Science Or Snake Oil

As a writer, there are many paths my mind goes when it comes to sitting down and deciding what I want to let out of my head. Sometimes I just feel like talking about life and things going on. Other times, because my blog is about health, fitness, living well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, my focus is zeroed in these areas.

One of the topics I haven’t written on lately is the ongoing, ever present, collection of products to “help” people lose weight.

Ya know, gimmicks and what not. People happily, willingly, fork their hard earned money over for the latest smoke and mirrors in an attempt to unload fat magically overnight.

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I hate to break it… but it just doesn’t work…or maybe for awhile they are encouraged and see some initial water weight loss and that can spur someone on to keep going… but it’s rare.

Most of the time they just have lighter bank accounts once the novelty has worn off.

So I’m on my soapbox again….

in the mega million dollar “health and wellness” industry, there’s always a new kid on the block. There’s always some product that makes people hopeful that maybe this time, this new thing, will do the trick.

There’s one that recently caught my eye and of course I’ve started digging and reading on it.

I love when the … what do I call them? the sellers? business people? distributors? boldly post the ingredient list as if to proudly say “SEE this is what’s in it. All good and natural ingredients”

It just helps me so much. It helps my research to ferret out all those magical ingredients that lead to sweet dreams of health and being goal weight thin.

Gosh one ingredient, I do not exaggerate, has as many letters as the entire alphabet.

For real.

It should also be noted that the person writing the review and nicely breaking down all the ingredients ( they obviously sold product X) first off mentions (that this product that contains all the letters of alphabet) is chemically demonstrated….

So there’s that, whatever that is.

Let’s establish this….

Just because a product tells you it’s made of “all natural ingredients”  doesn’t really mean squat.

The term “natural” is common in the supplement industry, but doesn’t always mean it’s safe. In fact there is no legal definition for natural. Often many plants that grow in nature can be deadly and natural supplements can still have added unnatural ingredients.

All natural  supplements don’t always mix well with other medications we may be taking. be sure to consult with your doctor before taking any.

Pay attention boys and girls, the “all natural” thing is a huge marketing and selling gimmick designed to make you feel comfortable and good about using their products. It encourages you to buy them because, well gosh, it’s all natural so it’s gotta be super good for me, right?

Don’t buy the hype.

Diet+Snake+Oil+Cure+Take+Once+ver+2

 

Other things to consider..

Do you know the FDA ( food and drug administration in the U.S.) has actually banned many  “natural” substances that were being put into diet and weight loss aids and products?

Why you may ask?

Oh because of pesky little problems like accelerated heart rate, shortness of breath or even heart attacks from the stimulants of these “natural” products.  Many of these natural ingredients are actually mother natures version of “speed”. They can accelerate your heart and breathing, leave you feeling jumpy, nervous or agitated or provide an upset stomach and headache as well as (maybe) have effects of curbing appetite ( most likely from other said issues it causes)

In the US, herbal products and food supplements are largely unregulated.

That is, the products are not screened or subject to FDA approval
prior to their going on the market.  Rather, it is the product
manufacturer that has the responsibility to make sure that anything
being sold as a food supplement is safe… or to determine how much of what to put in the mix of everything.

For that reason, you will often see statements on herbal products or weight loss supplements sold in the US to the effect of:  “This statement has not been evaluated by
the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or
prevent any disease”.

Let’s look at a current example….

one of the “natural” products on the market today that everyone is jumping on is green coffee bean extract derived from unroasted coffee beans. It is currently among the worlds most popular weight loss supplements.

Basically, keeping it short, it’s claim to fame is supposedly to cause more fat loss by increasing body heat.

Green coffee bean extract comes from coffee beans that haven’t been roasted. Coffee beans contain compounds known as chlorogenic acids. Some believe these compounds have antioxidant effects, help lower blood pressure, and help you lose weight. Roasting coffee reduces chlorogenic acid content.

It’s interesting to note in all the articles I read it stated it “may” help with weight loss or lowering blood pressure etc.

There isn’t much testing or proof done on this topic to be totally conclusive and because of this there is always a lack of evidence on it’s safety. Studies are small, not long term and for the most part poorly designed.

