Diet Fraud: Sensa/HCG Fined $34 Million for Fraudulent Health Claims

Oh happy day! Finally the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hammering down on companies with misleading claims about their products body-slimming capabilities. Four companies, L’Occitane, Sensa, LeanSpa LLC and HCG Diet Direct, will all receive hefty fines for using deceptive language and fraudulent claims marketed towards diet-driven consumers. I was thrilled to appear on FOX News Your World with Neil Cavuto yesterday to discuss this issue.

Will an additive found in candy really make you less hungry? 

Not only are these companies claiming unrealistic weight loss results but they are also making false claims about their product ingredients.  Products like Sensa which claim to reduce hunger and melt away the pounds when sprinkled on foods primarily contain maltodextrin, a starch-based food additive commonly used for the production of soda and candy. HCG (made from human placenta) is supposed to be taken with a very-low calorie diet of less than 800 calories per day. Maybe that should be front and center on the label, instead of just in the fine print.

Will a slap on the wrist make them change their tune?

While these companies have agreed to refund many of these mislead consumers, $34 million in fines is a drop in the bucket for the $60 billion plus diet industry. Sensa and L’Occitane will continue to stand by their products and bogus health claims, selling desperate consumers hopeless creams and powders that will result in nothing more than a slimmer pocket book.

Click below to see my appearance on FOX News defending consumers’ rights in the need for government involvement in this matter.

Here are a few highlights from my segment :

  • People argue that consumers’ own common sense should be the judge versus the Federal Government in this dieting matter.
  • As a Registered Dietitian I believe that every consumer deserves to have accurate information about the products they purchase.
  • Consumers are desperate for quick weight loss fixes, but the truth is diets don’t work.  95% of all diets fail and most dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years.
  • FAT CHANCE: There is no magic powder, cream, or pill that is going to make you skinny, yet consumers continue to buy into the multi billion dollar diet industry each year.
  • It’s about lifestyle choices. Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

The Hard Facts About Dieting:

  • 35% of “occasional dieters” progress into disordered eating and as many as 25% advance to full-blown eating disorders.
  • Dieters typically make four to five attempts per year.
  • Only 5% of women naturally have the body type advertisements portray as real.
  • 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet
  • 75% of American women surveyed endorsed unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies.

#MushroomHealth Summit Day 2 Recap: Blendability, Research Tidbits, and “Green” Mushrooms

Missing the Mushroom Health Summit? Be sure to read my Day 1 RecapDisclosure: I’m working with the Mushroom Council to share information from the summit.

Mushroom Health Summit logo

Before we kicked off day 2, I visited the mushROOM to learn more about the growing process for specialty mushroom. I’ve heard of oyster and shiitake mushrooms, but this was the first time I saw pom pom, maitake, and King oyster. Take a look. They are so interesting!

Video Growing Specialty Mushrooms

Mouth Watering Already?

Be sure to check out these fabulous mushroom recipes on Pinterest and Mushroom Council’s website. You can also “like” Mushroom Council on Facebook.

Interesting Tidbits from Morning Sessions

There was so much information, I can’t summarize the entire day in one blog. I picked my favorite a-ha’s I thought you would like.

  • Mushrooms are the leading source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant being studied for its anticancer and immunity properties.
  • Mushrooms are high in “Ergo” (ergothioneine), a naturally occurring antioxidant found in red blood cells that may help protect the body’s cells. A lack of “ergo” may be related to development of chronic inflammatory disease. See: Grigat et al., 2007, Biochem Pharm. 74:309-316 (2007)
  • Digestive health is all the rage when it comes to “hot nutrition topics”. We are just now beginning to understand the “microbiotic community” living deep in our gut. Mushrooms are high in betaglucan, which is considered a prebiotic “food” we can’t digest, but the microbes in our gut much on in order to keep a healthy GI environment. This is crucial for our helathy immune system.

Find more research studies on mushrooms, antioxidants, inflammation, and immunity.

Lunch Demo – The Trend to Blend

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RD, Senior Director of Programs and Culinary Nutrition for Culinary Institute of America did an awesome job showing us how mushrooms can improve nutrition and consumer appeal of popular meat-based dishes.

Take a look at this story in pictures!

Three samples of mushroom blendability study.

Three samples of mushroom blendability study.

Sample 2 was my favorite 50/50 blend of mushrooms and meat

Sample 2 was my favorite 50/50 blend of mushrooms and meat

We were given 3 samples and asked to taste and rate each. Then the identity of each sample was revealed. We gave characteristics of sensory and flavors, both positive and negative. I liked all three.

The first one I could tell was 100% meat based on color and lack of mushroom taste. Between the second and third sample, it’s clear to see I liked the second sample best. This was a 50/50 mixture of mushrooms to meat with seasoning that amounted to about 320 mg sodium per 2 oz portion.

The third sample had about 100 mg less sodium, but I noticed a taste difference. I also felt the second sample was the most moist of the three. I think my favorite would work as long as the portion of meat/mushroom stuck to 1-3 oz per serving and the rest of the dish, more veggies etc. was minimal in sodium.

