Lose weight the easy way.

It never ends. When advertisements for one quick and easy cure for overweight, arthritic pain, hair loss, or sexual inadequacy finally fade away, another quickly takes its place. Are we really so gullible? Are we such easy marks?
The answer must be yes, because companies would not spend so much money advertising repackaged versions of these same over-hyped products unless it resulted in sales. There is obviously a market for products of this type. And, perhaps to the discredit of conventional medicine, a paucity of effective treatments.
Consumers are gullible, and the purpose of this article is to help those consumers better recognize when they are being misled by advertising on radio and TV. Consumers can also be lazy, and too ready to embrace the easy, miraculous quick-fix. Who needs sacrifice and will- power when, instead, you can just take a pill and wake up in the morning with your problem solved?
In a way, the nutritional supplement industry is the victim of its own success. Tremendous progress has been made in the use of vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies in preventing and treating serious health problems. Even the most hard-core anti-supplement fraction of conventional medicine and dietetics have grudgingly acknowledged the role of nutrients in the battle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and many other health problems.
We know that simple B-vitamins (folic acid, B6, B12) can help prevent birth defects, heart disease, and perhaps Alzheimer’s disease. We know that certain antioxidants can prevent or retard the onset of various types of vision loss. We know that glucosamine sulfate, and chondroitin can alleviate arthritic joint pain. Calcium supplementation, along with other minerals, is now officially recommended for preventing and treating osteoporosis. Saw Palmetto works. St. John’s Wort works. Feverfew works. Black Cohosh works. I could go on and on.
So, with this enhanced credibility, unscrupulous marketers need only to hint that their new, miraculous cure for what ails you contains vitamins, herbs or “natural” remedies, it seems, for them to convince a consumer to send it their money. That, and testimonials.
I write many of the ads we read on The Willner Window radio program. It struck me that when I write an ad, I always try to include information on what is actually in the product. I talk about the ingredients–what they are, and how they contribute to the efficacy of the product. Yet most of the ads I hear on the radio–the weight loss ads, baldness ads, bust enhancement ads, arthritis cures, and sexual prowess rejuvenators–never mention what is actually in the product. Why is that?
Maybe they have something to hide? Perhaps they feel you would not be impressed if they merely said that the product was just another blend of glucosamine and chondroitin, but twice the price of similar products in your corner health food store or pharmacy. They are probably right. You might be less inclined, for example, to send in your money if they told you up front that the product contained ephedra and caffeine. Especially if they ran down the listing of contraindications and warnings associated with such products. They are right. So they don’t. Instead, they resort to testimonials, half-truths, and deception. They do it with skill, and they do it successfully.
To help you evaluate these often misleading ads, I am going to provide you with a list of questions you should ask when you hear these types of commercials, or watch the TV infomercials.

