Spring Has Sprung: It’s Time for a Gut-Check

As warm weather finally comes to the north, our minds turn to outdoor activities.  And with that comes the realization of the many pounds of winter excess that we have acquired during our hibernation.  We want to lose it — fast!  A healthy diet and exercise is the best route, of course, but some may be tempted to check out the many weight loss products on the market.  But because no one wants to get taken in by false weight loss claims, let’s talk about how you can spot a false claim and steer clear of that product.

We have all seen the celebrity on TV claiming that he or she lost 30 pounds in just 4 weeks. To avoid cherry-picking their best cases or even making up false endorsements, under the law, the ad must be typical of what consumers can expect or the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose what the typical results are. Too be “clear and conspicuous” the disclosure must stand out, i.e., it finds you; you don’t have to look for it.  It is not enough to say “results not typical” or “your results will vary.”

To make it easier to spot a false weight loss claim, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has compiled a list of seven “gut check” claims that simply cannot be true — according to the experts.  These claims frequently use the terms “substantial weight loss.” According to the FTC, this means weight loss of a pound a week for more than four weeks or a total weight loss of more than 15 pounds in any time period.  Here are the seven claims and the reasons the FTC and experts think you should not believe them. If you see them being used in an ad you will want to steer clear of that product and perhaps notify the FTC:

  • Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exerciseMeaningful weight loss requires taking in fewer calories than you use. It’s that simple. Ads promising substantial weight loss without diet or exercise are false. And ads suggesting that users can lose weight fast without changing their lifestyles also are false.
  • Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats. It’s impossible to eat unlimited amounts of food and still lose weight. It’s a matter of science.
  • Causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops using product. Without long-term lifestyle changes weight loss won’t last once consumers stop using the product.
  • Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight. Without lifestyle changes, no over-the-counter product can block enough fat or calories to cause the loss of lots of weight.
  • Safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks. Medical experts agree: Losing more than three pounds a week over multiple weeks can result in gallstones and other health complications. 
  • Causes substantial weight loss for all users. People’s metabolisms and lifestyles are different. 
  • Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin. Weight loss is an internal metabolic process. Nothing you wear or apply to the skin can cause substantial weight loss.

To assist industry in compliance, the FTC and a coalition composed of representatives from science, academia, the health care professions, government, commercial enterprises, and organizations promoting the public interest has prepared Voluntary Guidelines for Providers of Weight Loss Products or Services.