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Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Apr

10 Outrageous Diet Scams

Here at Mark’s Daily Apple we know that the key to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and plenty of physical activity. Tough? Sure. Effective? Absolutely.

But what if someone told you that you could ditch the exercise and the healthy eating and still fit in your favorite jeans? You know by now that it’s not going to work, but for millions of Americans it sounds like a solution worth signing up for!

And so, with no further adieu, the top 10 diet scams:

Fat and Carb Blocking Pills:

Feel like splurging on a plate of Fettuccini Alfredo? All you have to do is pop a pill and you can enjoy it completely guilt free! Or at least that’s what the makers behind fat and carbohydrate blocking pills would love for you to believe. The latest on the market is the heavily promoted Alli, which promises to block fat absorption by giving you stomach cramps, severe gas, chronic diarrhea, and an oily anal discharge (trust us – it’s even in the marketing material, where they also recommend that you wear dark clothes or bring a change of outfits until your body “adjusts” to the chemicals in the pill). Another bad side effect? None of these fat or carbohydrate blocking pills have ever actually been proven to aid in substantial weight loss.


It started out sounding like a pretty decent diet…almost sensible even. Based on the popular Atkins diet, this one advocated reducing carbohydrate intake, but then also reducing fat, calories, and fiber. So what are you left with? Uhh…well, basically a diet that is dangerously low in calories, fatty acids and nutrients – think a meal plan topping out at about 600 calories – which, by today’s standards, is very much considered to be borderline starvation. Adding a further aura of shadiness to the concept of the whole diet, the website that included information on the diet was run by a woman who allegedly refused to identify herself, had no credentials as a health professional or nutritionist, and who encouraged people who exhibited signs of disordered eating to stick with the diet and continue restricting foods. The icing on the no-fat, low-cal, carb-free cake? The “success” stories posted on the website were illustrated with photos of Russian mail-order brides!


Need a weight loss drug? How about 3? Meet stackers, which generally include some combination of the ECA Formula (ephedra, caffeine and aspirin) to boost metabolism and help aid in weight loss. When they first hit the market, the combination was thought to increase circulating norepinephrine (a factor that was prolonged thanks to the aspirin), increase thermogenesis, and boost metabolism (you can thank the caffeine for that) to help boost weight loss. Unfortunately, however, stackers frequently caused headaches, dizzy spells, jitters, and heart palpitations – and therefore have fallen out of favor with dieters the world over.

Herbal Weight Loss Teas:

They claim that drinking a few teas a day will magically lose weight, and maybe it will…temporarily at least. You see, the thing about tea is that it contains caffeine, one of natures most powerful diuretics, so while the numbers on the scale might go down, they’ll creep back up the moment you have a big glass of water. The only time when they can help with weight loss? If you (well, no, not you…but some people) use the tea as a substitute for high calorie, sugar-laden beverages.

Diet Patches:

Tobacco patches? Relatively effective. Diet patches? Not so much. What you’re typically getting in these patches is the same thing you would get in a pill, only there really is no evidence that these chemicals can penetrate the skin. But that patch sure does look snazzy!

Magnetic Jewelry and other Body Adornments:

Ahh… weight loss jewelry. Whether its leveraging magnets to re-channel your chi or pumping your body full of mineral elements designed to maximize weight loss, the bottom line is that the only type of metal accessory that can help spur weight loss is having your mouth wired shut… which is generally effective…at least until you get a food processor.

Body Wraps and Sauna Suits:

Some people will do anything to maximize their workout…even dressing in possibly the ugliest sweat suit in the world. However, the reality is the only thing that is being maximized is their fluid loss. The same goes for lying in a treatment room in a fancy spa – you might feel slimmer for a few hours, but the second you put a little water back into your body, you’ll be right back at square one.

Super Slippers and Insoles:

Whether it’s the potential of reflexology, acupressure or just a play on gravity, there are a number of orthotics on the market that claim they can aid weight loss. The downside? They will not help you lose weight. Need a silver lining? Maybe they’ll save you from a blister or two!

Apple Cider Vinegar:

Is there much of a difference between apple cider vinegar and the regular vinegar you put on your salads? Well, if the manufacturers are to be believed, the apple-based vinegar can help banish your body of toxins, boost your metabolism and significantly reduce your diet. The reality? Vinegar is a lovely condiment, but it’s probably not worth counting on it to aid in your weight loss.


Those with a chem or biology background would probably instantly identify pyruvate as an intermediary compound in the metabolism of glucose, so it seems only normal – sensible even – to think that pyruvate might help in weight loss. Unfortunately, however, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that supplementing your diet with pyruvate will help spur weight loss.

