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7 Weight Loss Scams That Will Trim The Fat Off Your Savings

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Friday, June 29, 2018



At least $35 billion is spent annually in the US for a wide variety of weight loss products and programs. The field is ripe for scammers because so many people need to lose weight and most are looking for the quick and easy way, instead of the narrow path that requires discipline and self-denial. Below are seven popular scams whose creators have spewed out outright lies in order to make a fortune off people’s weighty worries. 

Lie Number 1: Apple Cider Vinegar

Some naturopaths are making money on this easily falsifiable and non-scientific claim. They assert that apple cider vinegar:

“(which is mostly acetic acid) is acidic (low pH), so using for heartburn and the like seems silly. But they then claim that when vinegar is consumed, it turns alkaline (high pH). Holy smoke! Is this some sort of magical transmutation? No, it is just plain wrong.  This article also claims that honey is acidic (no it isn’t) but becomes alkaline in the body (no it doesn’t) ….. It seems that much of the apple cider vinegar myths are being pushed by two crackpot naturopaths, who have made a successful business out of making up new folk remedy treatments. There is not a shred of evidence they work, and you would do better with conventional and much safer nostrums.”


Lie Number 2: Raspberry Ketones

While some people apply raspberry ketone to the scalp to prevent hair loss, and some manufacturers add it to their cosmetics, Dr. Oz made it a temporary obsession when he trumpeted its use in a segment titled "Raspberry ketone: Miracle fat-burner in a bottle". Sadly the science was not quite in:

“Raspberry ketones are claimed to cause the fat within cells to be broken down more effectively, helping the body burn fat faster. They are also claimed to increase levels of adiponectin, a hormone that helps to regulate metabolism……

“Even though the word ‘raspberry’ may appeal to people, the supplement is actually NOT derived from raspberries. Extracting raspberry ketones from raspberries is insanely expensive, because you need 90 pounds (41 kg) of raspberries to get the amount needed for a single dose! In fact, a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of whole raspberries only contains 1-4 mg of raspberry ketones. That's 0.0001-0.0004% of the total weight. The raspberry ketones you find in supplements are synthetically made via an industrial process and are not natural…….

“Some studies in mice and rats show that raspberry ketones can protect against weight gain and fatty liver. However, these studies used massive dosages, much higher than you would get with supplementation……You would have to take a 100 times the recommended amount in order to reach the same dose as the test animals (NOT recommended)…….

“Unfortunately, there is not a single study on raspberry ketones in humans…… Really, I looked long and hard and I am 100% certain that there isn't ANY actual evidence showing that this supplement can work in humans. From looking on forums and reviews online, the pattern seems similar to other weight loss supplements. Some people lose weight, others don't, and some people even gain weight while taking the supplement. It's important to keep in mind that just because someone on TV or someone you know lost weight with raspberry ketones, it does NOT mean that the supplement had anything to do with it. Even when people lose, chances are that it is just a placebo effect.”


Lie  Number 3Garcinia Cambogia

Many fly-by-night operators made some good money from this supplement scam, all promoted for free by their hero, Dr. Oz:

“Dr. Oz calls it ‘The newest, fastest fat buster.’ A way to lose weight without ‘spending every waking moment exercising and dieting.’ ‘Triples your weight loss.’ ‘The most exciting breakthrough in natural weight loss to date.’ ‘The Holy Grail.’ Oz claims that ‘Revolutionary new research says it could be the magic ingredient that lets you lose weight without diet or exercise.’ All that sounds too good to be true, and it is. Garcinia probably does work to some extent to improve weight loss, but the evidence doesn’t begin to justify such grandiose claims…….

“Guinea pigs on a high cholesterol diet who were given a different Garcinia species (atriviridis) had a tendency to decrease lipid composition levels and fat deposition in the aorta. HCA (hydroxycitric acid) caused congenital defects in rats. Another rat study found that it decreased body weight gain and visceral fat accumulation by reducing food intake but had no lasting beneficial effects on hypertriglyceridemia and hyperinsulinemia. Yet another rat study showed that it suppressed body fat accumulation but was toxic to the testes.