1. What is in the product? What are the active ingredients? Why would the product be expected to do whatever they claim it does? What makes this particular product so unique?
As a general rule, failure to prominently identify the active ingredients in a product advertisement usually means that there is, in fact, nothing impressive or unique about what it contains and/or that the ingredients might have negative connotations they do not want you to know about until it is too late. I would never purchase a nutritional/herbal supplement–by telephone or by mail order–if I did not know what the active ingredients were, and I strongly suggest you follow this rule.
This applies to ads on the radio, infomercials on TV, as well as printed advertisements. It amazed me when I first saw the five-page ads being run in many health and body-building magazines for a very popular weight loss product. Beautiful, glossy full color ads. Page after page, with before and after pictures, and testimonials. And more testimonials. And even more testimonials.
Wow, I said. This must be one heck of a great product. I wonder what is in it. But I could not find, anywhere, throughout the entire five pages of ads, a statement of what was actually contained in the product. If this is not a red flag, I don’t know what is.
At the time this article was written, there has been heavy radio advertising for a certain weight loss product. I won’t mention the product name. The announcer claims to have used it personally, with success. The ad is filled with testimonials, promises and guarantees. They imply that it’s efficacy is supported by clinical studies and patent approvals. Lose weight the easy way, by taking this miraculous pill. There is one thing, however, that they fail to mention in the advertisement. You guessed it–what is in the product?
Well, you can look up more information on the product’s web site. So I did. And even then, finding the actual ingredients was not easy. I had to proceed several layers into the site, and only when clicking onto a link providing an actual copy of the label, was I able to see the ingredients. Only then was I able to discover what unique and innovative substances these folks had incorporated into this product, substances that they would have you believe were unique to their product.
What were the active ingredients? Ephedra and caffeine.
The ephedra was listed under “ma huang extract (15 mg ephedrine alkaloids)” and the caffeine was listed under “guarana seed extract (60 mg caffeine).” There were many other ingredients listed, by the way. It’s what I call the “mish-mosh” approach. Mish-mosh is the technical term for throwing everything into a product that might be associated with its intended use, no matter how remote that connection might be.
But we know that a mixture of ephedra and caffeine is an effective weight loss product. Effective, but not necessary benign. It’s certainly not anything new. Unfortunately, it functions more as a drug than a nutritional supplement, with the potential for toxicity and side effects. And throwing a bunch of other nutrients and herbs into an ephedra-caffeine combination is not going to change the fact that it remains an ephedra-caffeine combination. You can paint spots on a zebra, and paste some feathers on it–but you still have a zebra.
Big deal, you might say. It contains “natural” products, and it works! Well, approximately one- third of the product label is taken up with the following information:

“This product has 15 mg . concentrated ephedrine group alkaloids and 60 mg. of caffeine per serving in the form of herbal extracts or powders.
(1) Not for use by individuals under the age of 18. Do not use if pregnant or nursing. Consult a physician or licensed qualified healthcare professional before using this product if you have, or have a family history of, heart disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, recurrent headaches, depression or other psychiatric conditions, glaucoma, difficulty in urinating, prostate enlargement, seizure disorder, or if you are using a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAO) or other dietary supplements, prescription drug or over-the-counter drug containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine (ingredients found in certain allergy, asthma, cough/cold, and weight control products).(2.) Exceeding recommended serving may cause serious adverse health effects including heart attack and stroke. (3.) Discontinue use and call a physician or licensed qualified healthcare professional immediately if you experience rapid heartbeat, dizziness, severe headache, shortness of breath, nervousness, tremor, sleeplessness, loss of appetite or nausea, or other similar symptoms. (4.) Individuals who consume caffeine with this product may experience serious adverse health effects. The maximum recommended dosage of ephedrine for a healthy adult human is no more than 100 mg in a 24 hour period for not more than 12 weeks. KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN. Do not take this product if you are allergic to shellfish. NOT FOR SALE TO PERSONS 17 YEARS OF AGE OR YOUNGER IN TEXAS. This product has ephedrine group alkaloids in the form of herbal extracts and may cause serious adverse health effects. Read the label and follow the directions. Report any adverse effects to the Food and Drug Administration Medwatch number: 800-332-1088. Models have been compensated for photos. Models are not paid for their testimonials.”

Now, the fact that the label bears a warning of this magnitude, and significance, does not necessarily mean the product should not be used. For certain overweight people, it may indeed be necessary to use a product of this type. For others, the contraindications and warnings may preclude its use.
The problem is that during the radio commercial, we are provided with no way of knowing any of this. We are not told what the ingredients are, and we are not told about the warnings and contraindications. Why?
Is it because they have something to hide? Is it because if they told you up front that this miracle product was just another variation on the ephedra-caffeine theme, few listeners would go ahead and order it? Is is because many listeners would realize that it is contraindicated in their case?
Isn’t it wrong to withhold information on contraindications, warnings and side effects until it’s too late? As best I can tell, the only way you find out what is in the product, and what the warnings are, is either to buy it, and then read the label, or to carefully search their web site until you find the link to the product label. What if you are not computer literate? Sure, you can try to send it back after you order it, but why should you be forced to go to all that trouble.
So if the advertisement does not tell you what is in the product, you should ask why not. And, in my opinion, you should not buy the product.

