I told my doctor I get very tired when I go on a diet,
so he gave me pep pills. Know what happened? I ate faster.
4 Supplements to Watch Out ForBy Steve Edwards
This month, four of the major weight loss supplement manufacturers were fined 25 million dollars because science does not support their statements about the supplements. We've been warning our customers about false claims for years and, basically, these are just the tip of the BS iceberg. Let's take a look at the major offenders and what to look for when evaluating a supplement.
It's important to keep yourself informed because these supplements will still be on the market. The Federal Trade Commission, who handed down the verdict, has only stated that the manufacturers need to change the product claims, not the products. And, well, since the FTC cited that a placebo had outperformed one of the offenders, it will be interesting to see what the manufacturers come up with. If we don't buy the supplements, then, of course, they won't be on the market, but these folks can be very clever.
Let's use Bob as an example. He's that guy on TV who's thrilled over his "male enhancement." However, when analyzing the product he's used, we see that it's little more than what's normally sold as a mild stimulant. Yet Bob seems to be insinuating far greater lifestyle enhancements than a cup o' joe will ever provide. This little exaggeration has allowed his marketing team to spend 181 million advertising dollars since 2003, according to Nielson Monitor-Plus, so we may assume that Bob's become a wealthy man. Last year, however, 112 charges of fraud, money laundering, and mislabeling of product were brought against six executives at Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, marketer of Enzyte, Bob's key to newfound self-esteem. In spite of this, the company took out a full-page ad in The Cincinnati Enquirer on September 5th that read, in part, "The future of Berkeley looks bright as we hope to work through our setbacks and continue providing great brands to the world . . ."
So let's take a look at those recently fined and learn how to protect ourselves.
- CortiSlim. These marketers were fined 12 million bucks and I'm using them first because I had a personal run-in with 'em at the Natural Products show a few years back. A guy essentially accosted me in the aisles, handing me a pamphlet of information that informed me of dangers of chronic inflammation and how this product would reduce it, leading to massive weight loss. Being familiar with the product, since we get plenty of questions on the Message Boards, I fired a few stats at him about studies involving CortiSlim's ingredients. The guy looks at my identifying badge, turns away from me like a dog being submissive, and looks for someone else to engage. I throw one more tidbit his way and he refuses to even acknowledge me with a glance, keeping his eyes averted even though we were a foot apart. I didn't find this to be a particularly strong endorsement of faith in their products.
- Xenadrine EFX. The two companies that market this will pay between 8 and 12.8 million dollars. Xenadrine has been in the industry spotlight for a long time, at least since a popular fitness model, and one of their "success stories," was caught trying to gain weight for her "before" picture after she had shot her "after." In this case, the studies they provided showed that their product did nothing that it claimed. In fact, in one of the studies they provided, the group taking a placebo actually lost more weight than those using the product.
- One-A-Day WeightSmart. The Bayer Corporation will pay 3.2 million dollars for claiming that their multivitamin can increase your metabolism.
- TRIMSPA. They will pony up 1.5 million dollars for their unsubstantiated claims. There was no word on whether Anna Nicole Smith would have to pay the money herself.
While we're getting smartersince sales of weight loss supplements have dropped half a billion in the last three yearswe're still being duped regularly. I was recently talking shop with a graphic designer whose job is to Photoshop "before" and "after" pics for an unnamed supplement that you've heard of. I'm not telling which, because she didn't inform me on the record and also because I'm going to tell you how to not buy useless supplements anyway. If you read below, I assure you that you'll never buy the unmentioned or any other highly hyped placebo.
- Rule 1: Never buy a supplement that promises body transformation without lifestyle transformation. No supplement can offset your lifestyle. If you eat poorly and don't exercise, you will not look good. Supplements can't build muscle and they can't make you lose fat. All they can do is assist with this process. Some initiative must come from you.
- Rule 2: Read the fine print. Many of these companies write "legal" with fine print saying something along the lines of, "Will work if you follow a healthy lifestyle" or something similar that gets them off the hook when studies show their supp isn't as advertised. Generally, if you lived the healthy lifestyle they're describing, you wouldn't need the supplement anyway. I analyzed a carb-blocker supplement that had a tiny insert, with, like, size-4 font, that was an exercise program and low-carb diet that you needed to follow to get the claimed results. The obvious question then was, "Why do I need a carb-blocker if I don't eat carbs?" And, of course, the answer is that you don't.
