Position Statement on Commercial Weight-Loss Promotions
National Council Against Health Fraud (1987)
The National Council Against Health Fraud disparages commercial weight-loss or control programs that:
- Promise or imply dramatic, rapid weight-loss (ie, substantially more than one-percent of total body weight per week).
- Promote diets that are extremely low in calories (ie, below 800 KCal per day / 1200 KCal per day preferred) unless under the supervision of competent medical experts.
- Attempt to make clients dependent upon special products rather than teaching how to make good choices from the conventional food supply (this does not condemn the marketing of low-calorie convenience foods which may be chosen by consumers).
- Do not encourage permanent, realistic lifestyle changes including regular exercise and the behavioral aspects of eating wherein food may be used as a coping device (ie, programs should focus upon changing the causes of overweight rather than simply the effects, which is the overweight itself).
- Misrepresent salespeople as "counselors" supposedly qualified to give guidance in nutrition and/or general health. Even if adequately trained, such "counselors" would still be objectionable because of the obvious conflict-of-interest that exists when a provider profits directly from products they recommend and sell.
- Require large sums of money at the start or make clients sign contracts for expensive, long-term programs. Such practices too often have been abused as salespeople focus attention on signing-up new people rather than delivering continuing, satisfactory service to consumers. Programs should be on a pay-as-you-go basis.
- Fail to inform clients about the risks associated with-weight-loss or the specific program.
- Promote unproven or spurious weight-loss aids such as HCG, starch blockers, diuretics, sauna belts, body wraps, passive exercise, ear staples, acupuncture, electric muscle stimulators, spirulina, phenylalanine, arginine, etc.
- Claim that "cellulite" exists in the body.
- Claim that use of an appetite suppressant or methylcellulose enables a person to lose body fat without restricting accustomed caloric intake.
- Claim that a weight control product contains a unique ingredient or component unless it is unavailable in other weight control products.
NCAHF is a private nonprofit, voluntary health agency that focuses upon health misinformation, fraud, and quackery as public health problems. Its positions are based upon the principles of science that underlie consumer protection law. It advocates: (a) adequate disclosure in labeling and other warranties to enable consumers to make truly informed choices; (b) premarketing proof of safety and effectiveness for products and services claimed to prevent, alleviate, or cure any health problem; and, (c) accountability for those who violate the law.
This page was posted on November 23, 2004.