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Health Claims: Are They Justified – Part One

Friday, May 1st, 2009 Health Claims: Are They Justified – Part One

Professor Lesley Regan, one of Britain’s top researcher is going to investigate the claims in relation to all ‘those dodgy health claims’ ranging from vitamin supplements to detox kits, alternative medicines to supermarket foods, we are bombarded every day with extravagant claims about the health benefits of the products we put into our shopping baskets. As reported in the Daily Mail (29 04 09).

The point is how far can we trust these so called-experts? or indeed can we ever accept their evidence based findings?

That is where the Professor comes in; she will set out to discover the truth in a very exciting new TV series by the BBC.

The stand no nonsense approach from Professor Regan is welcoming and hopefully as in the investigation into anti-ageing products which caused shockwaves in an industry built around impressive claims that are rarely properly researched.

Moreover she started a stampede for Boots No 7 Protect and Perfect serum, which she identified as one of the few beauty creams that actually worked.

Furthermore, some of the best selling products have been found to have very little evidence to support their findings to the extent that the Professor has suggested that ‘many companies are, in fact, touting spurious claims.’

Moving on, in terms of weight loss aids, it has been established that in excess of £10m per annum is spent on diet pills and patches. What one has to consider is the fact that prescription weight loss tablet will have scientific data supporting them. However, does the over-the-counter weight loss pill have the same evidence? The professor set out to find her answers by requesting information from the producers of the popular diet products. To her astonishment, many of the organisations flatly refused to participate.

It would be relevant to scrutinise more closely, the Pink Patch had to admit that there was no evidence of its effectiveness. In addition the Formalin L112 said they couldn’t provide a copy as their research hasn’t ever been published. One must question how much fabrication takes place within these organisations.

In actual fact there was only one company that was able to show a clear link between weight loss and their product - a herbal diet pill, called Zotrim, which makes you feel full.

Their research had been published in a reputable journal and conducted with a control group to compare any placebo effect. Although statistics were not included, these are said to be significant. Yet I would still like to see more evidence as the study has never been repeated.

But even when diet pills are shown in studies to help weight loss, the results can still be meaningless. The secret is in the small print. For the instructions usually say that pills must be taken alongside a low calorie diet and an exercise plan. They even say they should be taken before meals with a large glass of water - which will act as a bulking agent and stop you eating so much.

Professor Regan developed her own diet pill and asked 17 overweight people to try it for a month, alongside a balanced diet and a sensible exercise plan.

More than 70 per cent of the volunteers lost weight and believed the tablets had worked. Unbeknown to them, though, the tablets were simply sugar, a placebo - which shows the power of mind over matter. Yet I could easily use my results to launch an impressive marketing campaign, - as many companies do.

Diet and nutrition books are another minefield. There are 54,000 such books published worldwide, yet the authors need no qualifications and their diets are rarely scientifically proven. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.

Readers must bear in mind that just because a diet book is published, doesn’t mean the plan actually works.

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