Weight Loss Products and Programs

Quick Facts...

  • Many diet products and programs offer a quick, short-term fix, but there is no "magic bullet" for weight loss.

  • When investigating weight loss products or programs, beware of high costs, pressure to buy special foods or pills, and fraudulent claims.


Approximately 50 million Americans go on a diet each year — yet only 5 percent keep the weight they lose off. Many trying to lose weight continually struggle to find an effective weight loss method. Unfortunately, there is no “magic-bullet”. The only proven way to lose weight and keep it off is by making permanent lifestyle changes. You must eat healthier, watch portion sizes and be active.

Even if you choose to use an over-the-counter weight loss product or participate in a weight loss program, the bottom line is that you still must eat fewer calories than you burn to lose weight. When selecting a weight loss product or program, gather as much information as possible. Beware of high costs, pressure to buy special foods or pills, and fraudulent claims.

Examples of Ineffective Diet Products

  • Diet patches. Removed from the market by FDA in the early 1990s because they were ineffective as a diet aid.
  • Magnet diet pills. Purportedly flush fat out of the body.
  • Certain bulk fillers (such as guar gum) may cause internal obstruction.
  • Electrical muscle stimulators. FDA may remove from market if promoted for weight loss.
  • Appetite suppressing eyeglasses. Claim colored lenses project image on retina and decrease appetite.
  • Magic weight-loss earrings. Supposedly control hunger by stimulating acupuncture points.

Weight Loss Products

Diet drink powdered formulas usually are mixed with a glass of milk and are substituted for one or more meals. Many users of these shakes report feeling constantly hungry and regain the lost weight when they give up the shakes. By relying on shakes, dieters follow artificial dieting methods and avoid learning how to work food into their lives.

Many prescription diet medicines have side effects and may not work for long-term weight loss. Over-the-counter pills containing the appetite suppressant PPA (phenylpropanolamine hydrochloride) can raise blood pressure. Over-the-counter pills containing ephedra may cause serious side effects, including dizziness, increased blood pressure or heart rate, chest pain, heart attack, stroke, seizure and even death. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking action to limit and/or ban the use of PPA and ephedra in over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements.

Herbalife Nutritional Program

  • Characteristics: Replaces 2 meals a day with Herbalife "shakes" and tablets.
  • Strengths: One meal per day of regular food advocated. Shakes generally include nonfat dry milk.
  • Weaknesses: Heavy reliance on Herbalife powders and tablets. Suggested rate of weight loss is too high (2 1/2 to 7 1/2 pounds/week).
  • Comments: Weight loss is never "fun and easy" as claimed. Reliance on a specific product does not teach healthy, lifelong eating habits.

Mega-Thin/100 Formula

  • Characteristics: Drink Mega-Thin formula. Eat according to specified diet. Formula contains "antifat weapon."
  • Weaknesses: Diet de-emphasized. Behavior modification lacking. Emphasis on speed of weight loss.
  • Comments: Formula probably contains an appetite suppressant.

Ultra Slim Fast

  • Characteristics: Weight loss program recommends two shakes/day (powder and milk), a snack and a complete dinner of 500 to 650 calories.
  • Strengths: Plan encourages regular exercise.
  • Weaknesses: Promotes use of Ultra Slim Fast Frozen Entrees and snack bars. Does not teach good eating habits.
  • Comments: Difficult to maintain weight loss once shakes are discontinued.

Nestlé’s Sweet Success

  • Characteristics: Weight loss program recommends three shakes/ day (powder and skim milk), and a complete dinner of 500 to 650 calories.
  • Strengths: Low-fat, nutrient rich foods are encouraged for dinner.
  • Weaknesses: Does not promote healthy eating habits.
  • Comments: Difficult to maintain weight loss once shakes are discontinued.

Diet Pills Containing PPA

  • Characteristics: Take capsule once or twice a day. Follow diet plan that comes with capsules. Pills suppress appetite, but weight loss occurs from following diet plan. Most brands have a diet plan enclosed. Many of these are good diets.
  • Weaknesses: Pills produce side effects that have not been adequately studied.
  • Comments: Weight loss comes from following the diet, not from taking the pills.

Diet Pills Containing Ephedra

  • Characteristics: Claims to promote weight loss. Take tablets daily. Recommended number of tablets varies depending on the product manufacturer.
  • Weaknesses: Pills can produce potentially life-threatening side effects. Side effects have not been adequately studied.
  • Comments: Ephedra is a central nervous system stimulant that suppresses appetite. Often combined with caffeine, which can increase risk for adverse side effects. Not proven safe or effective for weight loss.

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