Dreams of losing weight

Health: A close look at what's behind those nationally advertised claims of shedding pounds while sleeping.

Health & Fitness

January 13, 2002|By Jane E. Allen | Jane E. Allen,Special to the Sun

What a simple premise -- lose weight effortlessly while you sleep.

From Los Angeles to New York, a blitz of radio advertising promotes the wonders of Body Solutions Evening Weight Loss Formula. Take a tablespoon, follow it with a glass of water, and, bit by bit, you'll wake up smaller. Radio personalities, traffic reporters and sportscasters offer seemingly constant testimonials on how Body Solutions helped them shed 10 or even 25 pounds, eating the pizza and ice cream they wanted, without having to diet or exercise. National commentator Charles Osgood promotes the product on the CBS radio network.

The ads are tempting, of course. The "good dieter" inside us wants to lose weight, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson even told us recently to show our patriotism by dropping 10 pounds. But our "bad dieter" has trouble resisting office goodies and desserts.

So what exactly is Body Solutions, what's in it -- and is it possible it could work?

Its Web site, www. bodysolutions.com, describes Body Solutions as a gradual weight-loss system, one that's "designed to work just like the doctor ordered, nice and slow." Although radio listeners usually hear only about Phase 1, it's a three-phase program, with each phase adding more supplements, instructions on how to change behavior, and devices to track eating, activity and supplement use.

Made and sold by Mark Nutritionals in San Antonio, the diet plan has been on the market for four years and been used by "hundreds of thousands" of people, according to Ron Aaron, the company's vice president of operations.

Phase 1 includes the nighttime formula, a liquid that blends collagen (a protein found in human and animal tissue), aloe vera (a plant that can have a laxative effect), amino acids, trace minerals and conjugated linoleic acid (a fatty acid needed for cell functioning). The formula is taken with a glass of water at bedtime -- after three hours of refraining from eating.

Three-month supply

Dieters buying Body Solutions Phase 1 package, a 90-day supply currently selling for $177.96, also get a device that helps determine how many calories they need and how many they're burning; a booklet to monitor their eating, activity and supplement use; a food and exercise diary; and a calorie-free flavored spray, with some vitamins and amino acids, to keep from ravaging the refrigerator before sleep.

Phase 2 includes all of Phase 1 and adds the Daytime Weight Loss Formula, a powder containing egg white and whey protein, calcium and vitamins that's mixed with water, juice or milk and taken as a shake for breakfast or as a substitute for high-calorie snacks.

Phase 3, promoted as possibly "the missing link in your fitness program," contains all of Phases 1 and 2, plus a vitamin and mineral supplement tablet and the Atomic Energy supplement, a capsule that promises to "boost your mental alertness and physical activity while speeding up your metabolism and gently reducing your hunger." Ingredients include caffeine, ginkgo biloba (an herb believed to enhance memory) and ephedra (a controversial herbal stimulant that speeds up the heartbeat and sometimes elevates blood pressure).

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates foods, drugs and medical devices, is determining whether to more tightly regulate ephedra and other related ephedrine products.

Although Phase 1 is the most widely used, Phases 2 and 3 are available at $48 each for a two-week supply.

The FDA has not reviewed Body Solutions product claims, as the company notes on its Web site, because there is no regulation that says it must. Prescription drug makers must demonstrate that their products are safe and effective, but supplement makers do not face similar requirements.

The Health and Medical Research Foundation in San Antonio, a nutritional and supplement testing firm, conducted clinical trials of the products. It has referred questions about Body Solutions to the director of the studies.

These studies found that people who follow the Body Solutions Phase 1 program retained lean muscle mass and bone density and reduced body fat, said foundation director Gilbert R. Kaats. He said it was impossible to attribute their weight loss to either the supplements or the behavior changes because they were studied together.

'Recipe for a fad diet' Kelly Brownell, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders in New Haven, Conn., said Body Solutions has "the perfect recipe for a fad diet."

Most diets work, at least initially, he said, because people are cutting their calories. "People very rarely give themselves credit for losing weight; they credit the product, even when credit isn't due."

As for testimonials that pounds were dropped while sleeping, he said, everyone loses weight while sleeping. "The fact is, your body is burning calories because you're breathing, your heart is beating, plus you're not eating."

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