Turtblu, Pete Ashton, pireus+, s.o.f.t., cambiodefractal, josefuteimu, felishumanus, e-magic Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

More Tuesday 10 Posts

10 Great Alli Leaks, Ooops, Links

Men’s Health: Alli – A Jagged Little Pill

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Regarding Super Slippers and Insoles, I just received an email from Victoria’s Secret this morning for their new product offered online, the “FitFlop.” It’s a flip flop that claims you get a workout while you walk… I don’t know if it promises weight loss or not; either way it’s a little ridiculous.

    The “FitFlop” can be found here.

    Kara wrote on April 8th, 2008
  2. Mark, if your nutrition and fitness are dialed in, supplementing with green tea can without a doubt boost metabolism and aid in fat loss.

    Body builders and figure competitors the world over don’t drink it because it doesn’t work.

    Same for ECA stacks. I wouldn’t ever use an ECA but to suggest they don’t work is silly.

    The problem most folks have is they think these tools alone are going to help them drop fat.

    Your nutrition and fitness have to be dialed in and then these things can help.

    To the rest of your post I say, right on. That other stuff is pure snake oil.

    Barry wrote on April 8th, 2008
  3. May I suggest you add the Magic Chicken Diet to your list? It’s as nutritionally bankrupt as Kimkins, just not marketed as well. Check out Mariasol’s blog for a sample menu.

    Cheers and thanks for this list. It’s important to keep reminding people of all the riduculous and sometimes dangerous advice out there about weightloss.

    Mayberryfan wrote on April 8th, 2008
  4. Same for ECA stacks. I wouldn’t ever use an ECA but to suggest they don’t work is silly.

    Barry: You might want to re-read the post. It says nothing about not working–only that the side effects have caused them to fall out of favor.

    Dave C. wrote on April 8th, 2008
  5. Mark,

    Check this study done on the effects of acetic acid and glycogen repletion:

    Weight loss? I doubt it. Worthwhile PWO supplement? In my opinion, a solid yes.

    Mike M wrote on April 8th, 2008
  6. Uh oh…you are attacking my precious Apple Cider Vinegar! 😉

    I believe there is a huge difference between ACV that has the “mother” and is raw, unfiltered and not heat processed….vs the standard on the shelf type. I’ve personally seen too many people have a positive health benefits from taking ACV to discount it (from lessening arthritic join pain, treating acid reflux, chronic fatigue). As for it being a weight loss supplement, anytime you clean up the gut and get digestion working better…whole body health will increase and yes that can include fat burning. Plus I don’t know any bad side effects unless you drink it straight and burn your esophagus (as you should only take 2-3 teaspoons with 12+oz of water) As for promoting it only to burn fat? Then yeah that is a bogus claim by itself….but for a health supplement? I can’t recommend it enough…heck even if it’s just a placebo effect, at $4 a bottle that lasts a month or two…I’ll spend that money to feel better.

    Mike OD - IF Life wrote on April 8th, 2008
    • How does ACV Clean up the gut and get digestion working better?

      Gloria O, wrote on August 19th, 2010
      • The “mother” spoken of is the original bacterial culture. It’s essentially a probiotic, but I’m unsure of how much bacteria would make it to the colon. It might make a difference for people who just need a little push in the right direction in terms of gut flora.

        I prefer lactofermented sauerkraut, pickles, and their juices, myself.

        Ginger wrote on November 28th, 2010
  7. The point we are making is that true weight loss success (actually, fat loss success) is to be found in the choices of your foods, quantities and timing – not in faddish regimens or “miracle pills.” Barry, I agree that one of the most effective weight-loss supplements ever was ephedra. We didn’t suggest it didn’t work. The problem was and is that it is a powerful central nervbous system stimulant. It may alter metabolism acutely for a few days or weeks during which time you burn a little extra fat, but the consequences to the central nervous system and adrenals aren’t worth it in my estimation. Especially when you can get equal or better results cutting carbs and reapportioning meals appropriately. It’s the “I don’t have to work anymore” advertising that makes it a scam. Bobybuilders use(d) it only before competitions when they need(ed) a quick cut. They usually wouldn’t get a benefit during regular training (unless again they are looking for the CNS effect to amp up the workout). Green tea is nothing more or less than a PG-rated version of ephedra, since it has a little caffeine.

    Mike OD, I know people who use ACV as an anti-microbial and I have no issue with that. It’s just that it doesn’t have any real weight-loss or fat-loss properties as we reference here. In fact, I do know people who also use ACV as a digestive aid to increase stomach acidity during a meal – to actually reduce the likelihood of GERD or heartburn.