Because there is no regulation on this manufactures can use the amounts they choose in their products. As mentioned previously, the jury is still out on the fact there isn’t enough evidence to support the claims for this product.

Speaking of evidence ….

As I read this glowing report on this particular product, she indicated “studies” had been done on the effectiveness of it. Well, of course I wanted to see who had done them and what some of the results were.

I mean, in all fairness, let’s see what they revealed. Maybe I was being a bit unfair.

Well, it turns out the studies were actually done by the company selling the product. I might be a wee bit cynical here but, I don’t see that as some kind of scientific, conclusive proof.

And of course the contestants who used said wonder product, were losing all the weight.

A company doing their own testing, to me, is not the most compelling evidence.

In summary….

not just this product but thousands  of others are not well tested, have limited evidence for their claims, and are not regulated by food and drug administration on any level.

It’s important to be mindful of what you take, especially if you already take medications.

Also understand that as sweet, good or well intending your pedaling neighbor or family member is, they are simply regurgitating the company driven info that comes to them in their sales packets. The majority most likely know nothing of the effects of ingredients that  are in products  beyond what they’ve been told.

And of course there is the simple truth that you will not find a magic formula to help you quickly knock off the weight to get your dream body.

You just have to get that the old fashioned way. Sensible, healthy eating, the right amount of calories for your body and purposeful exercise, that and  that alone is your key to success.

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Snake Oil Diets And More Wizardry

snake oil

Did you grow up with siblings? If so you understand how you learn to push each others buttons on things right? Sometimes it’s to annoy each other, sometimes it’s just to get that person going on whatever topic because it amuses us in some way.

It doesn’t seem to change even when you grow up. Then we have friends who can do the same thing with us.  It’s all fun and games… usually….

I’m no different, I guess. If there’s one thing that gets me going or kicks my investigator mode into high gear,  it’s having someone ask me about some new diet craze or company pedaling it’s wares promising claims of extreme and swift weight loss.

Usually the companies biggest successes are emptying your pockets, not making you any thinner.

I had a friend message me recently asking if I knew of or had heard of a particular company and it’s product. People were flocking to it and it was gaining a big following.  She had been asked to try it, I’m really glad she’s one of my smart friends and of course, declined.

There are so many companies and products out there trying to make a living off of peoples desperation it really is hard to keep up with them all. I got the basic name and info from her and started digging.

Oh. It didn’t take me long. It didn’t take long at all to be shocked and horrified over it on several levels. The complete nonsense presented on eating and weight loss is…well.. awful.

When I shared what I was finding with my friend the response was “go get them” haha when I mentioned I just can’t help it, (gathering info  and sharing what I find) I get back…. “personally, I get a kick out of it…”

See what I mean from my opening questions? They give me the right prompts and cut me loose haha

So. What about this product?

This is a MLM (multi level marketing) company so that should tell you something right off the bat.

It’s about making money, first. There are no prices offered on website as they want you to find a “distributor” of the product and purchase from them. Hmmm.

There are several products they offer all promising you great things in a short amount of time. Reviews were glowing of big losses in only 8 days for one of their packages.

They claim to detox, fat burn, cleanse you inside and out,  get you thin and make you a new healthy individual with all of their amazing products. AND… you will finally be happy…. poor…  but happy. Blah. Blah. Blah.

( insert sound of me gagging here)

The hocus pocus of all the wording made my head spin in moments. Then I quickly realized people REALLY buy into this, literally and figuratively.

Like, they cough up a lot of money for all these promises of magic potions. Worse yet, they believe it all. They believe this time, something will work.

I continued my reading and searched out more info.  As many of these companies and products go, you find these hard to believe reviews of awesomeness on it, and oddly, not many dissatisfied customers at all.

Another red flag my friends.

There aren’t that many happy people about anything in this world, especially weight loss products. So we have to largely believe the reviews that are so wonderful are put out by the distributors of the product.

The negatives I found, well, as to be expected, the product hadn’t done the miracles they expected, the company hadn’t followed through on it’s promises, over priced, or worse yet were the side effects from using it.

Starve. Repeat.

