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.

Fall Comfort Foods You Can Feel Good About

Fall is in the air – it’s a time when many of us start craving our favorite comfort foods like casseroles, soups, and stews.   I love comfort foods like soups, chilis, and casseroles – they’re easy to prepare and can be full of nutrients if you choose the right ingredients.  Recently I appeared on Let’s Talk Live DC to discuss my favorite tips for a healthy fall.

Check out the video below or read on for some highlights:

Eggs Are Back for Breakfastvegetable__egg_and_cheddar_strata_475x387_72_RGB

I love egg dishes for a warm comforting breakfast that’s full of nutrients.  Eggs had a bad rap for a while, but research now shows that egg consumption does not contribute to increased risk of cardiovascular disease.  I created this savory egg strata recipe for Cabot using their seriously sharp cheddar; it’s perfect for weekend entertaining because I can prepare it ahead of time, so that all I have to do in the morning is pop it in the oven.  Any leftovers make a wonderful lunch or light dinner.

12915 VF MV, Cal, Vit D FP Ad Boomer(2)Cover your Bases with a Multivitamin

During cold and flu season I take extra steps to keep my family healthy – not only do we get flu shots, but I also make sure that we take multivitamins to reduce our risks of getting sick.  Gummy vitamins are one my favorites because they’re delicious and convenient. I prefer Vitafusion MultiVites because they’re made in the USA, contain only natural colors and flavors, and just two gummies are a complete vitamin and mineral supplement.  MultiVites are made for adults, and there is also a kid version, L’il Critters Gummy Vites, for the younger set.

Fall for Chili

walmart-logoChili is always a crowd-pleaser, and I love that you can’t mess it up!  You can use any combination of beans and vegetables to create a nutritious, warming meal.  I used fresh celery, carrot, and onion and canned Great Value tomatoes, corn, and beans from Walmart in this Easy Chickpea, Turkey, and Bean Chili, which is full of lean protein and filling, heart-healthy fiber.  I love shopping at Walmart for fresh produce because they have incredible prices and offer 100% money back guarantee.

Snack Smartkind_bar_darkchocolatecinnamonpecan_2

Snacks are everywhere, but how do you know which ones to pick?  A lot of snack bars look healthy, but are actually loaded with sugar, fat, and suspicious artificial ingredients.

I always recommend that my clients read labels to choose real foods that are nutritionally balanced.  KIND is my favorite brand of on-the-go snack.  KIND bars are absolutely delicious, and they’re made with ingredients you can actually see and pronounce. You should not need a chemistry degree to understand what you are eating.

I’m currently crunching on their “nuts and spices” line of bars. They have only 5 grams of sugar or less per bar.  I go between the Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan and Madagascar Vanilla. Not only are they delicious on-the-go, but they make a great topping for yogurt and oatmeal.

 What are your favorite tips for staying healthy as the weather gets cooler? Leave a comment below and share your ideas!


Disclosure: I worked with Walmart, Vitafusion, and KIND for the TV segment, but did not receive compensation for writing this blog post.


Enter to Win 2 Free Bottles of Vitafusion and L’il Critters Gummy Vitamins

I’m thrilled to have a relationship with Vitafusion and L’il Critters. We’ve been working together this year on a number of outreach projects to help educate people on the benefits of vitamins, how I use them myself, and how I recommend to incorporate them. If you’d like to learn more, and perhaps even win some products to try, then read on.

Click to visit website VF-logo

As a dietitian, I encourage people to eat balanced every day, with a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, lean proteins from both plants and animals, dairy and whole grain foods. I’m a big fan of quality foods as a foundation for longevity. I’m also a realist and I understand we all have foods that don’t earn an A+ in nutrition and there is a way to keep those foods in your life in a balanced way. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Why Take Multivitamins?

It can be difficult meeting vitamin and mineral recommendations every day. There’s food preferences, seasonal eating, work travel and other normal life events that pop up.  Daily vitamin supplements can be an “insurance policy” to make sure you’re getting what you need.

Many people, myself included, may have a medical need for supplements. I have had vitamin D deficiency for years, before I corrected it with a vitamin D supplement. I need to take vitamin D to help it stay out of deficiency range. I found out my mom, sis, and brother all have vitamin D deficiency. I’m still taking my prenatal vitamins from when I was pregnant because I’m nursing.

If you fall into one of these areas I mentioned, you might want to take a look at Vitafusion.

Vitafusion makes a whole line of gummy vitamins that can meet the needs of your entire family — kids, adults, and prenatals to name a few. 10 lucky readers will get to take home two bottles of gummy vitamins to try them out for themselves. To find out how to enter keep reading!


What do I love Vitafusion?

