We live in a society obsessed with being thin, yet more than 1/3 of American adults are obese. Losing weight isn't easy, especially when we are hit from all sides with different approaches and programs. Many of us have experienced yo-yo dieting, damaged our metabolisms, and followed the wrong programs in the past. This can leave us frustrated and desperate. Unfortunately, there are many companies and individuals who wish to cash in on our vulnerability, by making extravagant claims designed to coax us into buying their products. We are faced with wild claims promising fast and effortless weight loss. This sounds enticing, especially to anyone that has not researched the pros and cons of such programs. How do we know what claims to believe? Should we trust the testimonials they provide? What about the claims of research studies which back up their statements? With this in mind, we would like to take a closer look at some of the products on the market today.
The best advice for determining the worth of a weight loss plan comes from Federal Trade Commission guidelines. They state: When it comes to evaluating claims for weight loss products, the Federal Trade Commission recommends a healthy portion of skepticism. Before you spend money on products or programs that promise fast or easy weight loss, weigh the claims and consider these tips:
"Lose 30 Pounds in Just 30 Days." As a rule, the faster you lose weight, the more likely you are to gain it back. Also, fast weight loss could harm your health. Unless your doctor advises it, donít look for programs that promise quick weight loss.
"Lose All the Weight You Can For Just $39.99." Some weight loss programs have hidden costs. For example, some donít advertise the fact that you must buy their prepackaged meals that cost more than the program fees. Before you sign up for any weight loss program, ask for all the costs. Get them in writing.
"Lose Weight While You Sleep." Claims for diet products and programs that promise weight loss without effort are phony.
"Lose Weight And Keep It Off For Good." Be suspicious about products promising long-term or permanent weight loss. To lose weight and keep it off, you must change how you eat and how much you exercise.
"John Doe Lost 84 Pounds in Six Weeks." Donít be misled by someone elseís weight loss claims. Even if the claims are true, someone elseís success may have little relation to your own chances of success.
"Scientific Breakthrough...Medical Miracle." There are no miracle weight loss products. To lose weight, you have to reduce your intake of calories and increase your physical activity. Be skeptical about exaggerated claims.
We recently received an email from a reader inquiring about the Skinny Pill. She was ready to place an order but wanted a second opinion, so we agreed to take a look. Please remember that we are not health professionals. However, we (as all of you) have the ability to check into the claims made by companies, and it is easy to reference medical websites and published studies. We also included a statement in our conclusion by a reader that has tried this product.
When you visit the Skinny Pill website, you immediately notice the thin woman holding the Skinny Pill book and a bottle of skinny pills. The woman is Edita Kaye, an author and nutritionist. She states that she has created this pill to help us lose the weight fast. Her pill, she claims, "turns our own bodies into mega fat fighting machines." How does it work? This pill contains 5 main ingredients: carnitine, chitosan, chromium, citrimax, and citrus aurantium. It also contains a few herbs and a dose of calcium. Before we take a closer look at the ingredients, let's continue to look at the information on the website.
Edita tells us that there is a Skinny Food Clock which we must follow, so that we can eat ourselves skinny.
Forget everything you ever learned about food groups, pyramids, nofat, lowfat and on, and on, and on...none of this works!
....FIBER is Your Skinny A.M. Food
Fiber blocks any new fat you eat from being absorbed. This means, when you eat fiber, you are NOT GETTING ANY FATTER! So when you follow my Skinny Food Clock, you will eat your fibers (and complex carbs) when your clock says AM. Why? Because you will be putting down a protective fat blocking coating that will protect you from getting any fatter for the rest of the day.
What are some great AM Fat Blocking Foods? Apples, oranges, strawberries, oatmeal, waffles, pancakes, bran muffins, lentil soup, pea soup, oatmeal cookies, popcorn, raisins, and more listing in my book, The Skinny Pill.
....PROTEIN is Your Skinny P.M. Food
Protein burns the fat you've already got. This means, when you eat protein, you are EATING YOURSELF SKINNIER! So when you follow my Skinny Food Clock, you will eat your protein when your clock says PM. Why? Because you will be burning off your fat deposits and emptying out your fat cells all afternoon, all evening, and all night long, so that you will wake up skinnier than when you went to bed.
What are some great PM Fat Burning Foods? Steak, chicken, pork, veal, fish, eggs, cheese, ice cream, and even peanut butter. More fat burning proteins foods are listed in my book, The Skinny Pill.