It didn’t take me long looking at one of their most seemingly “popular” plans, the 8 day kick starter transformation package to know why people were losing so much weight in 8 days.

You’re freaking starving to death, that’s why. Literally.

They promise 8 days to transform you. Holy crap it’s taken me 8 years to learn all this stuff, get fit, and get a decent grip on my eating behaviors.  How could I have wasted all that time?? 😉

As I looked at their daily eating plan, I was thinking, what are people actually, you know, eating??  Besides sucking down all these pills, powders, “flushes”, and occasional shakes they are buying.

Ahhh here it is… I found it in the “plan”… you only get to eat 3 meals in the 8 days.

Yes. That is all.

And those “meals” are limited to 500-600 calories. I can’t even imagine how you must suck the food in at that point. Not to mention how foggy headed you must feel.

The rest of the time you are using all of their products to detox, fat burn, cleanse and whatever else bull nonsense they are hyping you over. Oh the hype.

Let’s call it what it is… you… are starving yourself.  I find it ironically funny they want you to use a product that supposedly “blocks” fat absorption and causes food to pass through. Meh… it’s supposed to expand and take up space in your stomach…

Like, why the heck do you need that when you aren’t even hardly eating anything ???

I wont spend much more time on discussing this. It just made me scratch my head. People will spend money to starve themselves… ok…

They also give you an “exercise plan” to follow but honestly, I don’t see how you are able to do more than lay on the sofa with a daily caloric intake of 500-600 calories.

Anything under 1000 calories a day is a starvation diet people.

But… it’s “natural” and “plant based”

So. What.

It should be noted there are lots of natural things but they can kill you or just make you sick and not feel good.  Just because someone has tossed various natural ingredients together doesn’t mean it’s good for you or that the doses are right for you.

Many of the ingredients in these products act like caffeine. It is the reason people are so hyped up and have so much “energy” when they are on them.  A fancy version of speed.

It should be noted that side effects are jitteriness, racing heart, high blood pressure, sweating, nausea, and shakiness.  Others are cramps, feeling bloated and an overall not feeling well.

No food and natural stimulants, no wonder those side effects present themselves.

One of the main pills you take is an appetite suppressant. It’s loaded with a bunch of herbal stuff.  When you start adding a bunch of “natural” herbal things into your body, the effects can not be pleasant.

One ingredient in this appetite suppressant pill is bitter orange or synephrine. It was banned years ago and is linked to major cardiovascular risks.

Not sure I’d want to be popping that with other stimulants too. No wonder a racing heart is reported.

Oh, and the “flush” they offer. well yeah, it’s supposed to do what the name implies.  It’s main ingredient is senna which is in laxatives you can buy at the store. I’ll just leave this here… you don’t really want to be on some type of laxative to help you lose weight.  This type of product doesn’t “cleanse” or “detox” you.

But then there’s the cost….

Besides the fact you sign up to starve and not eat for pretty much an entire week, and that you’ll be taking another product to flush you which means you might spend more time in the bathroom than anticipated, and another product to keep you from getting hungry ( um hey….getting hungry is a natural body signal we’ve been given to know when to feed ourselves. Ignoring it isn’t smart. ) there’s the ridiculous cost of this stuff.

The rough estimate I found for the 8 day “kit” is 391.00.

Yes. Your eyes aren’t going on you, you read that correct. Almost 400.00 for some supplements and a meal shake that comes in at a whopping 50 calories made with water.

Of course, any other products you buy has an additional charge that’s just as crazy.

And people are buying it. They are jumping on it like flies on honey.

I don’t know if I should feel sad for them or just think they deserve what they get for buying into such nonsense.

But then I remember how desperate people are for a quick fix they will do anything at all to get it.

Anything but the thing that works.. because well.. it does take some time… and effort… and patience.

The old “learn to eat healthy, eat mindfully, change your habits, and get some movement into your days” thing.

I know it’s not cool or trendy but really, its the only thing that works.

The bottom line

Since the weight loss comes from starvation, once you increase your calories to a normal range ( which you will) the weight will come back. These products are not sustainable for long term nor should you do their program multiple times ( setting yourself up for a starve and binge mode isn’t a good thing)  although if you want to drop almost 400 dollars for an 8 week starvation session you may have more money than common sense.

