On December 30th, the Healthy Weight Network named the four dishonorees for the 24th Annual Slim Chance Awards. The awards are announced each year as a lead-up to Rid the World of Fad Diets & Gimmicks Day on Tuesday of Healthy Weight Week, which is celebrated the third full week in January.
The dishonor for Worst Claim went to Dr. Mehmet Oz who touted raspberry ketone on The Dr. Oz Show as “the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat.” (It also would have been appropriate to give the Worst Claim award to miracle monger Mehmet for other diet pseudoscience he promoted on his show in 2012.)
In the category Worst Product, the winner was the QuickTrim product line including various chemical cocktails offered in caplets, drinks, drink mixes, and even skin gel—deceptively claimed to “detoxify and clean” the body and “burn” calories. Potentially hazardous ingredients in featured QuickTrim products include stimulant laxatives and unspecified amounts of caffeine. A $5 million class action lawsuit against Windmill Health Products; QuickTrim; Amazon.com; Wal-Mart and others has alleged 28 different misrepresentations made for QuickTrim products. Co-defendants include Kim Kardashian along with her sisters Khloe and Kourtney, who have offered testimonials for QuickTrim and appeared in promotional materials for QuickTrim. The Healthy Weight Network did not note in its award announcement that, according to a San Diego-based organization called the Environmental Research Center, several QuickTrim products allegedly contain lead at levels not allowable under California law.
Healthy Weight Network’s annual award winner in the category Worst Gimmick is given to a device deceptively marketed for weight loss. The 2012 Worst Gimmick dishonor goes to Ab Circle Pro, a fiberglass disk with stationary handlebars and two knee rests that roll on the edge of the disk, allowing users to kneel and rotate side-to-side. Ads have claimed that three minutes working out with the device is equivalent to 100 sit-ups and can “melt inches and pounds” causing the dieter to lose ten pounds in two weeks. In August, marketers of Ab Circle Pro, agreed to settlements with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for consumer refunds of between $15 million and $25 million. Defendants are to refrain from making false or unsupported claims in the future. They include Fitness Brands, Fitness Brands International, and the two individuals who control them, Michael Casey and David Brodess; Direct Holdings Americas, and Direct Entertainment Media Group; infomercial producer Tara Borakos, Tara Productions and New U; and Jennifer Nicole Lee and her two companies, JNL, and JNL Worldwide.
The Slim Chance Award in the category Most Outrageous went to acai berry and “colon cleanser” advertising scammers who falsely claimed that products such as Acai Pure, Acai Max, Pure Berry Max, Slimberry, Acai Ultraberry Slim, and Acai Advanced Cleanse would cause rapid and substantial weight loss. Various advertisers ran afoul of the FTC leading to multi-million dollar settlements that barred the advertisers from various deceptive practices. Relevant FTC announcements in 2012 included:
- Marketers Behind Fake News Sites Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Advertising: Affiliate Network to Pay $2 Million for Allegedly Using Deceptive Claims to Sell Acai Berry Weight-Loss Products and Colon Cleansers
- Fake News Site Operator to Surrender Assets Totaling More than $2 Million: Defendants Settle FTC Charges that They Made Fake Endorsements and Deceptive Acai Berry Weight Loss Claims
- FTC Charges Second “Affiliate Network” of Internet Advertisers with Deceiving Consumers by Using Fake News Sites to Market Acai Berry Weight-Loss Products and Colon Cleansers: Defendants will Pay $1 Million to Settle Charges
- FTC Permanently Stops Two More Operations Charged with Using Fake News Sites to Deceive Consumers about Acai Berry Products, Defendants will Pay Nearly $1.5 Million to Settle Charges: FTC Resolves first Action against “Affiliate Network” of Internet Advertisers
- FTC Permanently Stops Six Operators from Using Fake News Sites that Allegedly Deceived Consumers about Acai Berry Weight-Loss Products: Alleged Fraudulent Affiliate Marketers will Surrender Assets under Settlements
- Internet Marketers of Acai Berry Weight-Loss Pills and “Colon Cleansers” to Pay $1.5 Million to Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Advertising and Unfair Billing
Outrageous advertising included:
- Fake news websites using names and logos of major broadcast and cable networks offering deceptive reports with titles such as “Acai Berry Diet Exposed: Miracle Diet or Scam?” and “1 Trick of a Tiny Belly: Reporter Loses her ‘Belly’ Using 1 Easy Tip.”
- Supposedly free trial offers for acai berry products that deceptively enroll people into long-term contracts with monthly credit card billings for products consumers didn’t request.
The Bottom Line
Chances are slim that diet products or services touted as ancient, breakthroughs, easy, effortless, exclusive, exotic, guaranteed, magical, miraculous, mysterious, new, revolutionary, or secret are worth the time, money, or effort from weight conscious consumers. When testimonials are presented, claimed results are likely to differ greatly from what most consumers would experience. Look carefully and you’ll often find in fine print disclaimers indicating that outcomes presented in testimonials should not be viewed as typical.
There are no easy answers for achieving particular body weights, shapes, and fat compositions. Preoccupation with body image leads many people to quick-fix weight-loss methods deserving of Slim Chance Awards and also to development of eating disorders. Weight-conscious consumers are best off setting goals focused on compliance with sensible guidelines for diet and physical activity and achieved through self-managed behavior change.
And it helps to use sensible strategies for keeping New Year’s resolutions!