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Published: June 8, 2024

“Miracle Diet” Scams: A Symptom of Desperation

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We’ve all heard the outlandish claims of the latest “miracle diet” scam:

Lose 10 pounds in 10 days – results guaranteed!

Power-boost your metabolism – no dieting!

I lost 50 pounds with these fat-burning pills!

Rip-off schemes run the gamut from semi-plausible to ludicrous. There’s the abdominal exercise belt scam that claims you can lose all your stomach fat without needing to get off the couch. There’s the infamous hoodia hoax; though this African plant might be an appetite suppressant in its natural form, most pills are fake. And let’s not forgot the classic body wrap scam – cover yourself in bandages and sweat off a few pounds, then instantly regain the weight as soon as you drink a glass of water. The bottom line remains: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Why is there a Diet Scam Market?

It’s no surprise that weight loss fraud has become so popular in the U.S. With clinical obesity claiming 36% of the adult population (and another 33% that are clinically overweight), people are desperate to slim down. Though the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is no secret, a wide variety of social and economic factors make it extremely difficult for people to eat fresh whole foods and stay active.

When it seems impossible to change their eating and exercise habits, people search out quick and easy weight loss solutions. According to the simple law of supply and demand, the market is riper than ever for each latest, greatest diet scam.

Weight Loss Fraud is Nothing New

Weight loss rip-off schemes are hardly new. In fact, the search for the magic diet pill started nearly 100 years ago and has been largely led by the mainstream pharmaceutical industry. In the 1930s, doctors prescribed dinitrophenol, an industrial chemical that accelerated metabolism but also caused fatal fevers, fast forming cataracts, and deadly toxicity. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, highly addictive amphetamines – otherwise known as “speed” – were widely prescribed to boost metabolism and suppress appetite.

Currently, the only drug officially approved for long-term weight loss is orlistat, which is sold over the counter as Alli. Alli is hardly a scam – by blocking the absorption of fat, it is conducive to moderate weight loss – but most people find its embarrassing side effects unbearable. The indigestion can be so bad, in fact, that the drug’s manufacturer recommends that first-time users wear dark pants and keep a change of clothes handy.

 Diet Pills: A Symptom of Desperation

In the endless search for the magic diet pill, the latest development is the drug Qnexa. A government panel recently recommended that the FDA approve the drug despite serious concerns about cardiovascular risks and birth defects.

“This is far from a great drug,” said Dr. David Katz, Integrative Nutrition visiting teacher and director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. The FDA panel only recommended approval because “desperate times call for desperate measures. Approval of Qnexa would reflect that…desperation.”

There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Diet

Though the diet scam industry will probably always have a market, the real solution to the obesity epidemic lies in education, awareness, and support. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet or magic pill that can instantly melt away the pounds. Rather than rewarding rip-offs, as a society, we should focus our efforts on enacting changes that make it realistic and feasible to achieve healthy lifestyles. 

June 8, 2024

Nelson Mandela Day

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