Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Weight loss cures and snake oil salesmen.

Well this morning I had a run in with a fellow on the internet over his promotion of supplements for weight loss. He was posting in a group and his advertisement for his magical product encouraged people to lose weight by mixing his potion with milk, peanut butter and butterscotch pudding mix!  His other recipe included Oreo cookies and Jello flavoured pudding mix. Mmm sounds like a balanced nutritional meal to me! (not!) Not surprisingly I got a little hot under the collar about this latest dietary scam and decided it was time to talk about weight loss supplements. 

Every man and his dog seem to be selling a weight loss "cure" these days. With the rates of overweight and obesity rising, people who are not overweight have become the minority and manufacturers have the biggest potential profit margin EVER. If only there were a safe, reliable, effective weight loss supplement on the market, they would be millionaires. Sad truth is, that there isn't one. 

Some meal-replacement programs are effective for short term weight loss under medical supervision, and if you are very obese your doctor may wish to try you with those. I am not personally a fan, because while you may lose weight short term, unless major changes are made most patients regain the weight when they return to eating "real" food. But they can be used effectively, particularly with multidisciplinary support, so I thought it best to mention them. But otherwise there are currently no diet supplements on the market with solid scientific research that are helpful for long term weight loss. Many weight loss supplements (particularly on the internet) are sold in extensive Multi-Level Marketing schemes so the poor people selling them need to push more sales of their product to recoup the money they have spent personally just to get the product themselves. To buy more product they must sell more product and recruit more people to sell more product. The people at the top get rich and the people at the bottom don't get slim! Most are ineffective. Worse, some of those that are on the market are unregulated, unproven or unsafe. 

Overweight and obesity is the most rapidly growing health problem in the world and costs governments millions in health costs. More premature death and illness in Australia is now caused by excess body fat than by tobacco smoking or high blood pressure. If you are considering taking a weight loss supplement think about this - if there was a safe, reliable, and effective supplement that would help you lose weight, don't you think your doctor or another health professional would have given it to you by now? We wouldn't need to buy it off the internet, hell, we'd be putting it in the water supply!

The most effective way to lose weight is by sustainable lifestyle change. Eating healthy, balanced nutritious meals in the appropriate amounts for your body and exercising more to get fitter and healthier. Slow, steady and effective. There is no magic and there are no quick fixes. 

And one final point: in my previous post on "diet gurus" and "the "one true diet" (read it here) I mentioned that if a diet is going to work, if you are going to lose weight and keep it off, then you need to consider if you could keep doing this forever. Any plan that you undertake short term will have short term results and when you reach your goal weight (or get sick of it) and go back to your previous life, the weight comes right back on (and then some). Unless you are planning to take this supplement (with its cost, hassle and unknown health risks) for the REST OF YOUR LIFE, then don't start now. 

Don't waste your money. Just eat real food.

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

I'm going to hand the final word on this issue to Dr Yoni Freedhoff, who I have quoted before. He is a fellow physician and health blogger whose views I highly respect:

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