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Me: “What does that mean?”
Dr. Kaats: “That means that whatever you take, you‘re going to get into the system. But remember, this is all theory stuff.”
Dr. Kaats: “On the aloe vera.”
Dr. Kaats has been doing research into obesity and fitness for almost 20 years, but the lawsuit against Mark Nutritionals is the second time his research has been associated with weight-loss companies being investigated by the FTC. In 1997, a Kaats study of the supplement chromium picolinate was cited in a Federal Trade Commission complaint against companies selling products that claimed chromium could significantly reduce body fat without dieting or exercise. The FTC found that there was no “reasonable basis” for such claims. Kaats said his research was misused.
Dr. Kaats also ended up doing research, rather than private practice, partly because of a serious ethical breach in his career. His license was revoked by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in 1982. He initiated a sexual relationship with a client who had come to him -- with her husband, at first -- because of sexual problems in her marriage. Dr. Kaats specialized in sexual dysfunction at the time.
Dr. Kaats told me he deeply regretted the transgression and said he’d been going through a divorce and had been at the lowest point in his life.
I met Sheena Metal, a Los Angeles DJ who has a show Saturday nights on KLSX 97.1 FM, at an early-morning call-in show devoted to plastic surgery. She lost so much weight using Body Solutions that she‘s thinking of having surgery to tighten the folds of skin she now has on her stomach, arms and breasts. She started using Evening Weight Loss Formula almost two years ago and has lost more than 100 pounds.
Evening Weight Loss is by far Body Solutions’ most popular product, even though Body Solutions bills itself as a “3-Phase System.” Evening Weight Loss is a sweet, viscous, golden liquid made up of aloe, chromium, collagen, chicory, amino acids, and conjugated linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid found in beef and milk fat. Basically this is a compendium of the most hyped weight-loss substances around. If you enter those words into a search engine, you will find claims of fat burning, immune-system boosting, intestine cleansing and insulin regulating. But if you do a search on Medline, the main database used by doctors, you will find that most of the studies supporting the weight-reducing properties of these substances have been done on mice and rats, not humans. The human trials that have been done are inconclusive.
After the plastic-surgery show, Metal and I went for breakfast at the Radisson Hotel across from the radio station.
“I used to walk through malls and kids would follow me because I was fat,” Metal said. “I remember one Christmas, right before I lost weight, these kids were following me around and just being horrible, and I‘m thinking, ’I‘ve got to get this weight off. Here I am, this local celebrity -- this radio talent -- and I’m in the mall and nobody knows who I am and kids are chasing me through the mall like I‘m the freakin’ Elephant Man.‘”
Metal told me about doing a radio show with a guy who wanted her to pretend she was a skinny blond. He even put up a picture of a skinny blond on the show’s Web site and said it was Sheena. She‘d get crazed letters and e-mails from fans who said they were in love with her. Metal said she’d show up at live events for the radio show, meet these fans in person, and they would freak out.
Metal is 5 foot 8, has long, straight brown hair and pale skin, and weighs 215 pounds. She weighed 340 pounds when she started taking Body Solutions almost two years ago. At first she did it without telling anyone except the sales rep at the station, who got her free Body Solutions products.
She said she lost 45 pounds in the first two months, just by taking Evening Weight Loss. She didn‘t exercise or change what she ate.
Metal said she still eats pretty much what she wants. For breakfast on the day we met, she had eggs, ham, cottage cheese and French toast. She said she’s been fat since she was 5 years old, and before she lost weight she thought she‘d be fat forever -- “a lifer,” as she put it.
“I’m from a family of big, fat Irish people,” she said. “I think my mom was 45 when she got type 2 diabetes. I knew I was borderline diabetic, and I knew once I got on medication [for diabetes], I‘d never lose the weight.”
Metal probably added years to her life by losing weight. Besides diabetes, she faced a significant risk of heart disease, stroke, and breast, cervical and ovarian cancer. Now she’s at a weight where she can exercise, and she does.
Metal is convinced that the ingredients in Body Solutions, rather than the three-hour fast at night, helped her lose the weight. I asked her if she would care if she found out, at some point, that the ingredients in fact had nothing to do with her weight loss.