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QUACKERY
& FRAUD
 
What are the Slim Chance Awards?
25 years of Slim Chance Awards
How to Identify Fraud TEXT | PDF
The Latest News Release


ANNOUNCING

25th Annual SLIM CHANCE Awards!

To be announced Dec 30, 2013

 

What are the Slim Chance Awards?

The Slim Chance Awards expose 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.

These are truly the worst of the worst of the many weight-loss products and programs that flood the internet, the airwaves, and the pages of print materials each year in seemingly increasing numbers. Diet quackery disappoints and defrauds its vulnerable victims, and all too often it injures and even kills.

The annual Slim Chance Awards are announced at year's end as a lead up to Rid the World of Fad Diets & Gimmicks Dayon Tuesday of Healthy Weight Week, which is celebrated the third full week in January.

For a listing and discussion of the nearly one hundred Slim Chance awards given over these years, click here.

 

MOST RECENT NEWS RELEASE

NEWS RELEASE JAN 2, 2014

Contact: Lisa Christie
lisa.christie@fitwoman.com
802-228-8885

 

Worst Weight Loss Schemes of 2013
Selected by Healthy Weight Week Expert Judges
Slim Chance Awards Call Out
Most Questionable Weight Loss Products, Plans, Claims & Gimmicks


Ludlow, VT – Jan. 2, 2014 Green Mountain at Fox Run, sponsor of Healthy Weight Week 2014, today announced that an independent panel of judges has selected the worst weight loss schemes of 2013. The “Slim Chance Awards” were started 25 years ago as a way to call out the most outrageous and overrated weight loss products, plans, and gimmicks of the year, and ultimately to increase awareness that dieting usually results in poorer health and weight gain over time.


2013 Slim Chance Award Winners

Worst Weight Loss Plan: The Special K ChallengeTM

Kellogg’s Special K Challenge claims that by replacing two meals and snacks a day with Special K products, including cereals, protein shakes and protein meal bars, a weight loss of up to 6 pounds in 14 days will occur.

“First, a focus on quick weight loss just sets people up for the yo-yo diet cycle of losing and regaining that makes people fatter, not thinner.” says Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD, president and co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run. “It may also foster chronic inflammation, which leads to all sorts of health problems, including weight gain for many. To top it off, a diet that contains a lot of processed grain products may even contribute to chronic inflammation. It’s likely that many people following this challenge are already struggling with chronic inflammation; this approach could deliver a double whammy."

Most Overrated: Non-Invasive Body Contouring Procedures

The latest technologies, from ultrasound to freezing fat, are marketed to treat “problem areas.” Also known as liposuction lasers, non-surgical fat reduction, or non-invasive fat removal, treatments can cost thousands of dollars per area, are recommended only for people who are at a “normal weight,” and produce incredibly varied results. “These kind of ‘miracle’ procedures feed body dissatisfaction and encourage unhealthy behaviors,” said Ashley Solomon, PsyD. “When people are only focused on reducing fat, losing inches or weighing less, they set themselves up for disappointment and self-flagellation when it doesn’t work as well as they’d hoped or if they experience weight-regain. Disordered eating can result.”

Most Outrageous: Cotton Ball Diet

The Cotton Ball Diet started popping up on YouTube earlier in 2013, unveiling a disturbing fad diet most popular among young women. Dieters dip cotton balls in juice and ingest them. The objective is to feel full without actually consuming real food. Risks include a blockage in the digestive system, which could result in surgery.


Worst Gimmick: The Tongue Patch Diet

In this reversible procedure a plastic mesh patch is fitted to the patient’s tongue. The purpose is to make chewing extremely painful, thus limiting the dieter to only liquid. Users have reported up to 20 lbs. of weight loss in a month.

“Anything that prevents you from eating will result in weight loss,” says Hudnall. “The question is, what is the ultimate aim – being thin or being healthy? Products like these just keep people focused on the wrong thing. If we want to be happy in our bodies, we need to support them. That means, among other things, feeding them well, not starving them.”


Changing the Focus to Health

While four weight loss schemes stood out as the worst of 2013, Hudnall emphasizes that, in general, the pursuit of weight loss doesn’t take people where they want to go.

“The pursuit of weight loss has become an obsession in this country. And that’s independent of whether a person could be considered fat. For example, studies repeatedly show young children and teens are afraid of becoming fat, and engage in restricted eating and other practices to prevent it. Unfortunately, these practices end up causing weight gain, eating disorders, and poor health. The solution is to change the focus from weight to health, and support people in living healthy, happy and fulfilled lives.”

Hudnall offers the following tips for finding your healthy weight:

  • Focus on feeling good, not how much you weigh.

  • Choose foods and eat them in a way that contribute to feeling well.
  • Listen to and trust your body’s cues – it can tell you when you are hungry and when you’ve had enough to eat.
  • Find movement that is pleasurable to you.
  • Forget about burning calories – that focus makes exercise a punishment, not a pleasure.
  • Find ways to fulfill your social, emotional and spiritual needs.


    The Slim Chance Awards judging panel included:
  • Annabel Adams, blogger at Feed Me, I’m Cranky
  • Ashley Solomon, PsyD, founder of the website Nourishing the Soul
  • Rebecca Scritchfield, RD, Washington-DC based dietitian and fitness expert
  • Marci Warhaft-Nadler, author of “The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents: Helping Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Thrive”
About Healthy Weight Week Healthy Weight Week is January 19-25, 2014. In addition to the Slim Chance Awards, the week features:
  • The Healthy Body Image Award, given to one winner who has made strides in helping people accept their bodies and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
  • The Healthy Weight Blogger Awards, given to bloggers who support people finding their healthy weights and giving up dieting.
All information about Healthy Weight Week can be found at www.fitwoman.com/healthy-weight-week.