- Rule 3: Read the ingredients. Most of these use the same ingredients and these will be listed on their Web site. They have to by law. They may try and hide themthey almost always dobut click around and you'll find them. If you don't, then you're dealing with a company that's completely under the radar and you should not trust them. If you do, then do a quick Internet search on the ingredients or ask us on the Message Boards. There are many watchdog agencies that test everything. Bogus supplements are pretty easy to identify.
- Rule 4: Use common sense about how the supplement actually works. Hoodia, the main ingredient of TRIMSPA is one of my favorites. The TRIMSPA Web site tells you that you need it because African tribesmen would use the stuff on long hunts to keep thin and alert, as if anyone walking through the savanna hunting large dangerous animals with a spear needs any help in this department. Most of us would be so wide-eyed we'd be burning a thousand calories an hour with fear alone. Sure, those guys were probably fit. But before you go looking for some dietary secret, you might want to consider the fact that they were hunting large animals, on foot, using spears! Don't you think that there might be another reason for those ripped bodies?
Another good example is the study that used displaced cultures in an attempt to show how something from their prior diet was the key to their former state of health. They never mention the fact that, using one common example, these people used to live on an island where they ate fruits, veggies, and fish and exercised daily to gather these things, and now they're poverty-stricken factory workers who smoke, drink, and eat junk food in a polluted city. You don't need to be a scientist to see that somebody besides those factory workers is blowing smoke.
Supplements are nothing more than a piece of the puzzle of creating a healthy lifestyle. Used correctly, they can aid with diet and exercise and greatly enhance results and performance. But they are not magical cures. They're just targeted nutritional products, like a dense food, which is why they're called nutritional supplements and not drugs.
If you're now curious about our own Beachbody supplements, we'd be happy if you checked them out thoroughly (since we have). While we don't claim that they will make you miraculously lose weight without proper diet and exercise, we can assure you that they have all been thoroughly tested for safety and effectiveness, and we guarantee they'll help maximize your fitness and weight loss results. To read more about supplement safety and our own safety and efficacy procedures, read my article "How Safe Are Your Supplements?"
If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at email@example.com.
Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.
10 Urban Food MythsBy Joe Wilkes
There have always been rumors spread about food. Remember the one about the Kentucky Fried rat or Mikey, the kid from the Life cereal commercials, who allegedly expired after washing down his Pop Rocks with a Coca-Cola? These, like so many, turned out to be apocryphal, but now in the age of the Internet, it seems like there's always some story making the rounds about a grocery item that will poison you or a food that will miraculously cure what ails you. Here are some myths we were able to dismiss.
- Eating carrots improves night vision. This rumor apparently was started by the British during World War II, after a new British radar device began greatly assisting in the shooting down of German bombers at night. Not wanting to alert the Germans of the new technology, the government spread a disinformation campaign that the British pilots' love of carrots was the cause of their keen night vision. It spread like wildfire and it has become a staple in parents' arsenals for getting kids to eat their veggies. Carrots are generally good for your eyes though as studies are beginning to show a link between increased beta-carotene (carrots are loaded with it) consumption and a decrease in macular degeneration.
- Turkey makes you sleepy. It's true that turkey contains tryptophan, the amino acid credited for the poultry's alleged soporific effects, but beef, chicken, meat, milk, and beans also contain tryptophan and they don't seem to make you pass out on the couch after dinner. Turkey's bad rap probably comes from the famous post-Thanksgiving food coma, which was probably not induced by trace amounts of an amino acid, but more likely by consuming vast quantities of carbohydrates like potatoes and stuffing, washed down with a couple of glasses of wine.
- Caesar salad was created by or for Julius Caesar. Actually, despite what they might tell you at the Olive Garden, the Caesar salad is not Italian food. It was created by Caesar Cardini, a restaurant owner in Tijuana, Mexico less than a hundred years ago, not in ancient Rome. The recipe includes romaine lettuce, olive oil, garlic, coddled eggs, and Parmesan cheese, among other ingredients, but the original recipe does not contain anchoviesanother myth debunked.
- Mentos and Coca-Cola, combined, will explode your stomach. As any YouTube connoisseur can attest, dropping a Mentos candy into a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke can create an effect that will give the fountains at the Bellagio a run for their money. However, despite rumors of Brazilian youths dying of burst abdomens, this myth seems to be another of the endless variations on Mikey and the Pop Rocks. There seems to be little evidence that eating any combination of anything generally considered edible will make you explode. (Although that Chinese food I had for dinner came pretty close around midnight.)