2. “Testimonial results not typical.” The radio ad is pretty much nothing but one big testimonial. When you log onto their web site, you are presented with more testimonials. Testimonial after testimonial.
But when you look at the bottom of each page of the web site, what do you see? You might be surprised to read:
“The statements contained on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, mitigate or cure any disease. Testimonial results not typical. Your actual results may vary. Please read product labels before purchasing product. Click here for all product labels. Please check with your physician before starting any weight loss program.”
“Testimonial results not typical. Your actual results may vary.” Wait a moment. The main basis for their claim that the product works is testimonials, and yet they admit that these testimonial results are “not typical?” Even on the label, right on the front panel, they say “Results may vary based on individual effort and other factors.”
You can see the same thing on the 30 minute TV informercials. Ten minutes of testimonials and/or fake interviews, and then when they flash the ordering information up on the screen, a disclaimer is flashed across the bottom: “These results not typical . . “
In other words, they are telling you that you should not assume everything they have been telling you is true!

3. Backed by science. The radio ad mentions that the product is supported by 21 clinical trials. Or does it? Actually, if you pay careful attention, you will notice that they do not actually say that. Instead, they say that the key ingredients in the product are backed by 21 clinical trials.

“21 clinical studies demonstrate results with XXXX’s key ingredients. To view a detailed listing of ingredients, click here.”

Saying that the key ingredients are backed by clinical trials is quite different than saying the product is backed by clinical trials. The difference is very significant, but unless you listen carefully, you will not catch it. Of course, as I mentioned above, we are not told what the key ingredients are.
The same, of course, could be said about any other product that contains ephedra and caffeine. So what?
They go on to say: “XXXX is 100% More Effective Than Diet And Exercise Alone! According to a brand new, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people taking XXXX lost twice as much weight overall and almost twice as many inches from their waists! This study also found that 92% of people who took XXXX according to directions experienced significant weight loss.”

First, never pay attention to talk about studies unless information on the study—i.e. was it published, and where?–is provided. Second, what does this mean, assuming it was a valid study? We know that diet and exercise alone is not effective for most people trying to lose weight. So almost any weight loss supplement, when combined with diet and exercise, will provide better results–at least short term--than diet and exercise alone! The same can be said for most supplements, meal replacement plans, and diet programs (Atkins, etc). Third, they are not saying that their product resulted in more loss than other products. They are merely saying, if you choose to take their word for it, that this product results in more weight loss than no product at all, which is not surprising.

4. Money back guarantee. Such guarantees sound good, but when you read the fine print, may not be as easy as you suspect. For example:

“If for any reason you’re not completely satisfied, simply return the empty container(s) for a full refund PLUS 10%. To be eligible for the 110% guarantee, please fill out and return the registration card that comes with your order within 5 days of receipt. (Unless we have the registration card on file, you will be ineligible for the 110% Lifetime Guarantee.) You’ll also be required to return empty containers for all the products that you have purchased, a copy of your invoice, and short note explaining your dissatisfaction. Full details are included with your order.”

5. Too good to be true. I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating. It’s common sense, and something that should be obvious to everyone. If it seems too good to be true, it most likely is indeed too good to be true.

These editorial comments brought to you by Don Goldberg, R.Ph., co-author of the book, The Best Supplements For Your Health. For more information, and additional commentary, visit www. bestsupplementsforyourhealth.com. This article is taken from the Willner Chemists Jan-Feb Neswletter/Sale Flier. For a free subscription to the Willner Chemists publications, call 1 800 633 1106, menu option 1. Or send an email to custserv@willner.com.


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