Well of course I love that they taste great –  who doesn’t love gummies? Even my husband has been taking his vitamins and I’ve never been able to get him to take them before! They’re a great-tasting alternative to large, hard-to-swallow tablets.

Of most importance to me when looking at brands (and even deciding to try the product and work with them) was the quality of the products. They have natural fruit flavors, use only plant-based colors, and they’re made in the USA.


Vitafusion Multivites are specially formulated for adults and offer a balance of nutrients, including 200% of the daily value of vitamin D3 (as much as a 3 oz. piece of salmon!).

Why do we need vitamin D?

Vitamin D is especially important because it’s needed for calcium absorption to help ps-gummy-vitesprevent osteoporosis. Almost 2/3 of Americans, don’t get the recommended amount of vitamin D. If you are deficient, supplementation is recommended to help bring up vitamin D levels, as food sources of vitamin D are difficult to reach.

L’il Critters:

L’il Critters are a great-tasting children’s gummy vitamin that helps support and maintain healthy growth and development. They come in a variety of natural flavors and use only plant-based colors. Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E support immunity and vitamin D helps kids build strong bones.

I asked my “mommy friends” who already use L’il Critters why they give their kids a mulivitamin and they said various versions of this bottom line.

I do my best every day to make sure my kid is provided with a variety of healthy foods. But I’m not with them all the time and their appetite can seem so “off” like some days they aren’t eating much. They love the taste of L’il Critters and I feel better like they are getting what they need. There’s not a fight over food and I can be more flexible as a mom.

With my food and nutrition hat on, I can validate that this line of thinking makes sense. Trying to force your kids to eat a specific type and amount of foods each day is a losing “battle”.  The strategy I recommend follows Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility” which says parents decide what comes into the house and when and where food is served. Kids decide how much they eat and whether they eat. As moms roll with the normal variations in kids eating, while continuing to offer a variety of nutritious foods, a kids multivitamin that is high quality and great tasting, like L’il Critters can give parents peace of mind.


For all you moms (and wannabe moms!) out there Vitafusion offers a Prenatal vitamin. They’re easy on the stomach, which can help with nausea / morning sickness. I had “morning” sickness usually from 12-8 p.m. the first 15 weeks. It’s no picnic. The prenatal gummy may be better tolerated than a pill or tablet that you need to swallow. In addition, there is no iron, which means a reduced chance of being constipated. The prenatals are an excellent source of folic acid and DHA, which are important for proper fetus development.

10 winners chosen on August 1st, so enter today!

To enter to win 2 bottles of Vitafusion Multivites or Prenatals or L’il Critters Gummy Vites just leave a comment below telling me how these vitamins will improve your wellness — it’s that easy! Winners will be chosen at random and notified by me August 1-7th.

Disclosure: I was compensated by Vitafusion for my time to administer this giveaway.

Capsaicin for Weight Loss?

By Carlene Helble-Elite Nutrition Intern

Have you ever taken a big bite of salsa only to recoil at the intense spice? The big bang happening with each scoop is due to capsaicin. Capsaicin is found in super hot peppers, like cayenne, but you may have also seen it as a topical cream or dietary supplement. The capsaicin within that spicy hot food is doing you some good by acting as an antioxidant but also strengthens lung tissues, helps relieve pain, and aid digestion among other great things.

The topical cream is actually a pain reliever and anti inflammatory, which first excites pain signals in the body (through nerves in the spinal cord and other areas of the body) and then decreases them. When the cream is applied, the ‘substance P’, which is an important transmitter of a pain message going to the brain, is inhibited.

Capsaicin as a supplement  is used as a digestion aid by amping up the amount of digestive juices in your stomach and fighting bad bacteria. Besides pain relief and digestive help, this chemical compound has research indicating capsaicin can help prevent heart disease by preventing clotting, hardening of the arteries, and lowering blood cholesterol levels.

Recent research in the International Journal of Obesity by Maastricht University in the Netherlands, is showing capsaicin can also decrease appetite, leaving the weight loss world is on the edge of its seat. During a study, 24  men and women were given about ½ a teaspoon of red pepper, close to .9 g of the red pepper which contains 0.25% capsaicin, thirty minutes before every meal. Other members of the study were given a placebo without their knowledge. After eating their meal, the subjects’ saity increased when they were given the red pepper, and less calories and fat was consumed. Those who took the placebo had minimal change in saity compared to saity after a meal when they didn’t take the placebo. The study also found that post consumption, more energy was expended by those involved in the test. Capsaicin creates these results by increasing thermogenesis (the body burning energy from food released as heat), “enhancing catecholamine secretion from the adrenal medulla”.  The increase in thermogenesis suggests a change in “substrate oxidation from carbohydrate to fat oxidation”. These amazing outcomes that say capsaicin increases fat burning and weight loss almost seem too good to be true! The results are legitimate and strong, but like all new research, multiple studies should be done to test the consistency.