The ingredients are sketchy and found in much cheaper diet aid products if you’re still convinced that’s the way you need to go instead of the old fashioned route.

Promises of detoxing your body and turning it into a fat burning machine are just more modern day snake oil and smoke and mirrors. These products do have the ability to hype you up because of all the “natural” caffeine type ingredients they contain.

8 days won’t change your habits or behaviors with food. That’s where the biggest change occurs when you do it the old fashioned way.

Overall this is another get rich scheme for some people at the expense and desperate need of others.

If you are wanting to lose weight, don’t be brought in by hype and unrealistic promises. For all that money you can go buy a gym membership, some cool new kicks, and a whole lot of healthy foods.

 

 

 

Just Google It!

google

So it’s been a couple days since I’ve posted something.  Life, you know ? Trying to multi task on several big things, and keep up with my training and other projects that need my attention can leave me feeling like it’s supreme effort just to think on some days.

Nod your head if you agree with me… you’ve been there…

As in yesterday. I’ve tried to make my run/cycle/run days midweek as it fits in well to my training. Anyway, to put it mildly, those days place a heavier physical demand on me than others. Add to it, after I finished I did some errands and then came home and cut grass for an hour.

I didn’t think I’d be able to drag my carcass to bed that night, much less write something smart, witty or sarcastically clever for you.

And I have all these ideas rattling around in my head clamoring to get out…for instance…

A book review I’m itching to get to.  I finished such an awesome book that I think everyone should read. Seriously.  Anyway, keep your eyes open for that coming soon.

Or more thoughts on healthy lifestyles.  Or a couple ones on food, ’cause I love to eat and so do you 😉

BUT THEN there’s this other thing… those diet/health/wellness companies. It doesn’t help when people send me stories or ads  because they know it gets me fired up ( thankfully they too, are on the same page and get it) and then I get to reading those claims about those products and thinking about the absolute, total, complete nonsense of some of it and then before I know it…

I’m writing a post on products and other overall odd stuff people  buy into on the daily.

Hold on…I’m on my soapbox again… and I promised after last weeks Snake Oil post I’d settle down for a bit.

Ah, maybe I shouldn’t make such empty promises… not when there is so  much rich material always at my fingertips.

I just get so passionate about people who will believe this stuff and are desperate and all they ultimately will really lose is their hard earned money. And let’s face it, there’s a plethora of companies out there with promises of health, wellness and overall ease into a healthy lifestyle.

It’s not easy! It does require work! It does require discipline and a willingness to keep at it every single day!

There are no short cuts to being healthy and fit, yet so many will go to many extremes other than simply doing what needs to be done.

Often these products are simply band-aids covering the underlying problem and never fixing or getting to the root of why a person is overweight and what their relationship is with food. Nor are they learning about balance, healthy eating and the importance of moving their bodies.

Let me just throw out some words from a few of these sales pitches that made my eyebrows arch even more…honestly… one of these days… they’re gonna arch right off my face…..

“Pounds don’t matter”, “detox fat cells to burn inches properly”, “oxygenate the body”, “build muscle”, “keep your blood sugar in check”, “lower your cholesterol”, “burn fat”, “control your cravings”, “many people can’t lose weight because of their blood sugars going up and down”, and finally my favorite…… “X product”  knows how to grab the yuck and send it out while blasting oxygen throughout your body”.

WHAT?!

And last but not least, the most interesting thing in so many of these glowing endorsements is to “go Google it!”

Like…really? You’re talking something up you are supposedly an expert on and you can’t even deliver to me, your reader, credible sources of information?

As a writer, research is something not new to me. I often consult a variety of sources to glean what seems to be the most consistent, overall thoughts, or ideas on a topic.

But consulting Google on your product or better yet, conditions you are supposedly curing with it, is sketchy at best.  And again I’m left wondering, why am I the reader, or better yet, anticipated future customer, having to go “Google it”.

I want to just pull out a few things to comment on from the quotes above…

“Pounds don’t matter”. Ok, so I understand there is more to the overall weight loss and getting fit than just the scale numbers. But if you’re overweight, yeah, extra pounds DO matter.

