By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I asked Cleland if he thought the 1994 law was a mistake and needs to be amended.
“That kind of conclusion is beyond my pay grade,” he said dryly.
Even without FDA oversight, the public has managed to learn a few hard truths about diet supplements. The speedy stuff -- amphetamines, ephedra, caffeine -- can be dangerous and will not keep weight off over the long term. Laxatives are also a bad way to diet. Losing weight too quickly means you’re probably going to gain it all back. Body Solutions positioned itself as the alternative to all that. The Web site declares that “Body Solutions is NOT a ‘lose 30 pounds in 30 days’ program. It‘s NOT a laxative. It’s NOT a diuretic.” All good, but the message turns vague when it gets to what Body Solutions IS: “A weight loss program designed to work just like the doctor ordered; nice and slow, so that you lose the right kind of weight.” How clever to work the word doctor in without actually claiming that the products are doctor-approved. Body Solutions even changed its slogan to match the “nice and slow” message: “Lose Weight While You Sleep!” was replaced by the laughably circumspect “Give Us 90 Days and Watch What Happens.”
Dr. Kaats said the company wasn‘t hedging, just evolving as it did more research and tried to distinguish itself from all the copycat “lose weight while you sleep” products that have piggybacked on Body Solutions’ success.
“The whole theme of the road they‘re trying to go down is to say, okay, what’s unique about our company?” he said. “One, clinical trials. Two, healthy weight loss.”
Let‘s look at Body Solutions’ research. Hearing that it has done more than 30 studies, and spent a million dollars, you might think, wow, that‘s a lot of research. It is. Perhaps too much.
“They wouldn’t have to do all this hand waving and put out so many pages of studies if the stuff worked,” said Dr. Sanders, the weight-loss expert at Yale, after she looked through the summaries of the studies.
The studies are short on details. The phrase “highly significant reductions in body weight” comes up a lot, and nothing is said about who the participants are or how overweight they are -- either of which could skew results. None of the studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals, which is how other researchers know a study is significant. Dr. Kaats said he‘s submitted some of the studies for publication, but he couldn’t tell me which studies or which publications. Most importantly, none of the research tests Evening Weight Loss Formula against a placebo. To settle the key issues -- whether significant numbers of people are losing weight on Body Solutions, and whether the ingredients in Body Solutions are the cause of that weight loss -- Body Solutions would have to do a randomized (the researchers can‘t choose who gets what), double-blind (neither the researchers nor the participants know who’s taking what), placebo-controlled trial, preferably done by a university with a good reputation in medicine, by researchers who have no financial stake in the outcome. Then we could know for sure if there‘s magic in the bottle or just in the heads of the people using it.
I called the woman suing Body Solutions in Florida, and we talked for an hour and a half. Janet Makinen seemed so sensible that I was confused. Why did she buy Body Solutions?
“Well, I’ll say it for you, ‘How stupid can we be?’” she said, referring to the other potential plaintiffs in her lawsuit. “If I had been thinking and relied on what I know is real, I never would have thought it would work. I just thought whatever magic mix was in Body Solutions was something I didn‘t know about.”
Makinen (pronounced MACK-in-nen) said she felt desperate and trapped in her own body. She’d been thin her whole life, and over three years she put on 20 pounds, which is a lot if you start out at a size 1. She‘d moved to a new house, and it was on a huge, unpaved hill that made it hard even to go for a walk for exercise. She almost never saw her friends, because her new house was an hour away from her old one. No one was around to kid her out of buying a “magic mix.”
As we talked, I found myself becoming more sympathetic to Makinen’s case as I realized that I‘ve spent thousands on magic mixes myself -- not for weight loss but for skin care. I simply cannot resist skin-care products, and the more incredible the claims they make, the more irresistible they are to me. I’ve bought skin-care systems from stores and from cosmetologists and from infomercials. Most of them made no difference whatsoever.
But, as I told Makinen, I never thought of suing anyone when these skin products didn‘t work. I just thought I was an idiot for buying them in the first place.