    Mark Sisson wrote on April 8th, 2008
  8. “Mike OD, I know people who use ACV as an anti-microbial and I have no issue with that. It’s just that it doesn’t have any real weight-loss or fat-loss properties as we reference here.”

    Agreed…as I think I said too that any weight loss claims alone are bogus to ACV. I just need to make sure my stock in Bragg doesn’t go down. 😉 Hell…could probably sell it as a good silverware polisher too!

    Mike OD - IF Life wrote on April 8th, 2008
  9. Mark –

    Thanks for admitting that ephedrine works. Although I think some people will walk away with unfair conclusions about EC stacks because you happen to group them in an article that mentions Alli in the same breath (so unfair).

    Ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin: safety and efficacy for treatment of human obesity.

    Safety and efficacy of long-term treatment with ephedrine, caffeine and an ephedrine/caffeine mixture.

    Jim Jones wrote on April 8th, 2008
  10. I agree raw vinegar, raw sauerkraut and other acidic fermented foods are great digestive aids. But they don’t make up for a poor diet.

    Sasquatch wrote on April 8th, 2008
  11. Diet scams are insidious, for misleading people and for creating yet another distraction from accurate information on eating well and being healthy.

    Of course there are some fast ways to lose weight: if you cut your leg off, for instance, you’ll lose a few pounds in a hurry. Especially if you wear heavy shoes.

    I’m amazed some of these are real. Weight-loss insoles? Hilarious.

    Food Is Love

    Huckleberry wrote on April 8th, 2008
  12. About Body Wraps- Not too far from where i live about 40 miles away there is someone who offers slender wraps. One woman had to receive medical attention (severe burn and 5 inch scare) because her wrap came loose on her upper thigh and they did not rewrap her, she tried to fix it herself and couldn’t. She says she didn’t lose inches,only her money,and warns it’s dangerous. She suggests for people to stay away from it. Personally,I ALWAYS say,( a quick fix is no fix) my suggestion is do it the right way, eat healthy, take top of the line supplements, exercise, get enough rest. That’s just a healthy lifestyle, And avoid stress!

    Donna wrote on April 9th, 2008
  13. Hi Mark,

    Great post! I’ve tried a few of these scams and can attest they are not worth your time, money, or risking your health over.

    The body wrap one really sucked me in. I spent way too much money on one session. I worked out on an elliptical trainer while wrapped up like a mummy. I froze my butt off during th process, despite them “warming me up” with fresh solution. Did I lose inches? Well, according to the measurements I did. But as you said, it’s all water. The next few days brought it all back, even though I was sticking to my eating plan.

    Amy Dungan wrote on June 9th, 2008
  14. Diet fads are only a temporary fix. The weight always comes back usually double. Natural and healthy alternatives are the most sensible way to go.

    Glenda wrote on August 4th, 2008
  15. I started taking xanoslim oct.02,2008 today is oct.04 i have lost only 1 pound.

    V.J.Washington wrote on October 4th, 2008
  16. Are you sure of the spelling? I Googles both Xanoslim and Xantoslim and came up with nothing. Ironically, if you search “English only” terms, the only result is this query here on MDA. Whatever it is, I would run away from it. If they don’t have a website, they clearly don’t want the Feds to know about them.

    Mark Sisson wrote on October 9th, 2008
  17. I’ve done some online research, also. Neither Dr. Michel De Chavigny, nor his friend T Ming of the University of Shanghai, are found. In fact, there are approximately 25 universities in Shanghai, but none of them are called that. The American address in CA is for a Mail Depot, and a close neighbor (in Suite E) is Baskin Robbins. Professor T. Ming supposedly received the Golden Caduceus at the most recent International Diet and Weight Loss Symposium in Berlin. I googled both the award and the symposium, and couldn’t verify either.

    Terry wrote on November 21st, 2008
  18. Thank you very much. If I decide to try it, I will let you know my results.

    Laurie wrote on November 30th, 2008
  19. Please, no more Xantoslim posts here. It is one of the worst diet scams out there.

    Mark Sisson wrote on December 15th, 2008
  20. I tried diet patches too, but they didn’t work at all. Not worth a dime in my opinion.

    Gerd wrote on December 19th, 2008
  21. Xantoslim is a hoax. I’d return it immediately.