“Build muscle”. Listen, if building muscle was as easy as some supplement, pill or drink we’d all look like muscular gods.  It’s not. I’ve worked my butt off for years, as have many other people I know. It takes work, discipline, and a good daily diet to build muscle.

“Keep your blood sugar in check”.  So here’s the deal. Our bodies are designed in a perfect beautiful way to operate without manmade potions to keep them healthy, regulated or “balanced.”

It’s really super cool.

In case you missed biology or it’s been awhile… here’s how that works… the pancreas secretes insulin to balance glucose levels, keeping it from getting to high or to low. People with diabetes inject insulin because the pancreas is not working properly.

If you are having problems with high blood sugar, or you feel there might be a problem, you need to be working with a doctor. That means something is not working right in your body.

Otherwise, why would you take something for your blood sugar or to keep “levels in check” ? A healthy body does just fine keeping it “in check”.  And who is really determining that?  Are these people actually testing their blood ( as a diabetic person would) to know if everything is “in check”?

“Burns fat”. Hey, you know what burns fat?  A good dose of cardio exercise several times a week. Best fat burner out there.

Lower your cholesterol, control your cravings” just gonna throw this out there… when you eat a healthy, nutritious daily diet with scheduled meals, you won’t have that up and down swing of being hungry and craving things. Throw in at least 30% protein to every meal and you will feel “stable” and not have cravings.  Stop eating junk.  A healthy diet goes a long way to reducing cholesterol and even better if you add exercise in with it.

“Many people can’t lose weight because of their blood sugars going up and down”   People don’t lose weight because they eat to much and don’t move enough.

“Detoxing fat cells to burn inches properly” now I’m not sure how my fat cells are going to know from this product that they should now pay attention and burn my inches off “properly”.

I just don’t have anything logical to even bring to the table on this line…. other than.. are you serious??? Burn off inches properly?

On the subject of “detox” again, back to our wonderfully made bodies. If your body isn’t “detoxing” you’ll know it. In fact, you’ll be in the hospital if it isn’t. The liver filters blood, the kidneys filter out waste and excess fluids, not to mention what goes through our intestines. If those are all systems go …. then skip the crazy detox stuff and just….eat… good, healthy foods!

As to the other… “grabbing yuck and blasting oxygen through your body”... I just have to wonder… is that on the generated company propaganda all sales people get ? I just don’t know if that sales pitch would work on me.

“Grabbing yuck”.  What, pray tell, is “yuck” ?  Someone. Please. Tell me.

You want oxygen blasting through your body? Exercise.

Ok well that’s a bit simplified but true.

Hey! there are other ways to get more oxygen in your body…. just Google it.

 

 

The Modern Day Snake Oil

snake
This weirdly sounds like the sales pitch for products today.

 

Oh boy. I’m getting on my soap box again so buckle up boys and girls.  I try and stay off of it, but with this particular topic it’s such a rich sea of constant writing opportunities it’s just hard to not capitalize on them.

What you may be wondering is it that keeps my creative writing pot over flowing?

The world of “health” and wellness companies.  I’ve had a thing or two to say about them before. I’m sure it won’t be the last time either.

The products are sold by your next door neighbor,  the friend you do yoga with or the sweet grandmother down the street.

Once they sign up they become health and wellness experts overnight.

Actually, they just regurgitate what the company spoon feeds them in propaganda.

Listen, I’m not knocking someone who’s trying to make a few extra bucks. Their intentions are well meaning.  I know lots of people who do. I’m just suggesting you might not turn your health care over to someone who doesn’t know squat about most of the things the company tells them to promote or say.

Maybe your blood sugar is just fine and if it isn’t your neighbor isn’t the one to consult.

If you need energy maybe, perhaps, your nutrition needs adjusting and you don’t need supplements of some kind to give you “energy” ( which can translate to nothing more than “natural” speed in some products) maybe you need to lose weight to feel more energetic.

