1994 Slim Chance Awards

Each year, Frances M. Berg, M.S., who operates the Healthy Weight Network presents "Slim Chance Awards" to promoters of weight-loss schemes. Here are the awards for 1994:

Worst Product: Smooth Contours Thigh Cream

Thigh cream hit the headlines by way of the scientific route when featured at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity conference in October 1993. But when obesity researchers George A. Bray, MD, and Frank Greenway, MD, reported that it “causes regional fat loss from the thighs of women,” there appeared to be serious gaps in their research. They rushed it to market anyway, and excited consumers ate it up – and rubbed it on. Safety concerns voiced by pharmacologists warned that if indeed the drug were absorbed it could have toxic effects, such as convulsions and heart damage. Obesity Research NAASO’s journal in March offered a kind of apologia that in an “oversight” their abstract did not include a special interest disclosure. Unfazed, Bray and Greenway continue to market their thigh cream in several ways, including their own Smooth Contours sold via Nutri/System.

Worst Claim: Nutrition 21’s Chromium Picolinate

Dieters and young men trying to build their physique are the primary targets for seductive sellers of chromium picolinate. We’re going right to the source on this one, wholesaler Nutrition 21, which distributes chromium picolinate to many dealers of questionable supplements who then market it under a variety of “chromo-pico” names. Like the thigh cream promoters, Nutrition 21 calls on science to back up misleading claims. But the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, ND, most often cited by Nutrition 21, reports there’s no evidence for claims that it improves metabolism, resulting in more muscle; melts fat away; no dieting or exercise required to lose fat; better appetite control; increases metabolism; reduces body fat; lowers cholesterol; or lowers blood sugar. The center director says all claims for chromium picolinate are false and misleading. Researchers warn of possible health risks, particularly in the mega doses athletes commonly take.

Most Outrageous: Herbalife’s Thermojetics

It is outrageous that two large unappetizing, worthless pills can pull in an estimated $70 million in U.S. annual sales alone, 40 percent of Herbalife sales here. And that U.S. sales are only 25 percent of Herbalife’s worldwide $700 milion annual haul. The money rolls in if enough people take every day these two large barnyard-brown pills and six large greenish pills, giving off the herbal aura that pays Herbalife so well. The name Thermojetics slyly suggests increased heat and fat burning, but Herbalife is cautious. Hit many times for violations and fraudulent and misleading claims, Herbalife merely suggests the pills help you lose weight by “creating a more desirable energy balance in the body.” Its ingredient Chinese Ma Huang has been suspected of serious side effects, including hypertension.

Worst Gadget: Gut Buster

Gut Buster was sold through Parade Magazine, which has a history of this kind of advertising. Spend just a few minutes each day with this gadget and you will burn stomach fat and flatten and trim your stomach, said the ads; better than sit-ups for strengthening and toning your stomach muscles. The FTC disagreed, and charged promoters Richard and Luann Suarez with making false and unsubstantiated claims. What’s more, said FTC, the spring-tension contraption could break and injure the user. The Suarezes’ signed a consent agreement.

This article was posted on January 5, 2009.

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