According to this, we can line our stomachs with oatmeal cookies for breakfast, then eat high fat foods which can't be absorbed. For dinner, we can have steak, cheese, and ice cream, which will all cause our bodies to burn off the fat while we sleep! (Remember the FTC warning about claims that you can lose weight while you sleep) Are you starting to see the red flags? If we want to learn more about this miraculous food plan, we'll have to fork over $19.99 for her book.
Testimonials. Yes, we've been warned by the FTC to ignore John Doe's claims. But we will still read them and be mesmerised and anxious to achieve the same results. With the Skinny Pill, you might be as lucky as Diane, who lost 7 pounds in 7 days. Or C.W. that lost 6 pounds between Monday and Friday. These claims are unrealistic for the average person, and indicate a loss of vital water or muscle tissue. Most nutritionists will tell you that any loss over 2 pounds per week may be from water or lean mass, and not fat. In tiny letters at the bottom of the page, is the legally required disclaimer "These results are not typical. You will probably lose less weight. Results depend on a combination of factors, including your diet, amount of exercise, and use of the product."
Now we are prepared to eat our oatmeal cookies and steak, lose a pound of fat a day (and part of it while sleeping), by purchasing the Skinny Pills and book. What else can we do to get the most out of Edita's plan? Let's join the Skinny Club. By joining her club, we can receive a daily inspirational quote by email, a weekly recipe by email, and a monthly newsletter by email. We also will receive email notifications of new products and 10% discount offers. In other words, we get spam. But we get to pay $19.95 for it!
Another part of the website is dedicated to "media and press". We expected to find interviews and news articles. What we found were her own press releases, that she (or her staff) wrote to present to various media outlets to promote their products. This holds no weight. There are a few quotes from radio stations, but then we hear radio DJs promoting Metabolife every day too. Get the picture?
Now let's take a closer look at the Skinny Pill, and find out what makes it so special that you need to buy a book and subscription to a club to gain the full benefit.
The Skinny Pill contains carnitine, chitosan, chromium, citrimax, and citrus aurantium. We've gathered information from trusted resources about each of these ingredients, and compared this to the claims on Edita's website.
Edita says "Carnitine helps burn off stored fat and increases your energy." The Skinny Pill contains 250 mg of carnitine. Just what is it?
According to Health and Age:
Muscular activity depends on your body's ability to convert fatty acids into energy. Carnitine is an amino acid that is essential for this conversion. A typical daily diet contains 5 to 100 mg of carnitine. The body produces carnitine in the liver and kidneys and stores it in the skeletal muscles and heart, as well as in sperm and in the brain.
Some people cannot properly use carnitine from their diet or suffer from dietary deficiencies of this nutrient. As a result, they may develop heart disease, skeletal muscle weakness, or low blood sugar. If you experience these symptoms and are found to have carnitine deficiency, your health care provider may recommend use of the supplement levocarnitine, or L-carnitine.
...L-carnitine offers a variety of potential therapeutic uses, primarily related to the heart.
...Carnitine is available as a supplement in several forms. Only the L-carnitine forms are recommended. These include the following:
L-carnitine (LC), which is the most widely available, is the least expensive, and has been studied the most
L-acetylcarnitine (LAC), which appears to be best for Alzheimer's disease and brain defects
L-propionylcarnitine (LPC), which may be best for angina and other heart problems
The D-carnitine form should not be used because it has produced undesirable side effects.
Recommended doses of L-carnitine vary depending on the health condition being treated. ....To improve fat metabolism and muscular performance: 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg usually divided into two doses.
...L-carnitine is not recommended for people with active liver or kidney disease. If you take L-carnitine as a supplement to improve fat metabolism and muscular performance, it is recommended that you skip using it one week each month.
According to Health Care Reality Check:
Carnitine supplementation with supraphysiological doses above and beyond that which the body requires, does not result in increased fat oxidation at rest or during exercise in well-nourished individuals; thus, it appears that we can synthesize the necessary amounts from a diet adequate in its precursors (lysine and methionine). Those medically diagnosed as carnitine-deficient may benefit from a supplement, but this condition is uncommon.
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders:
Carnitine Deficiency Syndrome is a rare metabolic disorder that may be inherited in some cases, or occur as a result of other metabolic disorders
What have we learned about carnitine? The average diet contains a small amount of carnitine. However, the body produces this amino acid naturally in the liver. The body cannot use more than it needs, so taking additional amounts of this supplement will have no impact on fat oxidation. If you are one of the few people that suffer from a rare carnitine deficiency, then you may benefit from supplementation. However, you will need a much higher dose than what is included in this pill. Furthermore, only certain forms of carnitine are used to treat this disorder, and we have no idea which form is included in the Skinny Pill. See your physician if you think you may have this disorder.