###

About Green Mountain at Fox Run

Green Mountain at Fox Run is the country's first and oldest all-women's educational community for weight and health management, now in its 40th year. It is nationally recognized as an effective solution for ending struggles with eating and weight through the “non-diet” approach it pioneered. Using a mindfulness-based approach led by a multidisciplinary professional staff, Green Mountain helps women develop the self-care behaviors critical for modifying thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that support lasting change. Designed for women 17 years old to 80-plus, Green Mountain has been named one of the premier weight management and lifestyle programs in the country by nutritionists, physicians, therapists, and women’s health editors.

 


NEWS RELEASE DEC 28, 2012

Worst Diet Schemes of 2012
Dr. Oz Weighs in
with Worst Claims

NOTE: Please help us fight fraud by sending these out today to your social media networks and contacts, including any news media contacts. Scroll to bottom for Twitter and Short Announcements. Feel free to put them into your own words and add personal comments.

HETTINGER, ND, Dec 28—The promotion of six dubious “miracle” diet aids by Dr. Oz and the risky concoctions endorsed by television personality Kim Kardashian for weight loss were recognized today among the worst diets and diet promotions of 2012 as the Healthy Weight Network released its list of “winners” in four categories for the 24thAnnual Slim Chance Awards.
“Celebrity endorsements of discredited and unproven weight loss schemes were prominent contributors to the growing U.S. weight loss market, which was projected to rake in $65 billion in 2012,” said William M. London, a professor of public health at California State University, Los Angeles and co-author of the college textbook Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.
“As in previous years, we noted numerous ineffective and unsafe products and gimmicks repackaged as phony breakthroughs,” said Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, who has chaired the review of Slim Chance nominees since 1989. “Quick-fix quackery continues to distract weight-conscious consumers from a sound focus on healthy lifestyles.”

WORST CLAIM: Dr Oz
In the category of Worst Claim, the Slim Chance Award goes to Dr. Mehmet Oz who touted raspberry ketone on The Dr. Oz Show as “the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat.” Dr. Oz claimed the product regulates the hormone adiponectin so fat in cells is “broken up” more effectively to enable “fat burning.” He declared that the product will help teach the body that it’s thin. But the only relevant research cited by The Dr. Oz Show was conducted on lab rats and mammalian cell cultures rather than clinical research on people. By the end of the show’s program segment on raspberry ketone, Dr. Oz shifted into disclaimer mode arguing for the need for good diet and exercise. He then contradicted his opening miracle mongering by suggesting raspberry ketone will only “get you over the hump” and “is not a miracle pill.” His disclaimers have not stopped numerous Internet marketers from using his name and image to promote sales of raspberry ketone products for weight loss.


WORST PRODUCT: QuickTrim
QuickTrim formulas include various chemical cocktails offered in caplets, drinks, drink mixes, and even skin gel—deceptively claimed to "detoxify and clean" the body and “burn” calories. Potentially hazardous ingredients in featured QuickTrim products include stimulant laxatives and unspecified amounts of caffeine. A $5 million class action lawsuit against Windmill Health Products; QuickTrim; Amazon.com; Walmart and others has alleged 28 different misrepresentations made for QuickTrim products. Co-defendants include Kim Kardashian along with her sisters Khloe and Kourtney, who have offered testimonials for QuickTrim and appeared in promotional materials for QuickTrim.

WORST GIMMICK: Ab Circle Pro
Ab Circle Pro earned the award for Worst Gimmick with ads falsely claiming that three minutes working out with the device—a fiberglass disk with stationary handlebars and two knee rests that roll on the edge of the disk, allowing consumers to kneel and rotate side-to-side—is equivalent to 100 sit-ups and can “melt inches and pounds” causing the exerciser to lose ten pounds in two weeks. In August, marketers of Ab Circle Pro, agreed to settlements with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for consumer refunds of between $15 million and $25 million. Defendants are to refrain from making false or unsupported claims in the future. They include Fitness Brands, Fitness Brands International, and the two individuals who control them, Michael Casey and David Brodess; Direct Holdings Americas, and Direct Entertainment Media Group; infomercial producer Tara Borakos, Tara Productions and New U; and Jennifer Nicole Lee and her two companies, JNL, and JNL Worldwide.


MOST OUTRAGEOUS: Fake news acai berry scammers
Dishonored in the Slim Chance category of Most Outrageous are acai berry and “colon cleanser” advertising scammers who falsely claimed that products such as Acai Pure, Acai Max, Pure Berry Max, Slimberry, Acai Ultraberry Slim, and Acai Advanced Cleanse would cause rapid and substantial weight loss. Various advertisers ran afoul of FTC leading to multi-million dollar settlements that barred the advertisers from various deceptive practices. Outrageous advertising included:

  • Fake news websites using names and logos of major broacast and cable networks offering deceptive reports with titles such as “Acai Berry Diet Exposed: Miracle Diet or Scam?” and “1 Trick of a Tiny Belly:  Reporter Loses her ‘Belly’ using 1 Easy Tip.”
  • Supposedly free trial offers for acai berry products that deceptively enroll people into long-term contracts with monthly credit card billings for products consumers didn’t request.

Acai berry product marketers who settled FTC charges in 2012 include: Coleadium affiliate network and its owner, Jason Akatiff; Clickbooth affiliate network (owned by John Daniel Lamp); Intermark Communications doing business as Copeac; Coulomb Media and Cody Low (also known as Joe Brooks); Circa Direct and Andrew Davidson; Ricardo Jose Lampra; Zachary S. Graham, Ambervine Marketing and Encastle; Tanner Garrett Vaughn; Thou Lee; Charles Dunlevy; DLXM and Michael Volozin.
The Slim Chance awards are sponsored by Healthy Weight Network. They are a lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, the third week in January ( www.healthyweight.net/hww.htm ).

###

For more information see www.healthyweight.net

MEDIA: To arrange an interview with Francie Berg email fmberg@healthyweight.net  (please begin subject line with: Berg ….) or call 701-567-2646.

