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Well, it’s that time again: after the indulgences of Christmas, many of us are starting to think about getting fit and healthy for the New Year. So, I was interested to see the Healthy Weight Network in the USA announce their Slim Chance awards at the end of 2012. These awards, they say, are aimed at

“exposing the widespread fraud and quackery in the weight loss field, and are aimed at helping people, especially girls and women, move on from chronic dieting to improving their lives in more positive and lasting ways”

Topping the list of award winners this year was Dr Oz who (according to the promoters of these awards) has recommended six dubious ‘miracle’ diet aids during 2012.

One is the raspberry ketone diet (which is available here in New Zealand). It seems there have been no human clinical trials on this product – it’s something that has only been tested in animal studies and on mammalian cell cultures. Apparently, the endorsement by Dr Oz resulted in this becoming a sell-out product in some countries.

Unfortunately, as we see time and time again, there are no magic bullets for weight loss. What’s required is a change in dietary habits and an increase in activity.

Another product targeted by the Slim Chance awards was QuickTrim. This product is listed by Fishpond in New Zealand, although they are currently out of stock. This is apparently supposed to detoxify and clean the body while burning calories. The Kardashian sisters, American reality TV star promoters of the diet, were last year slapped with a US$5 million lawsuit alleging that they, and the makers of the QuickTrim diet pills, falsely touted the product’s effectiveness for losing weight.

Another product under attack is the Ab Circle Pro, also promoted in New Zealand. In the infomercials marketing this product, claims were made that three minutes a day of exercise on this machine could melt inches and pounds, causing a weight loss of 10lbs in two weeks. (One’s Close Up did a great report on this a couple of years ago.) In August, marketers of Ab Circle Pro agreed to settlements with the USA’s Federal Trade Commission for consumer refunds of between US$15 million and US$25 million.

So how do you spot those diets that are just ‘fads’ and are best avoided? Well, there is some good information on the Dietitians New Zealand website

But just in summary, we should steer clear of any diet that:

  • Promises to solve your weight problem without having to change your lifestyle in any real way.
  • Offers unlicensed and untested products such as herbal concoctions or hormones.
  • Promises rapid weight loss of more than 1kg of body fat a week.
  • Suggests special fat-burning effects of foods or supplements.
  • Uses complex medical terminology and jargon to try and sound authentic and ‘scientifically proven’.
  • Promotes avoiding or severely limiting an entire food group, such as dairy products or a staple food such as wheat. It may also suggest substituting these foods with expensive doses of vitamin and mineral supplements.
  • Promotes eating mainly one type of food (eg, cabbage soup, lemons, baby food, liquid foods) or avoiding all cooked foods (the raw food diet).
  • Recommends eating foods only in particular combinations based on your genetic type or blood group.
  • Suggests being overweight is related to a food allergy or a yeast infection.
  • Recommends ‘detoxing’ or avoiding foods in certain combinations, such as fruit with meals.
  • Offers no supporting evidence apart from anecdotes from followers or celebrities with a personal success story to tell.