That spicy kick in your food has great benefits! From anti-inflammatory properties to current results indicating fat burning, capsaicin is a powerhouse. Eat those peppers! Just be smart about it. Some red pepper flakes on 4 slices of thick crust pizza aren’t going to do much for fat burning.

Attune Probiotics: Delicious Dark Chocolate!

By Carlene Helble- Elite Nutrition Intern

Whenever I see bars touting health claims in a chocolate flavor…I become a bit skeptical. If I buy this, is it really going to taste good? Should I just eat a high sugar candy bar if it makes me happier?As I tested an Attune probiotic bar from Rebecca’s Healthy Living Summit gift bag, I was totally blown away. The Dark Chocolate Raspberry bar was amazing. So amazing, I didn’t find myself wishing I was eating a candy bar.

Here are the highlights of the Attune Bar:

  • Dark chocolate with 68% Cacao (dark chocolate has more benefits for your body than milk chocolate.)
  • 4 g fiber
  • 90 calories
  • 5 times the live active cultures in yogurt
  • Very rich: Although the serving size is one bar, I had a friend try part of it, and they couldn’t manage more than 1/4 of the bar because it was so heavy. I could see myself having half of a bar as part of a mid morning snack with a banana.

What are probiotics anyway?

According to NIH “Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are also called friendly bacteria”. Probiotics are generally used to offset any side effects of antibiotics or for general digestive well-being. You don’t need supplements to get probiotics though! Some yogurts, tempeh, and miso carry strains of ‘good bacteria’.

Read more about the other products I tried, like some delicious fruit leather you can make yourself!

Ch-ch-ch-chia Packs a Nutrient Punch!

By Carlene Helble-Elite Nutrition Intern

Do you remember chia pets (ch-ch-ch-chia!)? Where you added small seeds to terracotta forms that eventually produced a plant? The same chia seeds are now carried in stores like Whole Foods…to eat.

Chia seeds have been grown in Mexico for thousands of years. They were even brought to the capital of the Aztec empire in several tons as a tribute to the gods. The seeds have impressive nutrition, containing lots of linolenic acid, dietary fiber, and protein. They are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants (specifically polyphenols)  which help to fight free radicals, or cell damagers, in the body. To add to the resume, chia contains ten times the omega-3 as salmon or other fatty fish (but no DHA for brain health which fish has) making it super heart healthy. Additionally, this little seed packs a punch of five times the calcium of milk, for strong teeth and bones. Talk about a power nutrient!

Chia, while usually consumed raw, is not limited to such a method of intake. The American Dietetics Association recently released a study in which chia was soaked in water, creating a gel like mass. Used as a thickening agent, but also an oil replacement, the chia was added to cake batter to reduce the overall fat content of sweet treats. Since it is a tasteless and odorless food, the taste is virtually unaltered but the nutrient content was improved.( I’ll be doing a test later to see how it turns out in a home setting. Be on the look out for a step by step blog post!)

Our favorite way to have a little chia on a regular basis is with a smoothie. In this recipe, the chia seeds are added directly into the blender along with your favorite fruit for an easy on the go breakfast. As chia seeds expand with the addition of liquid, this breakfast will also keep you full way past your commute!

  • 1 C Greek yogurt (high protein and low sugar compared to other yogurts!)
  • 1 C fruit (it could be fresh or frozen: strawberries, banana, raspberries…)
  • 2 T chia seeds

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy the multitude of nutritional benefits!

Are you #RD to Chat?

By Carlene Helble

The ultimate Twitter chat is ready to launch this November and it’s something you won’t want to miss! Registered Dietitian Janet Helm (@JanetHelm on Twitter) created #RDChat to help dietitians, students, and others interested in nutrition and health connect on fresh, hot button topics.

#RDChat will occur as a moderated conversation on Twitter the first Wednesday of the month from 8-9 pm ET in an hour long session. Things like headlines from newspapers, as well as new studies, and controversial topics will be covered with the help of special guests.

New to Twitter chats? Janet provided these step by step instructions to get you ready to go!:

  • The chat happens live on Twitter and you can jump in at any time during the hour.  Simply log on to your Twitter account and you can use any of these options to help you manage the conversations.
    • One option,  go to and type in #RDchat.  Only the  tweets that include that hashtag (#) will appear.  You may have to refresh the page to get new results.
    • If you use Tweetdeck, start a column for #RDchat.  Only tweets that are tagged with #RDchat will appear in that column for you to respond to.
    • There are several other programs you can use that are specifically designed for chats on Twitter: All you have to do is log on to one of those programs.  When prompted, type in #RDchat and you’ll only see tweets that include that hashtag.  It allows you to see the fast-paced conversation happening in real time.  You use just like Twitter;  reply, comment, retweet, etc.  All of your tweets will automatically be tagged with #RDchat.