Francie M. Berg, MS
Healthy Weight Network
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639
701-567-2646
fmberg@healthyweight.net
www.healthyweight.net

###

SEE BELOW for Twitter, News Briefs and Short Announcements.
Please help us fight fraud by sending these out today to your social media networks and contacts, including any news media contacts. Revise in your own words and add personal comments if desired.



For FACEBOOK, SOCIAL NETWORKING and
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS ( PSAs)—
Please share (shorten if desired)


Worst Diet Schemes of 2012
Dr Oz Weighs in with Worst Claims
The promotion of a dubious “miracle” diet aid by Dr. Oz and risky detox concoctions endorsed by television personality Kim Kardashian for weight loss were recognized today among the worst diets and diet promotions of 2012 as Healthy Weight Network released its list of “winners” in four categories for the 24thAnnual Slim Chance Awards.
Dr. Oz earned Worst Claim for his endorsement of raspberry ketones as effective in “fat burning,” while Kardashian and her sisters provided testimonials for the Worst Product, a variety of QuickTrim formulas touted to "detoxify and clean" the body. Dishonored in the Slim Chance category of Most Outrageous are acai berry and “colon cleanser” advertising scammers who set up fake news websites to falsely claim the acai products cause rapid and substantial weight loss. Ab Circle Pro earned Worst Gimmick with ads falsely claiming that three minutes working out with the device equals 100 sit-ups and can cause a ten-pound weight loss in two weeks.
“Quick-fix quackery continues to distract weight-conscious consumers from a sound focus on healthy lifestyles,” said Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, who has chaired the review of Slim Chance nominees since 1989. Experience 24 years of weight loss quackery at http://www.healthyweight.net/fraud.htm


TWITTER
(136 characters, including spaces):
Slim Chance Awards Announced: the Worst Diets of 2012. Review 24 years of weight loss quackery at http://www.healthyweight.net/fraud.htm

OR

(126 characters, including spaces)
Announcing the 24th Annual Slim Chance Awards—outrageous weight loss schemes of 2012—at http://www.healthyweight.net/fraud.htm

###


FOR MORE INFORMATION see www.healthyweight.net/hww.htm


MEDIA:
To arrange an interview with Francie Berg call 701-567-2646 or email fmberg@healthyweight.net  (please begin subject line with: Berg ….).

CONTACT:
Francie M. Berg
701-567-2646
Healthy Weight Network
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639
www.healthyweight.net


Nominations for
Slim Chance Awards

Please send your nominations for Slim Chance Awards by Nov. 15. Awards are presented in the four categories: Most Outrageous Claim; Worst Claim; Worst Product; Worst Gadget. Weight loss products and promotions are nominated by consumers and health professionals worldwide and awards determined by a select panel of judges.

Send to Francie Berg, Coordinator Task Force on Weight Loss Abuse, National Council Against Health Fraud, Healthy Weight Network; 402 South 14th Street; Hettinger, ND 58639, along with supporting material or online link if possible.
Click here to email (please use the subject line: Berg – Healthy Weight Week)

This is part of a tradition that began in 1989, undertaken by Frances M. Berg, then editor of Healthy Weight Journal, as a response to the glut of unsafe and exploitive products on the market. Sponsored by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud.

More websites identifying fraud and quackery: www.quackwatch.com and www.ncahf.org

 


 

24 Years of Slim Chance Awards
 
1989 through 2012

The “worst” of the worst weight-loss products and programs
Most Outrageous – Worst Claim – Worst Product – Worst Gimmick!

2012
Dr Oz, Worse Claim
QuickTrim, Worst product
Fake news acai berry scammers, Most Outrageous
Ab Circle Pro, Worst Gimmick

 

2011
*Acai Burn, Most Outrageous
Sensa weight-loss crystals, Worst Claim
HCG, six companies, Worst Product
Weight Loss Energy Band, Worst Gimmick
*plus 14 other acai berry weight loss pills
by Jesse Willms of Just Think Media

2010
Basic Research LLC, Most Outrageous
Ultimate Cleanse, Worst Claim
HCG Supplements, Worst Product
Lapex BCS LipoLaser, Worst Gimmick

2009
Pills spiked with Powerful Undisclosed
Drugs,
Most Outrageous
QVC Shopping Network, Worst Claim
Hydroxycut, Worst Product
Kinoki Foot Pads, Worst Gimmick

2008
Kevin Trudeau infomercials, Most Outrageous
AbGONE, Worst Claim
Kimkins Diet, Worst Product
Skineez jeans, Worst Gimmick

2007
Evercleanse
, Most Outrageous
Bio SpeedSLIM, Worst Claim
HoodiaHerbal, Worst Product
Hollywood Detox Body Wrap, Worst Gimmick
2006
Isacleanse,
Most Outrageous Claim
ChitoGenics, Worst Claim
PediaLean, Worst Product
Magic Ear Staple, Worst Gimmick
2005
Shape Up with Dr Phil,
Most Outrageous Claim
Jana Skinny Water, Worst Claim
Nutrathin With Hoodia, Worst Product
Body Shape by Hydroderm, Worst Gimmick
2004
EstrinD,
Most Outrageous Claim
Carboburn, Worst Claim
CortiSlim, Worst Product
Green Tea 300 patches,
Worst Gimmick

2003
Metabadrine
Body Solutions Evening Weight Loss
Himalayan Diet Breakthrough
MagnaSlim

2002
Nutramerica’s Trim Spa
Ultimate HGH 1000
Gorayeb Hypnosis Seminars
L’Patch
2001
Super-Crash Diet
Hollywood 48 Hour Diet
Blast Away Fat
Slenderstrip
2000
Slimming Slippers
Weigh Out

16-Plant Macerat Weight Loss
Hyrdro-Gel Slim Patch
1999
Chitosan
Dr. Atkins' Low-carbohydrate Diet
Metabolife

