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Health & Wellness Column: Weight Loss Ads: Lose Pounds, Not Dollars

November 30, 2020
Health & Wellness Column

Health & Wellness Column
Virginia Aparicio
Extension Educator – Health & Human Sciences
Purdue Extension Elkhart County
574-533-0554, vaparici@purdue.edu

Weight Loss Ads: Lose Pounds, Not Dollars

We have all seen those ads that promise immediate weight loss success. Some even claim you can eat as much as you want and still lose weight if you use their product. If only losing weight was as simple as taking a pill or eating food that melts away fat. The weight loss industry is full of misinformation and false claims from folks that will say just about anything for you to buy their products. Don't be tricked into wasting your money on scams or something that could be harmful. Here is some information to be aware of when it comes to weight loss ads.

When it comes to ad promises, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Following a sensible diet and getting regular physical activity is key to managing weight. Be skeptical of ads that say otherwise. Unfortunately, there is no product or program where you can lose weight permanently while eating all the food you want. Even FDA-approved fat-absorption blockers or appetite suppressants that help with weight loss depend on calorie restriction and regular exercise.

Losing weight and keeping it off requires lifestyle changes that are unique to each individual. This is why one size fits all programs don't work and you can’t guarantee the same results for everyone. Programs that promise rapid weight loss (like losing 30 pounds in 30 days) are scams. Stock photos or altered images are used to demonstrate dramatic weight loss. In reality, rapid weight loss can worsen your health and often results in bone and muscle loss.

It is not uncommon for advertisers to create fraudulent "news" websites and stories to promote weight loss products like diet pills. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), advertisers have used legitimate news organizations' logos as clickbait to trick people into clicking on phony websites. The stories feature fake investigations and post photos of known reporters to make them look credible. Advertisers can also post their own product reviews or pay for positive online reviews.

Consumers are entitled to accurate and reliable information, especially if they spend billions yearly on products and services for weight loss. To protect consumers, the FTC has taken action against companies that make deceptive claims in their ads. They also provide consumers with helpful tips on identifying scams and steps to take if they become a victim.

Another thing to keep in mind is that “free” trial offers typically are not free. Signing up for these trials could end up costing you a lot of money and charges for recurring product shipments.

The FDA has found that many weight loss and bodybuilding supplements contain potentially harmful drugs and chemicals that were not listed on the product label. The FDA also states that using an electronic muscle stimulator alone won't help a person get "six-pack" abs. Although these devices may temporarily help strengthen or tone muscles, they have not been proven effective for weight loss. ###

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