Walk down any Main Street and you?ll likely see that two out of every three adult Americans
are overweight, with one of the two clinically obese. That is a fact of life today. It is
also a fact that there are numerous products, programs and services advertised as quick ways
to help you lose weight.
Regina Schumann-Wilshire is Chief Operating Officer for The Carbohydrate
Awareness Council, a non-profit, member organization based in Falls Church, Virginia. The CAC was established to support
the scientific basis of controlled-carb nutrition through education and research. The organization's guiding principles
are scientific-evidence, honesty and service. For more information about the CAC,
please visit their website at http://www.carbaware.org
These advertisements are everywhere ? on the television and radio,
the internet, in magazines, and even on flyers plastered to your windshield at the market
while you shop. While many of these claims are legitimate, some claims are outright fraud.
Did you know that frauds for weight loss are the most common of all health care frauds? It?s
a serious problem in the United States. Weight loss fraud not only puts your health at risk,
but it also increases health care costs and may discourage someone from seeking appropriate
medical treatment. More damaging though is the psychological toll weight loss fraud has on
the consumer?s self-esteem by adding to a person?s feelings of shame and sense of failure.
As the diet industry gears up for the post-holiday weight-loss resolutions many will make,
consumers need to know how not to fall victim to fraudulent claims. Legitimate weight loss
programs do not make outrageous claims. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself
against weight loss fraud.
When making a decision about a weight-loss program or product, ask questions and be sure you
receive satisfactory answers before spending any money. Questions consumers should ask
In addition, consumers should heed the time honored advice of ?Buyer Beware? and
educate themselves to be smart and take action when they find a product or service is fraudulent.
- What are the qualifications of the personnel running the weight-loss program?
- What are the risks associated with the program or product(s)?
- What is the cost of the program or product(s)?
- What are the long-term success rates of the program?
Beware of products or services that:
If you are a victim of a fraudulent weight loss product or service, do not feel ashamed. Think
of other consumers like you who may become victims, and take action.
- Promise unrealistic weight loss
- Claim you can eat anything you want without having to exercise
- Claim everyone can lose on the program
- Use the terms "miraculous", "breakthrough", "doctor-tested?
- Rely heavily on celebrity testimonials
- Use small print claiming "Results not typical. Your results may vary"
- Make advertising claims that are not on the product label
- Fail to mention health risks or recommend a medical examination
- Declare that medical science has suppressed this information or product
- Are distributed only via mail order advertisements, television or the Internet
- Ask for a large up-front payment or stress a money-back guarantee
Consumer Protection Agencies
- If you see an unrealistic claim in a newspaper or magazine, write to the editor and ask if
they stand behind those products.
- Write to your Governor, State Legislators, and Members of the House of Representatives and
U.S. Senate demanding more funding for law enforcement activities directed at weight loss
- Notify a consumer protection agency about the problem.
If you have a complaint about a weight loss product or service, contact one of the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC oversees the advertising and marketing of foods, non-prescription drugs, cosmetics,
health care services and medical devices exchanged between states.
If you have a complaint, file a Consumer Complaint Form at the FTC's website: www.ftc.gov. Or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA oversees the content and labeling of foods, drugs, medical devices and cosmetics.
If you find a website you think is illegally selling drugs, medical devices, foods, dietary
supplements or cosmetics on the Internet, complete a form at the FDA's website: www.fda.gov at the link — Reporting Unlawful Sales of
Medical Products on the Internet.
If you have experienced an illness or injury with a dietary supplement marketed as a weight loss
product, or have a general complaint or concern about food products, take the following steps:
Contact MedWatch, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting
The FDA wants to know when a product causes a problem — even if you are unsure which product caused
the problem, and even if you do not visit a doctor or clinic. When you report your adverse event
or concern, be sure to have the following information handy: the name, address and telephone
number of the person who became ill; the name, address and doctor or hospital who treated the
person ill; the problem and the name of the product and store where the product was purchased.
In addition, you should also report the problem to the manufacturer and/or distributor listed
on the product label and the store where the product was purchased.
U.S. Postal Service (USPS)
Postal inspectors investigate crimes, such as fraudulent marketing promotions, that use the U.S.
Mail. A crime is considered mail fraud if it originates in the mail, by telephone or on the
Internet and is carried out in the U.S. Mail. The United States Postal Inspection Service
(USPIS) handles complaints of fraud. If you think you are a victim of weight loss fraud by
mail, submit a Mail Fraud Complaint Form to the USPIS online at www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/MailFraudComplaint.htm or file a complaint
at your local post office.
Each state has an Attorney General that serves as a representative of the public interest in
addition to providing legal protection to the state's government agencies and legislatures.
You can find your state Attorney General?s office information online at www.naag.org/ag/full_ag_table.php.
Better Business Bureau (BBB)
The BBB is a self-regulated organization supported by businesses to provide reports to consumers
about companies. The BBB works with law enforcement agencies to stop fraud. You can check on a
company, find tips on preventing fraud and file a complaint at the BBB?s website: www.bbb.org.
Copyright © November 2004 Regina Schumann-Wilshire and Low Carb Luxury