One company vendor posted a screen shot a customer had sent. The customer was proclaiming “how much energy he/she had and they hadn’t even taken their Adderol!” ( Adderol if you don’t know is a legal, controlled substance taken by many people but it’s a legal “speed”) Whatever natural thing was in the product made them feel like they had taken their meds.

That made me raise my eyebrows…a lot….well… there’s LOTS that make my eyebrows shoot off my face sometimes.

Ok well I’m getting to my main point for today. One company is huge on talking up “gut health” and telling you that you need all these products cause you’re more sickly than you realize without them. This company’s literature is loaded with all kinds of “issues” or “problems” you can have in regards to  gut health. But I must say, what’s set me off on todays tangent is something I read earlier and it was a meme that said…

“Anxiety is not all in your head. It’s actually in your gut.”

WHAT?! WHAT?!

I desperately wanted to ask if it was a “for real” post ’cause it just was so… shocking to me… disturbing.. that someone would believe that or say it. Like.. do you know anyone who has anxiety issues?  I couldn’t imagine telling the person I know who deals with  it that it was only “in their gut”.

And I guess I was disturbed that someone would be so casual about a mental condition to use it in a meme that was designed to get you to respond so they could say… “well hey! I have all these products to fix your awful gut and it will fix up your anxiety too!”

Are. You. Kidding.

It honestly bothered me all day on lots of levels.

I have done a bit of my own research on this topic… and let’s just say in a huge way the jury is still out on the topic of “gut health”.  There are lots of opinions and thoughts and there is still a lot of discussion on it.  You can find various writings and articles but like anything out there, you’ve gotta consider the sources.

Ok but first, simplified, what on God’s green earth does that REALLY mean?? Here’s my definition for you so we have something to work with here.

“Gut health is anything pertaining to your digestive working system.”

Everything we eat passes through the GI tract. The tract is lined with a thin, sticky mucous and it’s lined with millions of bacteria that live, grow and metabolize ( digesting and absorbing) in what’s considered a complex ecosystem comprised of both beneficial and harmful bacteria.

So ideally, we eat foods good for us, it processes through our amazing organized system and in the GI tract the food is broken down and nutrients are delivered via the small intestine into the blood stream.

When we feed our body good foods it operates in optimal form.

However, let’s face it. Many don’t.  Sometimes life is going on and we don’t eat as well as we should. So yes, you can have issues or problems with your “gut” ( and I really hate that word, just throwing that out there)

If eating poorly is a lifestyle then there can be many common problems that you may deal with:

Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, inflammation, cramping, indigestion etc.

Wow, that all sounds fun, right? Some people might just come to assume it’s what they have to live with, that it’s normal for them.

You really don’t have to feel that way.  And you really can keep your money and not buy the snake oil to “heal” you.

Our bodies were made to function on foods and not man made supplements. Healing your gut, for the most part, can be helped with improved nutrition and better eating habits.

Here’s a fun fact for you….within 20 minutes of eating whole healthy foods you can begin “healing your gut”  as the bacteria in your bowels divide every 20 minutes on average. Meaning what you eat either feeds your body health promoting bacteria or non healthy bacteria.

The type of food you eat is a powerful weapon for health.

And a few other tips/suggestions to get and stay healthy:

Probiotics. The natural way to get them would be through foods. Yogurt is a wonderful source, make sure to choose ones that say active or live cultures.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut also have a high level of probiotics.

Avoid use of antibiotics unless necessary. These destroy your “good” bacteria.

Eat less refined sugars.

Lower stress levels.

Exercise.

Eat a healthy daily diet.

So here’s the thing that these companies leave out. There is a small nod to diet or exercise with them.  but it’s more about “buy and use our stuff to be healthy and feel awesome.”

The list of problems their products promise to help and fix is staggering. I’m waiting to hear it cures cancer next.

Let’s keep in mind, at the end of the day, they are a marketing company and everyone is out to make money.

They aren’t telling you that good nutrition should be your goal.  They aren’t telling you exercise will help you have energy, change your lab results, or help with your moods.

They are saying… hey, eat what you want and use our products to help you….why should you have to change?

If you don’t change your behaviors and your eating habits there is no product that is going to fix those problems and the only thing you’ll lose is your money to the snake oil salesman.

Rant now over.