Cellulift
1998
Herbal Weight Loss Tea
Slim America
Calorad
Ace Bandage Wrap
1997
DHEA - Life Plus
Herbal Cleansing/Detox Program
Phena-Drene / MD
Elysee Body Toner Belt
1996
Equinox Weight Mgmt System

Absorbit-ALL PLUS
Svelt Patch
Slimming Insoles
1995
Ephedrine-laced Diet Pills
Mushroom Tea
Hypnosis Seminars
Ninzu Ear Clips
1994
Nutrition 21 Chromium Picolinate
Herbalife Thermojetics
Gut Buster
Smooth Contours Thigh Cream
1993
Dr. Clayton's Natural Program
Revlon Anti-cellulite
MarTrim
Fleetwood Tables
1992
Acu-stop 2000
Bodi-Trim Pills
Synchronol infomercials
Slender You Exercise Tables

1991 
Bee Sweet Grapefruit Diet
B.I. Body Wrap
Primary Plan Tablets
Slender-Mist Appetite Spray

1990  
Cho Low Tea
Cal-Ban 3000
Dream Away Fat Blocker
Berry Trim
1989 
Fat Magnet
Jet Trim Cellulite Unit
Ultimate Solution Diet
Appetite Patches


For a discussion and explanation
of the above products over the years, click here.


The Slim Chance Awards are selected from products nominated by health professionals and consumers and reflect the opinion of
the panel making the judgments.



How to Identify Fraud

Weight Loss Fraud and Quackery
Guidelines for identification

Frances M. Berg, M.S.

Fraudulent weight loss products and programs often rely on unscrupulous but persuasive combinations of the message, program, ingredients, mystique and method of availability. A weight loss product or program may be fraudulent if it does one or more of the following:

Message

  • Claims or implies a large, fast weight loss — often promised as easy, effortless, guaranteed or permanent. (Claims of more than two pounds per week set up red flags.)
  • Implies weight can be lost without restricting calories or exercising, and discounts the benefits of exercise.
  • Uses typical quackery terms such as: miraculous, breakthrough, exclusive, secret, unique, ancient, accidental discovery, doctor developed.
  • Claims to get rid of “cellulite.” Cellulite does not exist and reference to it is a red flag warning of fraud or misinformation.
  • Relies heavily on undocumented case histories, before and after photos, and testimonials by “satisfied customers” (who are often paid for testimony which is written by the advertiser).
  • Misuses medical or technical terms, refers to studies without giving complete references, claims government approval.
  • Professes to be a treatment for a wide range of ailments and nutritional deficiencies as well as for weight loss.
  • Makes claims not stated on the label.

Program

  • Promotes a medically unsupervised diet of less than 1000 calories per day.
  • Diagnoses nutrient deficiencies with computer-scored questionnaire and prescribes vitamins and supplements (rather than a balanced diet). Recommends them in excess of 100% of Recommended Dietary Allowance.
  • Requires special foods purchased from the company rather than conventional foods.
  • Promotes aids and devices such as body wraps, sauna belts, electronic muscle stimulators, passive motion tables, ear stapling, aromatherapy, appetite patches and acupuncture.
  • Promotes a nutritional plan without relying on at least one counselor or author with nutrition credentials. (Many who self-identify as “nutritionists” have no credentials. Licensed nutritionists, nutrition educators and dietitians do. The science of nutrition is taught only through college Family Consumer Science, Dietetics and related departments.)
  • Fails to state risks or recommend a medical exam.

Ingredients

  • Uses unproven, bogus or potentially dangerous ingredients such as dinitrophenol, spirulina, amino acid supplements, glucomannan, human chorionic gonadotrophin hormone (HCG), diuretics, slimming teas, echinacia root, bee pollen, fennel, chickweed, ephedra and starch blockers.
  • Claims ingredients will block digestion or surround calories, starches, carbohydrates or fats, and remove them from the body.

Mystique

  • Encourages reliance on a guru figure who has the “ultimate answers.”
  • Grants mystical properties to certain foods or ingredients.
  • Bases plan on faddish ideas, such as food allergies, forbidden foods, blood type or “magic combinations” of foods.
  • Declares that the established medical community is against this discovery and refuses to accept its miraculous benefits.

Method of availability

  • Is sold by self-proclaimed health advisors or “nutritionists,” often door-to-door, in “health food” stores, or a chiropractor’s office.
  • Distributes through hard-sell mail order advertisements, television infomercials, or ads that list only a toll-free number without any address, indicating possible Postal Service action against the company.
  • Demands large advance payments or long-term contracts. (Payment should be pay-as-you-go, or refundable.)
  • Uses high pressure sales tactics, one-time-only deals, or recruitment for a pyramid sales organization. Displays prominent money-back guarantee. (A common complaint against such companies is that this is an empty promise and they do not honor their guarantees).

Questions and complaints should be directed to your State Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Affairs. Other agencies concerned with fraud are the FDA, FTC, Postal Service and Better Business Bureau.

Excerpted from “Weight Loss Fraud and Quackery,” by Francie M. Berg. Copyright 1995. Healthy Weight Network, Hettinger, ND.

##

Healthy Weight Week

Rid the World of Fad Diets & Gimmicks Day is on Tuesday of Healthy Weight Week, which is celebrated the third full week in January. During Healthy Weight Week people are encouraged to improve health habits in lasting ways:

  • Live actively
  • Eat well (in normal ways and fully nurished)
  • Accept, respect and feel good about yourself and others

It’s a time to celebrate the diversity of real women, as well as men, and to help them shift focus from failed and risky weight loss efforts to being healthy at their natural sizes. Healthy Weight Week is a time for people to move ahead with a new approach and build confident, diet-free lives for themselves and those they love.
Healthy Weight Week
Handouts: Healthy Living at Every Size
Healthy Living Guidelines

For more information see www.healthyweight.net

MEDIA: To arrange an interview with Francie Berg email fmberg@healthyweight.net   (please begin subject line with: Berg ….) or call 701-567-2646.