Edita says: "Chitosan is a fat sponge, absorbing over 4 times its own weight in dietary fat. Chitosan is also a kind of "plastic wrap" wrapping itself around fat molecules and preventing them from being digested by lipid enzymes." The Skinny Pill contains 250 mg of chitosan.
Chitosan is one of the most talked about diet supplements today. There have been mixed reviews by those that studied it's effects on weight loss. Most will state that chitosan has no effect on weight loss when taken in the dosages available in common supplements.
The following Q and A is offered on the IntelliHealth website:
Q: Is chitosan safe? It is an ingredient in a substance called "Fat Magnet," and I was wondering if there are any harmful side effects to taking it.
A: Safe? Probably yes, at least in the small amounts used in supplements.
However, oral administration of a 5 percent chitosan diet to mice caused body weights to decrease but also decreased the number of some bacteria, including Lactobacillus, which are part of the normal flora of the intestinal tract. The investigators in this 1997 study concluded that special care should be taken in the clinical use of chitin and chitosan over a long time period.
In another study in rats, chitosan feeding for two weeks in large doses caused a decrease in mineral absorption and bone mineral content. Moreover, the ingestion of chitosan along with ascorbic acid led to a marked and rapid decrease in the serum vitamin E level.
Effective? Probably not. While some studies using large doses show a decrease in cholesterol and perhaps body weight in certain animals like rodents, two different human studies published in 1999, both of which used a reliable "double-blind" design, showed absolutely no effect on body weight and a trivial, if any, effect on cholesterol. One of these studies even found a significant increase in blood triglycerides in the people who received chitosan compared with those who received placebo.
I'd save my money if I were you.
I'll take their advice, and save my money.
Edita says "This is also garcinia cambogia which contains HCA--a compound similar to citric acid. Preliminary research indicates that HCA decreases fat gain by inhibiting lipogenesis, the metabolic process by which our bodies turn food into fat." The Skinny Pill contains 300 mg of citrimax.
Our biggest concern with this statement is the reference to "preliminary research". This claim has no meaning. Preliminary research probably isn't much more than a hypothesis.
We found the best description of citrimax on the VitaCost website:
Description: Garcinia cambogia is a small, sweet, purple fruit, also called the Malabar tamarind. This fruit contains Hydroxycitric acid (HCA), a derivative of citric acid. Test-tube and animal research suggests that HCA may be helpful in weight loss because of its effects on metabolism. However, the results are not all conclusive. Useful in treatment of: Obesity; Animal studies have shown that HCA can suppress appetite and thereby encourage weight loss. It is thought to work by interfering with the bodyís ability to produce and store fat. One large human trial showed no benefit over placebo in patients that followed a low calorie diet.
Dosage: A typical dosage of HCA is 250 to 1,000 mg 3 times daily. Products are often labelled Garcinia cambogia and standardized to contain a fixed percentage of HCA, typically 50%, which is the dosage used in larger studies.
JAMA did a detailed study of the effects of citrimax on weight loss:
There were no significant differences in estimated percentage of body fat mass loss between treatment groups, and the fraction of subject weight loss as fat was not influenced by treatment group.
Conclusions. Garcinia cambogia failed to produce significant weight loss and fat mass loss beyond that observed with placebo.
Heymsfield and colleagues found that losses in body weight and fat mass were no different in overweight patients treated with a high-fiber, low-energy diet and Garcinia cambogia than in those treated with diet and placebo.
We now know that while some studies have shown the possibility of success with animal studies, human studies showed no affect at all. Even if this supplement worked, the dosages in the Skinny Pill would be insufficient.
Edita says "Is a thermogenic agent, reducing body fat without traditional dieting or exercise. It is also an insulin cofactor, helping your body regulate sugar and blood fat more efficiently. It has also been shown to improve thyroid function and help boost basic metabolism so more fat is burned."
A supplement that can burn fat without dieting or exercise? This would explain the popularity of this supplement... if it works.
According to ABCNews:
Claim: Increases metabolism to reduce fat; increases muscle mass. Concern: Three studies show no effect on weight or body composition. Animal tests indicate high doses may cause chromosomal damage.
Health Care Reality Check have provided a detailed look at this supplement.
Chromium picolinate does not make you thinner, more muscular, stronger, or give you more energy.
Chromium is an active component of the glucose tolerance factor, which facilitates the action of insulin. Chromium supposedly increases muscle mass, decreases body fat, and promotes weight loss. The success of chromium picolinate is due to a well-orchestrated marketing campaign initiated by both Nutrition 21 (a supplement company in San Diego, CA) and their consultant chemist, Gary Evans, Ph.D (author of the book Chromium Picolinate).