Another potential bonus for blendability is cost savings. Who doesn’t want to stretch their dollar? Basically 50/50 is less expensive than 100% meat and the more mushroom % in your blendability ratio, the greater the savings. That’s food for thought.

Be on the lookout for more studies and press about “blendability” of mushrooms in the near future. One of the study journal submissions was recently accepted.

Lunch Demo – Release the Umami, a Chemistry & Culinary Experiment

We also learned that it’s a culinary strategy to maximize the umami (savory) flavor from mushrooms. This is one of the key factorsphoto-18 that allow mushrooms to be blendable with traditional meat based dishes. Umami provides a satisfying sense of deep, complete flavor, balancing savory flavors and full-bodied taste with distinctive qualities of aroma and mouthfeel.

I haven’t discussed the “Maillard reaction” since my dietetic internship (and I won’t tell you how long that has been!) If you have heard of “caramelization”, “browning”, or “searing” then you know what I’m talking about. Caramelizing the mushroom releases more umami flavor than sautéing.

What’s the difference between browning/caramelizing and sautéing? You need high temperature DRY heat for caramelization. You need to use a little oil and give mushrooms space. Use too many in the pan and they will steam (wet cooking method). If you give them room, they will cook to brown color with crispy bits and deliver more of a nutty flavor.

Find more research on umami and sodium.

Mushrooms, Known as “White” are Really “Green”!

I thoroughly enjoyed the talk from the mushroom farmer at Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc.

He drove home the sustainability opportunities of mushrooms. Boiling it down in simple terms, growing mushrooms uses agricultural waste (yay recycling), grows in a matter of days on small plots of soil (yay), and uses minimal water and chemical additives.

When you eat mushrooms, you are eating a sustainable, nutritious food. Mushrooms are good for you and good for the planet. With the blendability concept, you don’t have to become a vegetarian to eat less meat, but you can easily add mushrooms to your traditional meat based recipes without sacrificing taste and flavor.

I had a fabulous time at the conference and I hope you enjoyed my summaries. To catch up on the chatter, you can visit the Twitter #MushroomHealth stream.

#FNCE Recap: Poster Presentations on Whole Grains, Antioxidant Availability, and Improving Diet Quality

I stopped by the poster session at the 2012 Food Nutrition Conference and Expo to review some recent studies that were funded by Con Agra. I became interested when I heard that instead of focusing on “the bad” foods to take out, the studies had a focus on what could be “added in” to help improve eating habits and nutrient rich food intake.

Here is a summary of the three abstracts presented.

A Daily Popcorn Snack Increases Whole Grain Intake Without Changing Consumption of Other Food Groups

Author Block: K. Reimers, PhD1, N. LvI PhD2, J. Lowndes. MAZ* T. Angelopoulos, PhD3, V. Nguyen, NIS, RD2, J. Rippe, MD2;

1NutritionI ConAgra Foods, ino. Omaha, NEI 2Rippe Lifestyle Inst., Celebration, FL, 3Health Professions, Univ. of Central Florida. OrlandoI
• Results of this  study showed that popcorn – a 100% whole grain snack, can help people to increase their consumption of whole grains.
• Researchers looked at the diets of people who ate a daily snack of 100 calories of popcorn for three months without being asked to change anything else about their diets. There were 117 people, split up into a control and test group. Ages were 42-62 year olds.
• At the end of the three month period, those who ate popcorn as a snack increased their consumption of whole grains while also decreasing their consumption of refined grains.

My thoughts: Interesting outcomes, especially since we can encourage people to “add in” whole grains with examples of whole grain foods and they could naturally drop refined grains, which are more processed and not as quality nutrition. In addition, I think popcorn is a delicious, filling snack.

Antioxidant Availability of Commonly Consumed Vegetables in the U.S. Food Supply

Author Block: M. Andon, PhD, K. Reirners,  B. Meokna, MS, RD;
Nutrition, ConAgra Foods, Inc, Omaha, NE.

People who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables tend to have a decreased risk of cancer and heart disease. This health benefit may be related in part to fruits’ and vegetables’ contribution of antioxidants to the diet.
• Researchers recently looked at the most common non-starchy vegetables in Americans’ diets to determine the vegetable that provides the highest level of antioxidants based on total consumption and antioxidant capacity — using the Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) assay.
• They found that canned tomato products provide the greatest amount of antioxidants to Americans’ diets over any other commonly consumed vegetable. contribution to total vegetable intake. Canned tomato products (sauce, paste, and
tomatoes) accounted for 39% of the total per capita ORAC availability, onions 14%, green bell pepper 9%, iceberg lettuce 8%, raw tomatoes 7%, broccoli (raw and frozen) 7%, carrots 5%, celery 4%, cabbage 4%, and green beans (raw, canned, and frozen) 3%. Tomato paste had the greatest and canned green beans the lowest ORAC concentration.
• Canned tomatoes are also a convenient and economical way to increase vegetable intake.

My thoughts: Here is a case where canned may be better nutritionally than fresh — although I love me some fresh summertime heirlooms :)  I think there are lots of ways to get quick, nutritious meals on the table using canned tomatoes. Use canned diced tomatoes with any other non starchy vegetables, mix with quinoa or steamed brown rice and herbs.