Francie M. Berg, MS
Healthy Weight Network
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639
701-567-2646
fmberg@healthyweight.net
www.healthyweight.net

 


 

 

NEWS RELEASES
FROM RECENT YEARS


RELEASED DEC. 30, 2011

Weight loss schemes are more lucrative than ever!
The Worst Diets of 2011

HETTINGER, ND, Dec 30—Healthy Weight Network released its 23 rd Slim Chance Awards today highlighting four of the worst diets and diet promotions of the year.

“Weight loss schemes are more lucrative and offensive than ever,” said Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, chair of the event. “Here is a self-made millionaire—a 23-year-old high school dropout—who flushed the English-speaking world with illegal weight-loss scams and then cleaned up by draining credit cards.”

Another scam is a dangerous and illegal hormone treatment that just doesn’t quit despite 50 years of legal wrangling with the FDA and FTC. Like Jason in a Slasher movie it keeps coming back and back—long after it seems defeated.

Here are the 24th annual Slim Chance Awards:

MOST OUTRAGEOUS: Jesse Willms, the Canadian owner of Just Think Media. Willms is a multi-millionaire connected to more than 40 product and company names. The 23-year-old high school dropout is charged with deceiving people like Candice Rozak of Edmunton who ordered a free trial of a diet pill called Acai Burn that required only a small handling fee and later found her credit card depleted of nearly $700. It’s a major international problem says Canada's Anti-Fraud Call Centre. The FTC in the U.S. agrees and is suing Willms and his associates—who collected more than $450 million from online consumers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The complaint says Willms sold at least 15 brands of acai berry weight-loss pills, six brands of colon cleansers and supplements containing resveratrol—all marketed with false or misleading claims. Promised money-back guarantees were often ignored. Despite the efforts of credit card companies and banks the money kept flowing through shell companies and manipulation of payment data.

WORST GIMMICK: The “Pure Energy Weight Loss plus Energy Band.” This plastic bracelet embeds green and silver hologram discs claimed to give off vibes that resonate throughout the body and stimulate weight loss and health. Among the alleged results are decreased appetite, balanced metabolism, balanced hormones¸ enhanced energy flow, increased energy levels and the promotion of positive emotions. A testimonial declares, “Since I bought my Pure Energy Band I have lost over 83Lbs and I feel fantastic.” Furthermore a disc does not even need to touch the skin—apparently it can hover at some distance. Supposedly, to be effective it “only needs to be within the body’s natural energy field. For most people, that is within two inches of the body.”

WORST CLAIM: Sensa weight-loss crystals. The Sensa website states boldly that users can lose an average of 30.5 pounds in six months without dieting, exercise, food restrictions or drastic lifestyle changes—by merely sprinkling these weight-loss crystals on their food. It claims that Sensa has been “clinically proven.” Smell and taste receptors supposedly send the brain messages to tell your body to stop eating. It “activates a hunger-control switch in the brain and you “eat less and feel more satisfied… no feelings of hunger or intense cravings.” Class-action suits have been filed in California and Texas against the marketers of Sensa, developed by Chicago neurologist Alan Hirsch, M.D. and sold by California-based Sensa Products. The California complaint states that (a) there is no competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate these claims and (b) an expert who reviewed Sensa's main clinical study judged it “beyond worthless.”

WORST PRODUCT: HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin. HCG was first introduced more than 50 years ago by British physician Dr. Albert Simeon who claimed the hormone, found in the urine of pregnant women, would mobilize stored fat, suppress appetite and redistribute fat. He contended that regular injections would enable dieters to live comfortably on a 500-calorie-a-day diet. For a time, these weekly injections were the most widespread obesity medication administered in the US. In the mid-70s the FDA and FTC effectively shut them down by ordering the Simeon clinics to stop claiming their programs were safe and effective, and requiring they inform patients in writing that there was no evidence HCG increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction.” More recently infomercial king Kevin Trudeau took up the cudgel. His 2007 book claims HCG is "an absolute cure for obesity discovered almost fifty years ago,” but “suppressed" by medical experts and the FDA. HCG is heavily marketed online and in retail outlets as oral drops, pellets, and sprays, while injections for weight loss continue. Labeling states that each should be taken in conjunction with a very-low-calorie-diet which, the FDA noted, can trigger gallstone formation, electrolyte imbalance and abnormal heart rhythms. (HCG is approved as an injectable prescription drug for the treatment of some cases of female infertility and other medical conditions.) In December the FDA and FTC jointly warned six companies that it is illegal to market over-the counter HCG products labeled as "homeopathic" for weight loss. This is considered a first step in halting sales (Dec 6, 2011).

“Deceptive advertising about weight loss products is one of the most prevalent types of fraud,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The new marketing is so lucrative and people with weight concerns so vulnerable that case-by-case enforcement action has little impact, quackwatchers say. To improve the situation, our society needs a plan that includes screening of certain types of ads, publicly exposing sellers placed on the Visa/MasterCard Match list and routine criminal prosecution of violators.

The Slim Chance awards are sponsored by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud. They are a lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, the third week in January ( www.healthyweight.net/hww.htm ).
###

 

RELEASED DEC 28, 2010

Lose fat by shining a laser lamp on it? Slim Chance!

Worst weight loss products and promotions of 2010



HETTINGER, ND, Dec 28 –A laser light that melts fat when it “opens the fat cells—right through your skin; the … stuff comes out.” A liquid dropped under the tongue that promises a pound or two of daily weight loss with, by the way, a 500-calorie diet. These are two of the worst weight loss products of 2010 as selected by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud from nominations by health professionals and consumers.

The 22nd annual Slim Chance Awards were announced today by Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist, adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, and chair of the selection committee.