Nutrition 21 holds the chromium picolinate patent, but patenting laws do not require that claims for health products be valid. Independent research by the USDA Human Nutrition Research Centers in Beltsville, MD and Grand Forks, ND do not support the marketing claims made by Evans or Nutrition 21.
In November of 1996, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Nutrition 21 to stop making unsubstantiated weight loss and health claims for chromium picolinate.
Animal studies on chromium and its ligands have found increased lean body mass, decreased fat mass, decreased growth of tumors, improved insulin activity, and increased life span in rats fed high doses. The same effects can be induced in animals by placing them on moderate calorie restriction. In humans, chromium picolinate and other salts have phenformin-like activity, but only in those with insulin resistance; no improvement is seen in glucose uptake in normal persons. The role of chromium supplements in individuals with deficiency or glucose intolerance remains to be defined.
High-output endurance athletes may need supplemental chromium, but the amounts found in standard over-the-counter multivitamin and mineral supplements are probably sufficient. Brewer's yeast is an excellent natural dietary source of chromium, but it causes abundant and foul flatulence. In a well-controlled, randomized trial in collegiate weightlifters, supplemental and placebo groups engaged in an intensive program of weight training. The two groups had no evidence of differences in body composition after the training period.
The presumed safety of chromium picolinate and picolinic acid has been questioned in a recent paper. Chromosomal damage was induced both by the chromium picolinate salt and the ligand in hamster ovary egg germ cells, raising the possibility of mutagenesis and carcinogenesis. The effects were seen with concentrations that were achievable in the serum of humans who take the current recommended doses; they were not seen with chromium nicotinate. Patients should be informed of this report.
A possible side effect, especially if you're a woman, is that the supplement may make you anemic if you take if for longer than several months. Females should not take the supplement unless they are physically mature (stopped growing and have a menstrual period).
At this time, chromium supplements appear to have no documented clinical utility in normal adults.
The Skinny Pill contains 400 mcg of chromium, but they do not state which form it contains.
Edita says: "Researchers believe that citrus aurantium zeros in on special Beta-3 receptors only, turning on their powerful fat fighting signal, without stimulating the receptors that change heart rate or blood pressure. "
Just who are these researchers? This is a very vague claim that has no basis. No research or statistics are quoted, nor do we know if this research was conducted by scientists, physicians, or Mrs. Jones' fifth grade science class.
What is citrus aurantium? Orange bitters. Citrus aurantium also contains synephrin, which is used in nasal sprays.
According to the New York City Consumer Affairs statement on weight loss scams, "Synephrin, an active ingredient commonly found in nasal sprays, has never been tested in humans for weight-loss."
We did find one study of the effects of citrus aurantium on weight loss in rats. Repeated dosages of this supplement did in fact result in weight loss. It also resulted in death. "Our data indicate that, in the rat, antiobesity effects of C. aurantium are accompanied by toxic effects probably due to cardiovascular toxicity." No wonder it hasn't been tested on humans in this capacity.
Do you really want to take untested dosages of a nasal spray ingredient, when this has not even been tested by physicians for weight loss in humans, but has resulted in death in rat studies?
We received several email from readers that had tried the Skinny Pill, and none had positive results. This is what one reader had to say:
"My bestfriend and I rushed out to try the new "skinny pill". We even paid extra to have it shipped right away, and it still took two weeks to get it. We got absolutely no results at all except a thinner wallet. I felt nothing, and it did not help my appetite at all, and my friend felt the same way. I think it's a scam.... Michelle N."
We've taken a closer look at the Skinny Pill website and have been alerted to a variety of red flags. Unsupported claims, unrealistic testimonials from anonymous users, and prompts to purchase a variety of pills, a book, and even purchase email. In the end, we've taken the time to look into these claims, and to find out what we can about the ingredients included in this product. We've learned that we don't want to try this product. If you have any questions about any of the ingredients in the Skinny Pill, or if you would like to question any of the statements made by the websites we quoted, please contact your physician. In the end, it is your personal health at stake and you owe it to yourself to research a weight loss product thoroughly before taking it.
Please remember, the best way to safely and permanently lose excess weight is through a balanced diet and exercise program. Strive to lose at a slow and steady pace, and you will lose fat, not lean muscle, and you are more likely to keep it off. You don't need to purchase supplements which may do more harm than good. If we purchased 3 months worth of Skinny Pills, the Skinny Pill book, and subscribed to the Skinny Club we would spend as much as $129.91. According to the information we've found, we would likely stand to lose water weight, lean muscle, and our money. If you feel that you must spend your money to achieve your weight loss, try Weight Watchers