See you for a #healthy #nutritious and interesting @Twitter chat in November!

Supplement Scandals

By Carlene Helble-Elite Nutrition Intern

More supplement issues in the news? I can’t say I’m surprised. With a lack of the tight restrictions that prescription drugs have, supplements can do things like:

  • make broad health claims as long as they don’t say they are a ‘cure’
  • avoid sending clinical trials to the FDA to prove the safety of a product

This week, a supplement scandal emerged involving an ethical question. Can pharmaceutical executives have personal side ventures in which they sell compound X as a supplement? What about while the pharmaceutical company is still running clinical trials on the same compound as a prescription cancer treatment?

British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline found itself in the news this past Thursday after telling two employees to ‘distance themselves’ from their side company Healthy Lifespan Institute (HLI).  Glaxo discovered through a business and technology website that HLI was selling supplements containing the compound resveratrol, found in red wine. In 2008 Glaxo spent over $700 million to buy the biotech company that developed the resveratrol formula, with the hope that it would be used in the future as a prescription drug.  They are now testing it for use as cancer and type 2 diabetes treatments ( a potential financial jackpot for the company).

Later news updates divulged that the two employees resigned from HLI and that the side venture no longer sells the supplement after censure demands from Glaxo. But that wasn’t what caught my attention. A scary piece of information also emerged; Glaxo clinical trials with the resveratrol resulted in kidney failure in some patients. While it seems that the supplement was not ‘identical to the drug compound’ and in a less concentrated form, it’s worrisome to think that the same compound appears in an unregulated supplement!

Fiber from the Farm: Natural Sources Give Extra Health Benefits

A new phase of food marketing has been the fiber health halo. Added to cereals, drinks, and packaged snack bars, companies promote these products as a prime way to get your daily fiber intake. Have you ever seen an ad for fruits, vegetables, or beans promoting their fiber content? Me neither, but these whole foods contain natural sources of fiber plus important vitamins and minerals: an added bonus! Try to use these nutrient dense sources to get your fiber fill. Not only will they keep you full for a longer period of time when eating, but they also lower your risk of heart disease and obestity…something fiber additives aren’t yet proven to do. Here are some of the fiber counts in these healthier foods:

  • Pear: 5 g fiber
  • Medium apple: 4 g
  • (1/2 C ) lentils: 7 g
  • 1 C Raspberreies: 8 g
  • 23 Almonds: 3.5 g
  • Whole wheat bread: 1.5 g
  • 1 C Broccoli: 5.1 g

Soluble fiber, like that from the foods listed above,  is the kind of fiber that dissolves within your digestive tract. It will slow down how quickly the body absorbs sugar and fat. In turn, this can help lower insulin levels, cholesterol, an blood sugar, a benefit that fiber supplements with insoluble fiber can’t match.

To make a great fiber filled dish, experiment with international dishes like Indian dahl which uses lots of veggies and lentils. As a side dish, have a fruit platter or a dish of almonds. Take advantage of the plethora of summer produce: summer squash, tomatoes, berries, and corn and ask your friends for their favorite recipes. For easy snacking, chop veggies and keep them in the fridge for easy access.

By getting your daily fiber from whole foods instead of supplements, you will be more satisfied from a delicious meal and you’ll get the vitamins and minerals that a fiber bar just won’t give you.

Thinking of Acai for Weight Loss? Think Again.

So when acai was making the rounds as a super fruit, I needed to find out more. As it turns out, yep, it’s a berry! It is different from some of the other wonderful berries like raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries because it does not have natural sugars and it is higher in omega-9 fat (which unlike omega-3, it is not essential). As a result, pure acai berry (if you are in Brazil) or the pulp (if you’re at a store that sells it) tastes like dirt. In order to use it, you need to add sugar. So, sure, try the berry if you want, but mix it with other fruits that naturally contain sugar. If your acai is sweet, read the label… I bet there is added sugar.

What I don’t like about acai is that because of its excessive, over-rated hype, marketers have tried to pull the wool over your eyes and sell the acai mixed in to a supplement as a weight loss aid! Beware. If you have ever lost weight in your life, you know that it is not any ONE food or any ONE supplement that will help you. Since supplements aren’t regulated you really want to make sure you trust the company is making a pure product.

Bottom line: nobody is going to change for you. If you want to change, believe in yourself! You have the power to do this without an expensive supplement. Use this website, get support, and commit.

Here’s a segment I did on Fox 5 in Washington, D.C. on acai. Watch it. You’ll get my take and at least two other recipes. Also, find out what food is very high in antioxidants that if you are dieting you’re probably cutting out… but maybe you shouldn’t!

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