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.

The Real “Value Meal” Sitting Down to Eat With Family

Fox News Debate: Fast Food Delivery Vs. The Family Meal

Fast food is so pervasive in our society. Many times, it’s more accessible than a grocery store with fresh produce. Family mealtimes are becoming a thing of the past, due to time-poor duel working parents, and kids involved with a myriad of extracurricular activities.

Many of you may have heard recently that Burger King is now going to be experimenting with a delivery service in the DC metro area. For an extra $2 you can get your meal delivered to your home (just like a pizza). This is not what the D.C. area or our Nation needs. Now we don’t even have to get in our cars to pick it up? Fast food should be LESS accessible in this country, not more. We need to get back to family mealtime, cook with our kids, and care more about the benefits this provides – no matter how busy we are.

Just this week I was asked to be on Fox with Neil Cavuto to debate the BK delivery news.

Click image below to watch video (then come back and read the post)

As I mentioned in the clip, I am not opposed to ordering delivery as a backup. I don’t even want to take away hamburgers! I just feel that for you and your family’s health and wellness, it’s just as fast to make a home-cooked meal, and the result is higher quality food, enjoyed with the people you love. All you need to do is a little planning and make some time in your schedule. The benefits to your health and well-being outweigh the cost of your time and there is research to prove it.

Families Who Eat Together, Stay Healthy Together

Research shows that children and adolescents who share family meals 3 or more times per week are more likely to be in a normal weight range and have healthier eating patterns than those who share fewer than 3 family meals together. In addition, they are less likely to engage in disordered eating (skipping meals, compulsive overeating, restricting etc.). They are also less likely to have problems with substance abuse. Family mealtime creates stronger family bonds, and encourages positive social interactions.

What more could you ask for? When you are the chef, you eat healthier and you live healthier. Get help from the kids. Get help from slow cookers. Have some repeat meals. It’s OK.

A dietitian colleague of mine had some great insight:

“The value of family meals goes beyond the food–it includes the connection you make with your family and the importance of being together, sharing stories of the day, and being a family. You don’t need a fancy meal; there are so many meals that can be pulled together in less than 15 to 20 minutes and get everyone involved. Wrap a tortilla, pack a pita pocket, stuff a baked potato, create a stir-fry, set up a salad bar–so many ideas for busy families.”

Sandy Nissenberg, MS, RD author of Quick Meals for Healthy Kids and Busy Parents

Do Salads Deserve a Health Halo?

I’ve been catching some flack for my comment regarding Burger King’s salads not being very healthy. Yes the salads contain vegetables (iceberg) and protein (seasoned chicken, breaded or grilled). But they have nearly a half days salt without the dressing and the iceberg doesn’t compare to the nutrition in kale, spinach, arugula, or romaine!

I stand by my comment, that just because it’s called a salad, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. I believe in choosing foods you love so if there is a fast food place with a salad you enjoy then by all means go for it. I just happen to think you can do a better job on your own.

If you are really in a time crunch and can get grocery delivery, do it. Add a leafy green or two, any other veggies you like, and your choice of lean protein, any bean, and you have a hearty, nutritious salad.

I’m not the only one who feels this way either. I’ve asked some dietitians in private practice to weigh in on their thoughts and here is what they said.

Salads can be a more healthful choice but only if you make adjustments to it eg use less (1/4 packet, for example instead of a whole packet) and get grilled instead of fried chicken. Many fully dressed fast food salads can pack in as many if not more calories than a burger and fries, but if you pay attention to portions of add ons like dressing, cheese, croutons and opt for grilled instead of fried chicken, it can fit into an otherwise healthful, balancd diet.

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN 7

@elisazied, creator of The ZIED GUIDE blog, author Nutrition At Your Fingertips

“I do think that there is a “halo effect” around salads, I mean, don’t people think of a grilled chicken salad at the quintessential guiltless lunch? But we all need to be diligent and check the nutritional information on what we are eating. If you are aware of the stats on that salad and choose it anyway, then it’s your choice. But I think most people would be shocked to see that theTendergrill salad contains more calories, fat and sodium than a double cheeseburger. We all need to educate ourselves and choose wisely!”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RD and Kathy Siegel, RD, CDN

Co-founders, NutritionBabes LLC

“Salads can be a good choice at fast food restaurants because at many places, the salad is where you’re most likely to find whole foods such as nuts, dried fruit, and various vegetables. The problem comes in when they add bacon, fried breaded chicken, croutons or fried noodles, and creamy dressings.”

Alyssa Chicci RD, CDE, CLT Nutrition Resolution, LLC

15-Minute Vitality Salad

Just in case you are stumped for at-home salad ideas, here is my favorite tabouli from Field to Plate and literally takes 15 minutes to throw together:

  • Whole wheat cous cous (cooks in 5 minutes!),
  • Spinach,
  • Tomatoes,
  • Cucumber,
  • Green onions,
  • Chick peas,
  • Mint,
  • Parsley,
  • Salmon or any lean protein
  • Lemon juice,
  • Olive, oil, and tahini

Combine veggies, beans and herbs then add dressing. Top with your lean protein choice, and enjoy!