A Grain of Salt: Information Overload with Diets 9 January 2014
As 2014 gets underway and all those resolutions are a week old, some of us have had time to process our plan of action and we’re starting to see where the true challenges lie. Others, hopefully, are cruising right along and making headway toward their goals. But if there can be a word of caution spelled out to anyone looking to “change things up,” it’s this: take all diet information and programs with a proverbial grain of salt.
Two pieces of weight loss news hit the stands and web today. Though not connected, they both highlight that there’s a lot of information out there, and not all of it is trustworthy. First, the hot topic of the day is that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cracked down on several weight-loss products and is forcing the return of $34 million to consumers who used their products.
At the top of the list, returning $26.5 million, is Sensa, the company that made $364 million between 2008 and 2012 selling its “weight loss powder” at places like Costco, GNC, and the Home Shopping Network. The company encouraged people to “sprinkle, eat, and lose weightF because the powder would help people feel satiated. It sold the powder in one-month supplies for $59.
In addition to false claims, the FTC claimed Sensa failed to disclose that customers who appeared in ads were paid $1,000 to $5,000 and received free trips to Los Angeles in return for testimonies, and the creator conducted two misleading studies and wrote a book for selling Sensa. The company is barred from making any weight-loss claims for any future products unless they are supported by two “rigorous” clinical trials.
Other offenders are skin cream maker L’Occitane, LeanSpa, and HCG Diet Direct. L’Occitane sold a cream it claimed helped users “trim 1.3 inches in just 4 weeks,” and charged more than $44 a bottle. HCG Diet Direct sold a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, which was falsely promoted as a weight-loss aid. Its $3.2 million judgment was suspended because of “inability to pay.”
The other piece of news released today is the annual round-up by U.S. News ranking the “Best Diets” for weight loss, healthy eating, and more. While these lists are not inherently a problem, it can be easy to take this information at face value and just because we see #1 beside a diet plan it will work for us. It’s always best to consult with your doctor before embarking on any diet/exercise changes, and discuss with them your goals for health, whether it’s for losing weight or addressing food allergies/sensitivities. Interestingly, the “most Google-searched diet in 2013” was the Paleo/Primal diet; however, according to this list, it tied for last place with the Dukan Diet for Overall Diets and Diets for Weight Loss. This isn’t to suggest either the list or the diet are right or wrong, but it does go to show, at least in this instance, a disconnect between what a lot of people are interested in and what U.S. News “in-depth diet analyses” by a “panel of nutrition and health experts” believe is effective and healthy.
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