- Beware of flesh-eating bananas! There was an email forwarded by many well-intentioned people not too long ago that asserted that the FDA was covering up the fact that several thousand bananas covered in germs causing necrotizing fasciitis (the flesh-eating disease) had entered the country. This turned out not to be true. A reverse rumor, that humans were killing bananas, also has circulated. This one says that due to varying explanations, such as climate change or genetic modification, bananas will be extinct in less than a decade. This also is false. So, eat your bananas. They're full of potassium, won't make your skin fall off, and there are plenty more where they came from.
- McDonald's uses kangaroo meat in their burgers. This is one that's been around since I was a kid. Common sense can answer this one. While we wouldn't put it past the Golden Arches to put anything in their food, kangaroo meat seems an unlikely beef substitute as it costs much more per pound than actual beef. Although adventurous eaters might consider adding 'roo meat to their diet, as it has more protein and about half the fat of beef.
- Chocolate milk is tainted with cow's blood. This is a popular playground myth that milk too contaminated with blood to sell as plain white milk is colored brown, flavored, and sold as chocolate milk. Chocolate milk and all dairy products go through the same rigorous FDA testing process that regular moo juice does. However, the added sugar isn't doing you any favors.
- Aspartame causes multiple sclerosis and lupus. Aspartame, often branded as NutraSweet, has been rumored to cause many serious diseases. While we consider the jury to be out on whether aspartame is completely safe, there have been no reputable scientific studies linking the sweetener to MS, lupus, cancer, or any other life-threatening illnesses. However, it still can't claim to be totally healthy. Read Steve Edwards' "The Worst Food on the Planet", for more about why you should lay off the diet soda.
- Canola oil is toxic. It's been rumored that canola oil contains the same toxins found in mustard gas. Canola oil is made from oil pressed from the seeds of the rape plant, a member of the mustard family. There is actually no such plant as the canola, but it's easy to see the marketing problems that would result in calling it "rape oil." This may have been one of the reasons scurrilous rumors have circulated about this noble oil, which is perfectly safe and rich in monounsaturated fat, the best fat, also found in olive oil and avocados. As for the mustard gas claim, while it is true canola oil is made from mustard plants, mustard gas is not. It's called that because of its acrid smell, not its ingredient list.
- Red Bull causes brain tumors. As a favorite beverage of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, it's easy to make a case based on anecdotal evidence, but there actually is nothing in Red Bull that has been linked to brain tumors. It has been banned in some European countries because of its high caffeine content (a can has about as much as a cup of coffee), but aside from the typical health concerns regarding any sugary, caffeinated beverage, Red Bull appears safe. Claims that it will give you wings seem unfounded, however, and when mixed with vodka, it has been rumored to make underpants disappear.
To find out more about these and other myths and email hoaxes, we recommend you read up at Snopes.com.
If you have any myths about food you'd like us to investigate for a future article or if you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Test Your Strange Food Facts IQ!By Joe Wilkes
- What vegetable burns more calories than it contains? Celery has about 6 calories per stalk. But your body burns more calories than that in the digestion process. It's not actually the chewing and crunching, but the digestion of the high amount of cellulose in your stomach that burns the calories.
- What common bagel topping can show up as an opiate in drug tests? Poppy seeds are related closely enough to opium poppies that they can show up in a urine test as an opiate like heroin or morphine. The level is generally considered too low to be considered a "true positive" and most drug testing companies discount these results. However, just to be on the safe side, the federal prison system has banned its inmates from eating poppy seeds. And in case you were wondering, you could pretty much eat your weight in poppy seeds and not get high.
- Which U.S. state eats more ice cream per capita than any other? Despite living in one of the coldest states in the Union, Alaskans eat twice as much ice cream as any other state.
- What are the food additives cochineal and carminic acid made from? These scientific terms found in the ingredient lists of many foods, beverages, and cosmetics are fancy names for a red food coloring developed by the Aztecs, made of dried powdered beetles native to Central and South America. While their origins may be less than appetizing, they are perfectly safe to eat.
- What do the letters in the canned meat product SPAM stand for? Salted Porky Anonymous Meat? Guess again. Originally it stood for SPiced hAM, named in a contest, where the winner was awarded the princely sum of $100. The people at Hormel Foods say that while it does include ham and spices, it doesn't begin to describe the product that is SPAM, and now maintain that SPAM stands merely for SPAM.