“To try to make sense of the inconsistent results, Onakpoya et al. did a systematic review of the published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) as of 2011. Their analysis found a small, statistically significant difference in weight loss (1.75 kg vs 0.88 kg, less than 2 pounds). They commented that the studies all had methodological weaknesses, so these results could be due to GIGO (garbage in/garbage out). The two studies with the best methodology found no statistically significant difference from placebo. Adverse events were twice as common with Garcinia (headache, nausea, upper respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms). The authors concluded:

“The evidence from RCTs suggests that Garcinia extracts / HCA generate weight loss on the short term. However, the magnitude of this effect is small, is no longer statistically significant when only rigorous RCTs are considered, and its clinical relevance seems questionable.”


Lie Number 4: Green Coffee Bean Extract

This is one of Dr. Oz’s most embarrassing fumbles. He was called in front of Congress to explain himself for promoting this “miracle” fat burner and many others that had no scientific backing, only anecdotes. The supposed evidence published in a scientific journal was officially retracted:

“Two authors of a 2012 paper sponsored by a company that made grand claims about green coffee bean extract’s abilities to help people lose weight have retracted it. The study was cited by The Dr. Oz Show, and last month it cost the company a $3.5 million settlement with the Feds.

“Here’s the notice for ‘Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, linear dose, crossover study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a green coffee bean extract in overweight subjects,’ a paper originally published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy:

“The sponsors of the study cannot assure the validity of the data so we, Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham, are retracting the paper.

“The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explained in a September press release about the settlement that:

“The FTC complaint alleges the study was so hopelessly flawed that no reliable conclusions could be drawn from it. The flawed study, which purported to show that the product causes ‘substantial weight and fat loss,’ was later touted on The Dr. Oz Show. The FTC’s settlement with Applied Food Sciences, Inc. (AFS), which sells a green coffee ingredient used in dietary supplements and foods, requires the company to pay $3.5 million, and to have scientific substantiation for any future weight-loss claims it makes, including at least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical tests.”


Lie Number 5: The Military Diet

This diet, also called the Army Diet and Navy Diet, has gained a lot of attention and popularity because of the inference that all military personnel are physically fit so they must be on a diet that works. However, the US Army, Navy and Air Force have all publicly claimed no affiliation with this diet. The science behind it is pretty shoddy:

“The military diet is a variation of the ever-popular three-day diet, a crash plan of ‘fill-in-the-blank’ foods to eat if you want to lose weight fast. These diets typically claim that you can lose about 10 pounds in three days to a week if you follow their blueprint to the letter. The meal plans are usually extremely basic and calorie-restrictive, because let's face it, that's how you lose weight.

“But are these diets healthy? Will the weight stay off?

“‘With this type of low-calorie, lower-carbohydrate diet, you are losing mostly water and potentially some muscle,’ said registered dietitian Elaine Magee, author of Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Diabetes. ‘Water weight drops quickly as the body's glycogen stores decline, which happens when you restrict carbs and calories. Weight will come back when you begin to eat normally again.’ ..….

“‘If you're used to eating 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day, such a drastic drop will be hard to do,’ said registered dietitian, Lisa Drayer, who writes about nutrition for CNN. ‘You're going to be tired and irritable, with difficulty concentrating. It will be hard to exercise, and I would think you'll be quite hungry as well.’……

“The websites promoting the military diet say that eating certain food combinations will boost your metabolism. ‘There is no truth behind claims that the food combinations in the first few days will increase your metabolism and burn fat,’ Magee said. ‘There's no research I know of behind those claims,’ Drayer agreed…….

“If you search the Internet for the military diet, you'll probably end up on the top result: themilitarydiet.com. There, you'll find the detailed diet, with pictures and tips on how to make it work for you. There are substitutions, frequently asked questions, a blog, a calorie count, a link to like them on Facebook and a review that fights back against nutritionists who debunk the diet. Oh, and there are lots of ads.

“But nowhere on the page is there an author, an expert, a nutritional guru. No one takes ownership of this information or gives you any credentials to prove their expertise. ‘That's a red flag,’ Drayer said. ‘Any helpful diet plan should be created or supported by a credible person or resource or organization. If something is out there without any author or inventor, anyone can say anything and not know how the body works.’ Trying to track down the owners of three of the most popular military diet sites proved to be a dead end. Emails and calls to listed numbers got no responses.”