In this year when the FDA declined approval for two weight loss drugs and forced withdrawal of another, Meridia, after 13 years of known risk for heart attack and stroke, one might think questionable diets are under control.

Not so, says Berg. It’s a slippery slope for law enforcement, with loopholes open for the supplement industry. “Dubious products have proliferated so widely today that three of our four selections represent not just one, but numerous products and companies,” said Berg. “Basic Research alone has an 18-year history of Federal Trade Commission violations, warnings, charges and fines.”

Here are the 22nd annual Slim Chance Awards.

WORST CLAIM: Ultimate Cleanse
Ultimate Cleanse cashes in on a popular quack theme: the body must be detoxified regularly to get rid of wastes and toxins. An ideal scam, this notion sets up a problem that doesn't exist and puts forth a solution to snare the gullible. If it were true, people would not survive, as one FDA agent pointed out: the body is naturally self-cleaning. Aside from their basic silliness, cleansing programs are often high-risk, containing potent laxatives. Ultimate Cleanse combines cascara sagrada, a harsh laxative that in 2002 was banned as an ingredient in over-the-counter drugs, in a mix of herbs and fibers said to produce “2-3 bowel movements per day, while sweeping, toning, and cleansing the digestive and eliminative system.” Supposedly it cleanses in five areas (bowel, liver, kidneys, lungs and skin) as well as bloodstream, cells and body tissues. An Arizona man who used Ultimate Cleanse is suing the maker and seller charging that it caused perforation of his colon requiring two operations; his surgeon believes the perforation was caused by cascara segrada. There is no proven safe or effective dose for cascara, derived from the bark of a buckthorn plant. Long-term use may lead to potassium depletion, blood in the urine, disturbed heart function, muscle weakness, finger clubbing and cachexia (extreme weight loss). Regular use is linked to increased risk of hepatitis and colorectal cancer. Though banned as a drug, cascara sells in dietary supplements through a legal loophole.

WORST PRODUCT: HCG Supplements
In a resurge in popularity of HCG injections among some practitioners and spas, this 1950s weight loss method has spawned excitement in the supplement field, as well. HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone produced during pregnancy, is claimed to reset the hypothalamus, improve metabolism and mobilize fat stores. However, there is no scientific evidence supporting HCG treatment as a weight or fat loss strategy. In its herbal versions, HCG drops are placed under the tongue (5 drops times 6 times a day or 10 drops, 3 times). Advertisers claim, “You easily can lose 1-2 pounds per day safely! Shed Excess Fat … HCG resets your hypothalamus so that your weight loss is permanent!” “HCG will melt fat permanently while maintaining muscle tone.” HCG does all this, it is claimed, without exercise. The caveat: the program requires a semi-starvation diet of 500 calories a day, with attendant severe risks to long-term health and almost guaranteed weight rebound. Further, the HCG program often begins with a liquid fast detox period. Common short-term effects include fatigue, headache, mood swings, depression, confusion, dizziness and stomach pain.

MOST OUTRAGEOUS: Basic Research LLC
Basic Research, marketer of bogus products, carries an extensive history of FTC warnings, charges, fines and on-going lawsuits against multiple products. Basic Research, also doing business as Carter-Reed Company, has been a plaintiff or defendant in more than 40 suits filed in federal court in the past five years. In 2006, the FTC ordered the company to pay $3 million on behalf of six companies and three principals. Together with one of these, Akävar , Basic Research faces a class-action suit based on new charges for violating that order. Most recently Basic Research is being sued for false advertising in marketing “Jillian Michaels Maximum Strength Calorie Control” (Take Two Capsules Before Main Meals And You Lose Weight). Michaels, star and coach on the reality show, the Biggest Loser, gained a reputation as a credible fitness instructor before stumbling into the supplement quagmire, from which she now promotes her own Calorie Control, Fat Burner, Body Detox and Cleanse, and QuickStart Rapid Weight Loss System, marketing with Basic Research. (http://www.dietscam.org/reports/michaels.shtml ) Founded in 1992, based in Salt Lake City, Basic Research is listed as an international importer and wholesaler specializing in supplements, with an estimated annual income of $10.5 million.

WORST GIMMICK: Lapex BCS Lipo Laser
With full page advertisements in daily newspapers, LipoLaser promoters promise: “Lose 3 ½ - 7 inches of fat in 3 weeks. … proven inches lost, without diet or exercise … the LipoLaser is the only non-diet, non-invasive, pain-free way to lose inches of fat ... all effortlessly and easily.” Credible studies are missing to show this works. Supposedly, shining the lighted device on a pocket of fat gives results “almost exactly the same as exercise” only instead of “hormones opening the fat cells with exercise, the Laser light opens the fat cells—right through your skin. The same stuff comes out of the fat cells.” So excess fat is released and the fat cells shrink, or so it is claimed. The FDA classifies the device as an infrared lamp rather than a laser, so likely it is harmless. Yet the price is hefty: $1497 (on special 50% reduction) up to $5000 for the typical program of nine one-hour sessions. An online diet review site rates the LipoLaser treatment negatively, along with a user’s report, “Young girls administer the treatment and do not give you any eye protection even though they have warnings on the walls that laser is in process. I have had no good results for my $4000 and I want my money back. This is one of the biggest scams out there.” A self-identified professional confessed that about 80% of the “guests” who completed their series were dissatisfied with results.

Berg advises consumers to skip the quick fixes and false promises and move ahead with lasting healthy eating and physical activity habits. “Learn to enjoy, but don’t limit yourself to, wholegrain foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, beans and low-fat dairy foods. And don’t forget to energize yourself with regular physical activity.”

The Slim Chance awards are part of the lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, the third week in January.


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For more information see www.healthyweight.net/hww.htm
MEDIA: To arrange an interview with Francie Berg email fmberg@healthyweight.net  (please begin subject line with: Berg ….) or call 701-567-2646.

