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Feds weigh in: Weight loss products are deceptive

Healthy eating is key to weight loss
Healthy eating is key to weight loss

You’ve seen the ads: "sprinkle, eat and lose weight," by using a popular weight loss powder called Sensa. Too good to be true? The answer to this question is a resounding “yes,” according to Federal Trade Commission, who settled with the company to the tune of $26 million.

Early last week the FTC said that the company that makes Sensa used bogus clinical studies and paid endorsements to lure unsuspecting consumers, desperate to lose weight, to purchase their product. The company netted more than $364 million in sales between 2008 and 2012. The settlement requires the makers of Sensa to return more than $26 million to consumers.

The government's settlement with the California-based company is part of a larger crackdown on companies peddling weight-loss products including LeanSpa, a company that promotes the acai berry and "colon cleanse,” firming skin cream maker L'Occitane, and HCG Diet Direct, which sells weight loss hormones. All together companies will pay out about $34 million to consumers to settle the federal charges.

Government scrutiny of products, often labeled as “natural,” or “supplements,” has been notably lacking in the past, allowing for claims that could often not be substantiated. According to forecasters at MarketData Industries the consumer weight loss industry was likely to make about 66 billion dollars in 2013. The market is huge, with about 108 million American dieters, who make make 4-5 dieting attempts per year. In addition, many foreign companies, such as ITrim (Sweden), and The Dukan Diet (France) have entered the American dieting marketplace.

People will often resort to desperate measures when they are desperate. One of the companies under recent scrutiny, HCG Direct, marketed this pregnancy hormone as a way to shed unwanted pounds. The “miracle” diet also included the recommendation of consuming a total of 500 calories per day, a level far below that most doctors would advocate.

While there is no disputing that many Americans would be healthier at a leaner weight, there is no quick fix or magic formula for weight loss. Eating a varied diet lower in fats, but which does not restrict any food group, is key.

It is also important to ensure that healthy dieting does not include practices associated with eating disorders, such as dieting when you are at a healthy or already low weight, extremely low caloric intake (less than 1200 calories) or purging through excessive exercise, vomiting or laxative abuse.

If you notice any of these behaviors in yourself or a loved one, please consult an eating disorder professional.

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