Lie Number 6: Hydroxycut

Hydroxycut is an alleged weight loss pill that contains calcium, Vitamin C, caffeine, Lady's mantle extract, Wild Olive extract, Komijn extract and Wild mint extract. The scientific studies are few and unreliable:

“Numerous studies show that caffeine can boost metabolism by 3-11% and enhance fat burning by about 10-29%. However, keep in mind that this is a short term effect and it is well known that people develop a tolerance to caffeine. There are no good studies showing that caffeine leads to weight loss in the long term. Unfortunately, I did not find any studies that tested the active herbal ingredients in Hydroxycut individually.

“However, there is one study that used the 4 herbs together (Lady's mantle extract, Wild Olive extract, Komijn extract and Wild mint extract). In this study, a group of researchers gave this combination of herbs to chickens and rats. The herbs reduced body weight gain in chickens by about 20% and significantly boosted the metabolic rate in rats. But keep in mind that what works in test animals doesn't always work in humans. They also used very large doses, so take all of this with a big grain of salt ……..

“If you look around the forums and message boards, for every person who succeeds with this supplement, you'll see another person (or five) who says it has no effect. This seems to be the case with most weight loss supplements... some people have success with them, others don't. At the end of the day, hydroxycut may be useful as a fat burning tool in the short term, as long as you're also eating healthy and exercising. But, same as with any other weight loss method, it won't lead to long term results unless followed by a lasting lifestyle change. Losing weight is a marathon, not a race... and there are no short cuts, unfortunately.”


Lie Number 7: Meratrim

Meratrim combines two herbs that allegedly prevent the storage of fat. Dr. Oz called this pill "ground breaking” and promoted it on his show:

“Oz even conducted his own informal ‘study’ and had 30 women in his audience take Meratrim, along with a 2000-calorie diet and daily walking, for two weeks. On average, the women lost 3 pounds of weight and 3 inches off of their waistlines. Impressive results, but this is not a real study and doesn't prove anything. Fortunately, we don't need to rely on TV personalities because we have an actual human study where the supplement is given to real people…….

“We have an excellent study on Meratrim that looked at a total of 100 participants and lasted for 8 weeks ….. The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, which is the gold standard of scientific experiments in humans. In the study, 100 obese people (23 men and 77 women) were split into two groups:

“Meratrim group: The people in this group took 400mg of Meratrim, 30 minutes before breakfast and dinner (a total of 800mg).

“Placebo group: The placebo group took 400mg of placebo (a dummy pill) instead, at the same times.

“All participants were placed on a strict 2000 calorie diet and were instructed to walk 30 minutes per day……. In summary, the Meratrim group lost 3.5 times as much weight and lost 2 times as much from their waists, compared to the dummy pill. They also had improvements in several important risk factors for disease.

“These are impressive results, but there is one important thing that is worth bringing to your attention. The study was sponsored by InterHealth, the company that produces and sells Meratrim. Although this doesn't automatically mean that the study is flawed, it is definitely something to keep in mind, because it is known that the funding source of a study can often have an effect on the outcome…….

“Most people who need to lose weight have already tried a few "diets." Some of them may have worked for a short while, others not at all. But one thing is certain... short-term solutions never work in the long-term. Although the results of that study look promising, keep in mind that the study only went on for 8 weeks. 8 weeks is not very long... all sorts of things can cause short-term weight loss, but it's keeping it off in the long run that really counts. If the study had lasted longer (6 months to a year), it is highly possible that the women would have started gaining the weight back. Unless followed by a lasting change in lifestyle and diet habits, taking Meratrim probably won't lead to long-term results.”






Additional Info

Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistant https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/?OrgCode=SCAMDET#crnt&panel1-1

Busting 10 Diet Myths                          https://www.realsimple.com/health/nutrition-diet/weight-loss/busting-10-diet-myths

Beware of Products Promising Miracle Weight Loss  https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm246742.htm

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Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.

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