Francie M. Berg
Healthy Weight Network
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639
701-567-2646
fmberg@healthyweight.net
www.healthyweight.net

RELEASED December 29, 2009


Worst diet scams of 2009 stung by 21st Slim Chance Awards

Diet pills sold as food supplements are secretly spiked with powerful drugs
                         

HETTINGER, N.D
. – “Diet pills are more dangerous than ever,” said Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, today in announcing the worst diet scams of 2009. This year the 21st Slim Chance Awards reveal the greatly-increased risks of taking weight loss pills spiked with powerful illegal drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration warns that many dietary supplements today are laced with potent drugs and toxic substances not listed on the label. The agency recently cited 69 tainted weight loss products, most originating in China, and says there may be hundreds more.

“How many deaths must occur before we demand federal approval before a new drug-like product is sold, as required in the European Union?” Berg asked. Her organization, Healthy Weight Network, started the annual Slim Chance Awards 21 years ago to alert the public to the glut of unsafe weight loss products on the market.

“Instead, Congress keeps loopholes open for the supplement industry with all its faults. New pills like these are rushed onto the market with impunity and FDA is required to jump through a long series of hoops to get them off, even after fraud is proved.”

On a lengthy case-by-case basis, this can include warning letters, requests for removal, fines, seizure, injunction and finally criminal charges.

All in all, it was a high risk year for those easily seduced by diet scams. Here are the 21st Slim Chance Awards:

  • Worst Product: Hydroxycut. FDA warns consumers to immediately stop using Hydroxycut products from Iovate Health Sciences USA, a distributor for the Canadian company of the same name. FDA has received reports of one death due to liver failure and 23 reports of serious health problems ranging from jaundice and elevated liver enzymes to liver damage requiring liver transplant. Other problems include seizures, cardiovascular disorders and rhabdomyolysis, a type of muscle damage that can lead to other serious health problems such as kidney failure. Iovate has agreed to recall 14 hydroxycut products from the market. Their claims are that the diet products decrease body fat, control appetite, cause weight loss, enhance energy and that users can "lose up to 4-5 times the weight than diet and exercise alone."

  • Most Outrageous: Pills spiked with powerful undisclosed drugs. This year FDA found so many diet pills secretly laced with powerful drugs that it was impossible for the Slim Chance selection panel to single out any, and could only group them together as “dangerous and outrageous.” FDA cited 69 weight loss “supplements” containing hidden, potentially harmful drugs or toxic substances, most imported from China, and says there may be hundreds more. In an analysis of 28 weight-loss products FDA found sibutramine (a controlled substance) in all of them; some also contained rimonabant, phenytoin or phenolphthalein. Sibutramine is associated with high blood pressure, seizures, tachycardia, palpitations, heart attack and stroke, and the potency in the pills tested as high as three times prescription doses. Rimonabant (not approved in the U.S.), has been linked to five deaths and 720 adverse reactions in Europe during the past two years, and to increased risk of seizures, depression, anxiety, insomnia, aggressiveness and suicidal thoughts. In October the European Medicines Agency recommended halting all sales of the drug. Phenolphthalein is a suspected cancer causing agent. FDA warned consumers not to buy or use any of the 28 products. (For more information go to www.fda.gov and search “tainted weight loss pills.”)

  • Worst Claim: QVC shopping network. The popular TV home shopping channel QVC, one of the world’s largest multimedia retailers, has agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it made false and unsubstantiated claims about four weight loss products. Charges are that QVC aired approximately 200 programs in which such claims were made about For Women Only weight loss pills, Lite Bites weight-loss food bars and shakes, Bee-Alive Royal Jelly, and Lipofactor Cellulite Target Lotion. This is not the first time the shopping channel has been charged with deception; QVC is in violation of a 2000 FTC order barring it from making deceptive claims. The latest claims say the products can cause significant long-term weight loss, prevent dietary fat from being absorbed, prevent carbohydrates from being stored as fat, reduce cellulite and decrease size or arms, legs and abdomens.

  • Worst Gimmick: Kinoki Foot Pads. FTC is suing the marketers of Kinoki Foot Pads with deceptive advertising for their claims that applying the pads to the soles of feet at night will remove heavy metals, metabolic wastes, toxins, parasites, chemicals and cellulite from people’s bodies. The ads also claim that the foot pads can treat depression, fatigue, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. All this is based on the quack theory of reflexology, which holds that specific areas of the feet affect specifid organs and glands. Since the foot pads darken, this is claimed as evidence that toxins are being drawn out of the body, but investigators show the darkening is caused by moisture and has nothing to do with "toxins." For more, see "Detoxification" schemes and scams, at www.quackwatch.org .

The Slim Chance Awards are part of the lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, which falls on January 17 to 23 in 2010.  Find more information at: www.healthyweight.net/hww.htm

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FOR MORE INFORMATION
see www.healthyweight.net/hww.htm

MEDIA:
To arrange an interview call 701-567-2646 or email fmberg@healthyweight.net  (please begin subject line with: Berg ….).

CONTACT:
Healthy Weight Network
701-567-2646
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639
www.healthyweight.net

- END –



RELEASED - Dec. 29, 2008


THE WORST DIETS OF 2008!

 

The Worst Diet Promotions of 2008
snag 20th Annual Slim Chance Awards

HETTINGER, ND – Healthy Weight Network released its 20th annual Slim Chance Awards today, highlighting both the hidden dangers of diets and supplements that often contain unknown ingredients and sometimes potent drugs, and the merely ridiculous.

To call 2008 a typical year in the weight loss field would be too easy. This year’s awards go to an infamous huckster of diet infomercials, known for his outrageous disregard of injunctions against him; $139 body-shaping jeans impregnated with substances that supposedly reduce cellulite; a pill that’s “proven” to help your belly fat vanish; and a dangerous starvation diet launched recklessly on the Internet with promises of safe, fast and permanent weight loss.