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 31st, 2009
    • I started xanoslim this past Monday and have lost 3 1/2 pounds – I’ll keep trying it for a while

      Fran Offer wrote on September 24th, 2010
      • Please let me know also ,if you have any contact info for Xantoslim! Unfortunately I cant find any of my original paperwork.
        Thank you for your help.

        mj andrews wrote on September 27th, 2010
    • Do you have a phone number in your paperwork for them.I sent mine back and its been delivered and I want my refund and forgot to record their number down.Please email me at your earliest convenience.
      Thanks Yvonne

      yvonne wrote on September 24th, 2010
      • i just got their stuff in the mail. the hotline # is 18886723723

        felicia wrote on July 19th, 2012
  22. Youre right on 9 out of 10. ECA stack works. That not a disputable fact. The fact that there are side effects is NOT evidence that stackers don’t work.

    ANd despite claims, quite safe if used with a bit of brains.

    nick wrote on June 10th, 2009
  23. I see thats been addressed. Sorry, I commented right after reading the OP.

    Diet and exercise alone is great at reducing fat. Add ECA and its downright unreal. Just be judicious.

    nick wrote on June 10th, 2009
  24. Hi! I just wanted to say that I have used the “sauna wrap diet” and it worked for me. I am a proffesional dancer and needed to loose 15 pounds before a large competitions after a recent weight gain. I used this diet and in a month I lost this weight. This was in June- I have still kept the weight off and I am 117 lbs.

    Jen wrote on October 1st, 2009
  25. Hi! I guess I might be making a big mistake by using the Xantoslim. My mom wanted me to check it out, no information that I can find but I have some of the ingredients on the bottle which seem to be harmless. It has Sechuang Pepper 200 mg./Maltodextrin/Gelatin/Magnesium Stearate/Silcon Dioxide/ and Xanthoxyline pure extract which when I tried to look it up, came up with a cell purifier in facial cleaner. I have been taking this for about a week and a half and have lost 13 lbs. I realize you didn’t want any more posts but the information might be helpful. My mom still has the package on it and I am going to try and get it from her. It does make me a little nervous thinkingabout this but I havenot seen any sise effects as of yet. Thankyou for your time!!! Sincerely, PJ.

    Pamela wrote on April 24th, 2010
  26. Is Xantoslim weight loss another scam..who is Dr. Michael DeChavigny and Dr. Tom Ming? Sounds fishy.

    Betty wrote on May 12th, 2010
    • I just got the Xanthoxyline sales pitch in today’s mail. Says it “jump starts the natural Lipo-Combustion mechanism, is scientifically proven, etc.” Says 19 lbs. weight loss/week and that you’ll keep it off! And, yes, WHO is Dr. Michael DeChavigny and IS there truly a “Weight Loss Institute,” or just a Suite to process money from us desperate obese fools? Has this been going on for years? I think I’m going to file this in “File 13” with the other advertising JUNK!!!!!

      Gloria O, wrote on August 19th, 2010
  27. My Mom ordered this for me and I really got my hopes up and I’ve been checking the post office for the past couple of weeks. Today I had a gut feeling that it was too good to be true, so I went to and low and behold, there was nothing out there about the Dr. or the Xanto Slim Treatment. If it should come and I decide to try it I’ll let you know.
    Sandi in Oki

    Sandi in Oki wrote on September 12th, 2010
    • hola sandi

      probaste el xantoslim? te fue bien bajaste peso? me gustaria mucho que me conntaras soy de españa y no he encontrado nada de informacion de este medicamento y me da miedo las posibles reaciones , escribeme


      lucia wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  28. AND I quote: “Hi! I guess I might be making a big mistake by using the Xantoslim. My mom wanted me to check it out, no information that I can find but I have some of the ingredients on the bottle which seem to be harmless. It has Sechuang Pepper 200 mg./Maltodextrin/Gelatin/Magnesium Stearate/Silcon Dioxide/ and Xanthoxyline pure extract which when I tried to look it up, came up with a cell purifier in facial cleaner. I have been taking this for about a week and a half and have lost 13 lbs. I realize you didn’t want any more posts but the information might be helpful.”

    This is a quote from your “comment” section, above. It looks like THIS worked for this person.. perhaps for others it doesn’t. However, for me, since I just got this in the mail–I HAVE to try it, because of THIS testimony. I DID research this and there is nothing saying the ingredients cause the rapid weight loss it claims to be. However, having other uses in Chinese cuisine, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t. And unless this person is lying–and we never know–it MUST be considered. AT least a small investment can be returned if it doesn’t. I’m going for it–and yes, I’m getting fairly desparate.

    Doug (the "bug") wrote on April 28th, 2011
  29. Xanto Slim phone number is 888-672-3723. I’ve recently ordered the product but haven’t tried it yet. Let you know how it goes. Figure I don’t have to much to lose they offer a life-time guarantee.

    Cassy wrote on May 7th, 2011

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