry weight loss products, HCG weight loss products and sliming creams for false advertising.
  • The Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection summed up the enforcement actions by saying “The chances of being successful just by sprinkling something on your food, rubbing cream on your thighs, or using a supplement are slim to none. The science just isn’t there.
  • There are no magical pills or potions that will make the pounds melt away. You need to change your diet, change your activity level and make significant lifestyle changes if you want to achieve long term weight control.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Comments (2)

  • Valerie Burns

    |

    Hi Dr. Chaney!

    I love your “Tips”!
    I’d like to see your credentials of teaching at the medical school always listed. I love passing these on to people as I worked as a research assistant at the CU medical school here in Colorado and I trust your assessment of studies.
    THANK YOU!
    Valerie (I’m on Monday eve. calls)

    Reply

  • classificados gratis

    |

    I appreciate, result in I found exactly what I was taking a look
    for. You’ve ended my four day lengthy hunt!

    God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

    Reply

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Latest Article

High Protein Diets and Weight Loss

Posted October 16, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do High Protein Diets Reduce Fat And Preserve Muscle?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Healthy Diet food group, proteins, include meat (chicken or turkAre high protein diets your secret to healthy weight loss? There are lots of diets out there – high fat, low fat, Paleolithic, blood type, exotic juices, magic pills and potions. But recently, high protein diets are getting a lot of press. The word is that they preserve muscle mass and preferentially decrease fat mass.

If high protein diets actually did that, it would be huge because:

  • It’s the fat – not the pounds – that causes most of the health problems.
  • Muscle burns more calories than fat, so preserving muscle mass helps keep your metabolic rate high without dangerous herbs or stimulants – and keeping your metabolic rate high helps prevent both the plateau and yo-yo (weight regain) characteristic of so many diets.
  • When you lose fat and retain muscle you are reshaping your body – and that’s why most people are dieting to begin with.

So let’s look more carefully at the recent study that has been generating all the headlines (Pasiakos et al, The FASEB Journal, 27: 3837-3847, 2013).

The Study Design:

This was a randomized control study with 39 young (21), healthy and fit men and women who were only borderline overweight (BMI = 25). These volunteers were put on a 21 day weight loss program in which calories were reduced by 30% and exercise was increased by 10%. They were divided into 3 groups:

  • One group was assigned a diet containing the RDA for protein (about 14% of calories in this study design).
  • The second group’s diet contained 2X the RDA for protein (28% of calories)
  • The third group’s diet contained 3X the RDA for protein (42% of calories)

In the RDA protein group carbohydrate was 56% of calories, and fat was 30% of calories. In the other two groups the carbohydrate and fat content of the diets was decreased proportionally.

Feet_On_ScaleWhat Did The Study Show?

  • Weight loss (7 pounds in 21 days) was the same on all 3 diets.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused almost 2X more fat loss (5 pounds versus 2.8 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused 2X less muscle loss (2.1 pounds versus 4.2 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • In case you didn’t notice, there was no difference in overall results between the 28% (2X the RDA) and 42% (3X the RDA) diets.

Pros And Cons Of The Study:

  • The con is fairly obvious. The participants in this study were all young, healthy and were not seriously overweight. If this were the only study of this type one might seriously question whether the results were applicable to middle aged, overweight coach potatoes. However, there have been several other studies with older, more overweight volunteers that have come to the same conclusion – namely that high protein diets preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss.
  • The value of this study is that it defines for the first time the upper limit for how much protein is required to preserve muscle mass in a weight loss regimen. 28% of calories is sufficient, and there appear to be no benefit from increasing protein further. I would add the caveat that there are studies suggesting that protein requirements for preserving muscle mass may be greater in adults 50 and older.

The Bottom Line:

1)    Forget the high fat diets, low fat diets, pills and potions. High protein diets (~2X the RDA or 28% of calories) do appear to be the safest, most effective way to preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss in a weight loss regimen.

2)     That’s not a lot of protein, by the way. The average American consumes almost 2X the RDA for protein on a daily basis. However, it is significantly more protein than the average American consumes when they are trying to lose weight. Salads and carrot sticks are great diet foods, but they don’t contain much protein.

3)     Higher protein intake does not appear to offer any additional benefit – at least in young adults.

4)     Not all high protein diets are created equal. What some people call high protein diets are laden with saturated fats or devoid of carbohydrate. The diet in this study, which is what I recommend, had 43% healthy carbohydrates and 30% healthy fats.

5)    These diets were designed to give 7 pounds of weight loss in 21 days – which is what the experts recommend. There are diets out there promising faster weight loss but they severely restrict calories and/or rely heavily on stimulants, they do not preserve muscle mass, and they often are not safe. In addition they are usually temporary.  I do not recommend them.

6)    This level of protein intake is safe for almost everyone. The major exception would be people with kidney disease, who should always check with their doctor before increasing protein intake. The only other caveat is that protein metabolism creates a lot of nitrogenous waste, so you should drink plenty of water to flush that waste out of your system. But, water is always a good idea.

7)     The high protein diets minimized, but did not completely prevent, muscle loss. Other studies suggest that adding the amino acid leucine to a high protein diet can give 100% retention of muscle mass in a weight loss regimen – but that’s another story for another day.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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