All in all, a typical year that synthesizes all that is deceptive and exploitive in this field. So, here they are, the 20th annual Slim Chance Awards:

MOST OUTRAGEOUS CLAIM: Kevin Trudeau infomercials. It’s rare that regulatory agencies look at books, given our free speech laws, but the infomercials for Kevin Trudeau’s weight loss book and his repeated violations were just too much for the Federal Trade Commission, and this past August he was fined over $5 million and banned from infomercials for three years. In “willful efforts” to deceive, Trudeau told listeners they could easily follow the diet protocol at home, even though his book calls for human growth hormone injections and colonics that must be done by a licensed practitioner. The tortured case began in 1998 when FTC charged Trudeau with false and misleading diet infomercials. In 2003 he was charged with false claims; in 2004 he was fined $2 million and banned from infomercials. Again in 2007 a contempt action said he misled thousands with false claims for his weight loss book “in flagrant violation” of court orders.

WORST GIMMICK:  Skineez jeans ($139). A new item in the fight against cellulite, Skineez jeans are impregnated with a so-called “medication” of retinol and chitosan, a shellfish product once claimed to cut fat absorption in the stomach (see 1999 Slim Chance Awards). Friction between the jeans and skin supposedly triggers release of the substance, which goes to work on fat when absorbed through the skin. Reportedly a big hit in Europe, the “smart fabric” is also used in lingerie. Ironically, the creators of Skineez, Clothes for a Cause, profess to raise funds for breast cancer and “a wide range of other socially conscious charities.” So while the company hoodwinks women into buying an expensive pair of jeans, it promises they can “do good with every purchase … As our sales grow, so will our ability to help others.” FTC, however, is clear about such gimmicks, emphasizing that products worn or rubbed on the skin do not cause weight loss or fat loss.

WORST CLAIM: AbGONE. Throughout 2008 full page ads assaulted the eye in daily newspapers across the country touting AbGONE as “proven to promote pot belly loss.”  Claims are that AbGONE increases “fat metabolism” and calorie burn, promotes appetite suppression and inhibits future abdominal fat deposits. These are drug claims that, if true, would alter the body’s regulation, but unlike drugs, the pills are sold as food supplements not requiring FDA approval. The bold ads feature the obligatory before and after shots of models, cut-away sketches of the abdomen with and without belly fat, and a white-coated researcher with chart purportedly confirming success of 5 times reduction in fat mass, 4 times lower BMI, 4 times greater weight loss than placebo. No added diet and exercise needed – well, except, you may want to heed the fine print disclaimer at the bottom that reminds us “diet and exercise are essential.”

WORST PRODUCT: Kimkins diet. It must have seemed an easy way to get rich quick. Founder Heidi “Kimmer” Diaz set up a website and charged members a fee to access the Kimkins diet, boasting they could lose up to 5 percent of their body weight in 10 days. “Better than gastric bypass,” there was “no faster diet,” and in fact she herself had lost 198# in 11 months. Stunning “after” photos were displayed. In June 2007 Women's World ran it as a cover story, and that month alone PayPal records show the Kimkins site took in over $1.2 million. Then users began complaining of chest pains, hair loss, heart palpitations, irritability and menstrual irregularities. This was not surprising since Kimkins is essentially a starvation diet, down to 500 calories per day and deficient in many nutrients (appallingly, laxatives are advised to replace missing fiber). In a lawsuit, 11 former members are uncovering a vast record of Diez’s alleged fraud. They found that the stunning “after” photos, including one of Kimmer herself, had been lifted from a Russian mail order bride site. According to a deposition reported by Los Angeles TV station KTLA, Diaz admitted using fake pictures, fake stories and fake IDs, and a judge has allowed the litigants to freeze some of her assets.

“Today’s economic downturn can remind us how foolish it is to waste money on unsafe, ineffective and energy-draining weight loss efforts,” said Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, whose organization Healthy Weight Network started the Slim Chance Awards 20 years ago. The National Council Against Health Fraud, for which she is coordinator of the task force for Weight Loss Abuse, co-sponsors the awards.

They’re part of the lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, which falls from January 18 to 24 in 2009.

With the New Year upon us, resolutions freshly on our minds, Berg is advising people to skip dieting and move ahead with healthy habits that last a lifetime.

“Here’s a plan for the new year that’s free, freeing of your spirit and available to all,” she said.

- Record your dieting history (weight lost, weight regained, favorable and ill effects, time frame of each). Reflect on what you have written.

- Resolve to follow a healthy diet-free lifestyle through 2009, adapting guidelines that work for you. (Handouts available at www.healthyweight.net/handouts.htm).

It’s a way to get your life on track, improve your health and move on with what’s really important in your life, Berg explained. For more information contact Healthy Weight Network or visit www.healthyweightnetwork.com


###

For more information see www.healthyweight.net/hww.htm

CONTACT:
Francie M. Berg
fmberg@healthyweight.net
701-567-2646
Healthy Weight Network
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639
www.healthyweight.net

MEDIA: To arrange an interview with Francie Berg call 701-567-2646 or email fmberg@healthyweight.net  (please begin subject line with: Berg ….).

- END –

 

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Berg’s organization, Healthy Weight Network, started the Slim Chance Awards in 1989 to help educate consumers. They are part of the lead-up to
Healthy Weight Week, the third full week in January.

Sponsored by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud, the Slim Chance Awards are selected from nominations by health professionals and consumers and reflect the opinion
of the panel making judgments.

 

 

 

Join Us in Celebrating

Healthy Weight Week

2014

January 19-25, 2014

January 21, Tuesday Rid the World of Fad Diets & Gimmicks Day
25th annual
Slim Chance Awards

Announced on Dec 27

--

January 23, Thursday Women's
Healthy Weight Day

 

 

 

 

 

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Copyright 2009-1994 by Frances M. Berg, Healthy Weight Network, Hettinger, North Dakota
All rights reserved. www.healthyweight.net

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