Friday, January 21, 2005

Lose Weight with these Products? Slim Chance!

The "Worst" of 2004 weight loss products cop 16th Annual Slim Chance Awards

Green tea continues to cast an aura of Oriental slimness. This year’s worst diet gimmick takes it one step farther – not only do you drink this tea, but you attach a green tea patch to the thigh, and miracles begin to happen. Or so the advertiser claims. The worst diet pills of 2004 take narrow aim at specific targets: people with abdominal fat, low-carb dieters, and women experiencing menopausal weight gain.

These are just a few of the weight loss schemes highlighted by Frances M. Berg, chair of the Weight Loss Abuse Task Force for the National Council on Health Fraud, in announcing the 16th annual Slim Chance Awards. "These products and countless others promise quick weight loss with no effort," she says. "They need to be exposed as foolish scams that lighten your wallet but not your body. Diets don’t work. Neither do pills or potions."

It’s not just adults who fall prey to these scams. "Children and adolescents, especially teenage girls, are buying all sorts of weight loss products," says Berg. "This is especially disturbing because many are harmful to their health."

Berg, whose new book Underage & Overweight includes a 7-point plan for raising healthy weight children, offers this advice to parents who fear their child may be trying to lose weight in dangerous ways. "The key to raising a healthy weight child is leading by example," she says. "What works is to model a sound, healthy lifestyle that allows excess weight to come off naturally, as a by-product. It’s the healthy and lasting way to lose weight."

Berg’s organization, the Healthy Weight Network, started the Slim Chance Awards 16 years ago as a reaction to the glut of unsafe products on the market. They are part of the lead-up to "Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day" during Healthy Weight Week, January 16 to 22.

"We want to shift our national focus to health and wellness, to acceptance, respect, and an appreciation of diversity," says Berg. "It’s time to move on from the war so many Americans are waging against their own bodies. The obsession with thinness is causing tragic problems for both children and adults."

Here are the Slim Chance Awards from the "worst" of the 2004 crop:

* Worst Gimmick: Green Tea300 patches. This scheme includes not just Green Tea Patches of "high potency extract" to attach to your skin, but also green tea drinking. In fact four patches come free when you buy $59.99 worth of tea. It’s a combination claimed to burn fat, suppress appetite, increase thermogenesis, and speed the metaboic rate, all without increasing hypertension or heart rate. Can you believe you’ll benefit from "Asian wisdom … lose 5-27 pounds … 30 times more potent than regular green tea"? Advertised online through email spam.

* Most Outrageous: EstrinD. Billed as the first and only diet pill for menopausal and pre-menopausal weight gain, EstrinD hits a market of baby boomers. Targeted are "a whole generation of women … [who are] redefining age, beauty and sexuality, proving that life doesn’t end at 40." Touted to increase metabolic rate, reduce calorie intake, stop binge eating, provide energy, control mood swings, and give a sense of well being, EstrinD costs $59.00 for 30-day supply (and "as demand continues to outpace supply, don’t be surprised if you see the price go up"). Promoted with nearly full-page ad in USA WEEKEND.

* Worst Product: CortiSlim. The gimmick here falsely claims that reducing cortisol, the stress hormone, with CortiSlim will reduce abdominal and other fat. Nationally aired infomercials that began in August 2003 state that continually elevated levels of cortisol are the underlying cause of weight gain, especially abdominal obesity, and that CortiSlim causes rapid weight loss of 10 to 50 pounds from the abdomen, stomach and thighs by reducing these levels. In October 2004 the Federal Trade Commission charged the marketers of CortiSllim with false claims, and with using deceptive format in their TV infomercials, which appear to be episodes of a talk show called Breakthroughs, with the two marketers posing as host and guest, and without required "paid advertising" disclaimers. Sold through widely aired infomercials and short TV commercials, radio and print ads and Internet web sites.

* Worst Claim: Carboburn. Keying in to the waning popularity of tiresome low-carb diets, Carboburn promoters assure dieters who are still believers that cutting carbs from the diet is no longer necessary. "It doesn’t matter if you eat pizza, pasta, baked potatoes, or potato chips. CarboBurn will neutralize the carbohydrates in those foods or most any other…guaranteeing you become thinner, leaner, and maintain a good-looking youthful shape." Furthermore, it will "block the storage of fat before it attaches to your stomach, waist, thighs, buns and other trouble areas … and it doesn’t matter if you hate exercise, or can’t exercise … CarboBurn will chisel your fat away and let lean muscle shine through." Just $39.00 for one bottle of pills or three for $79.99. Advertised online through email spam.

Hospitals, health centers and educational groups across the country observe Healthy Weight Week as a welcome antidote to the unhealthy dieting and bingeing that typically begin the New Year. They encourage active healthy lifestyles through mall displays, health fairs, seminars, recreational events, radio and TV shows, and internet chat lines, says Berg.

In addition to the Slim Chance Awards, co-sponsored by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud, the week features the Women’s Diversity Awards, which honor businesses that portray an appreciation of size diversity.

For more information or for handouts and posters visit (click Healthy Weight Week).

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