Try tomato paste in a slow cooker sloppy joes or chili – here’s a recipe I created that has 5 different vegetables in it.

Frozen Single Serve Meals at Lunch Result in Improved Diet Quality

Author Block: K. Reimers, PhD1, Z. Yu, PhD2, S. Sinnett, MS2, S. Weston, MS2, V. Nguyen, MS, RD2, J. Rippe, MD2;
‘Nutrition Con/Ägra Foods, Inc, Omaha, NE, 2Flippe Lifestyìe Inst., Celebration, FL.

A recent study found that overweight or obese people who ate a portion-controlled frozen Healthy Choice meal in place of their typical restaurant or cafeteria lunch, without changing anything else about their normal diet or exercise routine, lost weight and improved their diet quality at the end of 30 days.
• Replacing lunch with a Healthy Choice meal led to decreases in total fat (fat intake for the day decreased by 30%, 84% at lunch), saturated fat (also down 30%), trans fat (down 44%) and sodium (down by about 900 mg/day) in the participants’ overall diets.
• While overall calories consumed per day decreased (by about 400-500 calories a day), the study participants’ intake of the food groups dairy, fruit and vegetables did not change.
• The researchers concluded that eating frozen, portion-controlled meals for lunch is a convenient and effective way to decrease daily calorie intake and improve diet quality.

My thoughts: I think these results were interesting. For people usually eating out, if they replace with a portion controlled meal and don’t make any other dietary changes, their nutrition – saturated fat, sodium, and calories decrease. I have learned through my nutrition counseling practice that many people don’t like to cook, have difficulty planning all their meals, or they feel too busy to think about food and eat as healthy as I’m recommending. They often resort to cafeteria and fast food and usually clean their plate. I’m a big proponent of meeting people where they are and helping them change. I spend time working with them on the root behavioral changes — we will work together on “quick and healthy” meals that involve little cooking, we will plan healthy meals and snacks. What I like about the portion controlled frozen meal option is that it makes it a bit less overwhelming for some people, especially if they already eat them. The portion control is good too for my clients who struggle with moderation. The fast food meal may be harder to put down at “comfortable full”.

Did you see any of the posters at FNCE? What are your thoughts on these papers?

Disclosure: I was compensated by Con Agra to review the poster abstracts for studies they funded and include a summary report in my blog.

It’s a Disease Not a Diet: Gluten Free Diets

By: Carlene Helble

It seems like the latest fad diet, is one associated with a serious disease. Going gluten free has become the latest ‘weight loss’ plan among many, but dropping pounds doesn’t come with dropping gluten.

Rebecca was recently interviewed by Fox 5 on Gluten Free dieting as a way to lose weight, made popular with “The G-Free Diet”  book written by Elisabeth Hasselbeck. See the video on Rebecca had to say on this myth.

America Fails in Eating Fruits and Vegetables

By: Elizabeth Jarrard

The National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance (NFVA) recently released a report that showed in an average day, only 6 percent of individuals consume the recommended amount of vegetables and 8 percent the recommended amount of fruit. The US’s report card didn’t look to great, and even received a couple Fs.

The societal cost of NOT eating fruits and vegetables: $56.2 billion (grew 9% each year over last 5 years), growing health care cost of treating diet-related diseases To put this in perspective, eight of the states with the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption are also in the top 10 states with the highest obesity rates.  William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity said,

“A diet high in fruits and vegetables helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of several serious, chronic diseases. We need to continue our effort in making the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Fruits and vegetables are cancer fighters, heart protectors, and just plain delicious. And as Joan Salge-Blake RD, always says, “They’ll fill you UP before they fill you OUT.”

So how can you make the healthy choice and increase your fruit and vegetable consumption? Here are some great tips from the Fruits & vegetables: More Matters Campaign.

  • Pick up a banana or apple in the dining hall and eat it as a snack
  • Pack a healthy lunch, with at least
  • Add strawberries, blueberries, or bananas to your waffles, pancakes, cereal, oatmeal, or toast.
  • Top toasted whole-grain bread with peanut butter and sliced bananas.
  • Add vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms or tomatoes to your egg or egg white omelet.
  • Add some cooked dry beans to your salad. Or, if you have a sweet tooth, add chopped apples, pears, or raisins.
  • Have soup. You can stick with the basics like tomato or vegetable soup or mix up some minestrone or veggie chili to cut winter’s chill. When possible, choose soups with less sodium.
  • Try eating at least 2 vegetables with dinner
  • Snack on vegetables like bell pepper strips and broccoli with hummus
  • Stash bags of dried fruit at your desk for a convenient snack.
  • Drink a fruit smoothie made with whole fruit, ice cubes, and low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
  • Top a cup of fat-free or low-fat yogurt with sliced fresh fruit.
  • Canned, dried, and frozen fruits and vegetables are also good options. Look for fruit without added sugar or syrups and vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces.
  • Ants on a log isn’t just for kids- put some natural peanut butter on celeries and top with raisins·