Weight loss, dieting, the best way to lose excess pounds – it’s a topic of conversation with most of us, a staple of magazine headlines, and for some it can turn into an obsession. There is no lack of pills, procedures, plans and cures that say they can help. But according to an editorial in this week’s Canadian Medical Association Journal, much of what we read is just plain fake.
Obese patients, surrounded by facts about the unhealthy effects of too much weight and desperate to slim down, often don’t get the detailed, ongoing support and information they need from the medical system. That leaves them vulnerable to the massive amount of get-skinny-quick schemes that litter store shelves and advertisements.
There is an “unregulated weight-loss wilderness” in Canada, say Dr. Yoni Freedhoff and Dr. Arya Sharma, the two authors of the editorial and themselves weight-loss specialists. Too many clinics and supplement suppliers are flooding the market with unrealistic claims that are believed by those who either haven’t learned better, or are willing to try anything. Some of the products and procedures are ineffective; some are actively harmful. A few have taken lives.”
We call on governments to require formal accreditation of weight-loss providers to ensure quality and to provide consumers with an easily recognizable means of identifying evidence-based services,” said the physicians. Their concern is not the weight-loss industry as a whole, which does have some good, sensible, proven ways for people to manage their weight. They want more governmental oversight on unproven, medically questionable techniques. Prove it in studies, build the evidence that says it works, and then sell it to the public. Right now there seems to be little if any policing of unproven claims.
When it comes to choosing a weight-loss plan or product, the first caveat should always be, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Anything that promises dramatic weight loss in a short time – “40 pounds in four weeks” is one example – is either a false advertisement, or a dangerous product. The body just doesn’t work that way. Weight loss needs to be sensible, sustainable, and safe. It will take time, and it will take a lifestyle change. Any other approach is questionable at best.
Wild diet and supplement claims seem to be slipping through cracks in the legislation. Once governments and regulatory agencies tighten up their policies, then more patients can find the help they need, and start successfully tightening their belts.