Weight loss shots: effective or dangerous dietary advice?
One of my biggest bug-bears as someone who strives to lead a healthy lifestyle, are companies who aim to sell people 'the dream'. I think I can speak for most of us when I say that 'the dream' is to be able to lose weight effectively, without really having to put much- if any- effort in. (Rowing machine, I'm looking at you).
The reality is that these days, the 'wellness' industry is growing in huge numbers, and sadly this has come as a result of social media and the insecurities people secretly harbour. It isn't easy to be 100% content with our bodies when we're spoon-fed images on our news feeds of models with abs up to their chins living the dream on a beach somewhere; whilst the majority of us struggle with body issues, juggling families and working, and just generally don't have the time or money to be floating about in the Med somewhere on a yacht that has been paid for in sponsorship deals.
I'll let you in on a secret though: the 'weight loss' products these influencers endorse pay for their lifestyle. Influencers endorse weight loss shots for financial gain, NOT because they advocate them, or even use them in the first place. When someone is endorsing a product such as this, it might be fair to say work is a bit slow for them and it's easy money. "Hey Love Island contestants/Z-list reality star/anyone with a significant following, please promote our product even though you've probably never touched it and we'll fill your pockets for a few more weeks. Who cares that you're falsely advertising to potentially hundreds of thousands of people? Not us."
And that's exactly what it is; false advertising. I won't disclose the particular company I'm putting under fire here on my blog, because I'm a poor student and I really don't need the hassle of a lawsuit before I graduate. Or ever, frankly. Nobody has time for that. So let's have a look at some of their claims, and try to distinguish whether weight loss shots are worth your hard earned cash (a month's worth will set you back over £119!), or if they'll even work in the first place.
The weight-loss shots in question contain glucomannan, a type of dietary fibre. They also claim that it's a 'super-fibre'. There are two types of fibre, insoluble and soluble, and I've certainly never heard the term 'super-fibre' come from any medical professional before. Probably because it doesn't exist- and there is our first marketing technique. Much like the term 'superfood', which in reality is simply a food that has health-promoting benefits. The shots also claim to perform a 'cleanse without laxatives' as the gel they turn into in your stomach 'collects toxins and food particles'. Erm, okay, but as far as I was aware we have a liver and kidneys to detoxify our bodies already. Using the bathroom is pretty much a given in that process, so trying to use that as a selling point for a weight loss shot seems pretty pointless to me. Anyone who doesn't have a functioning liver has a lot more to worry about than their weight, I'm assuming.
Back to glucomannan. They claim that this soluble fibre reduces the room in your stomach without any bloating, acting as an appetite suppressant and disallowing any more space for you to to consume food.
So, the suggested benefits of consuming glucomannan are that it fills you up, stops you from snacking, making bad choices between meals, and will result in weight loss because you can't eat as much as before. Nowhere do they mention exercising, or what you should be eating at mealtimes. These shots are 'the dream' product that will stop you feeling hungry; you won't be craving unhealthy snacks between meals anymore, and you don't even need to incorporate extra exercise or make healthier choices because the magic gel in your stomach will lose your excess weight for you.
But will it? A study conducted in 2013 tested glucomannan consumption as an effective weight-loss aid in overweight or obese individuals during a randomised control trial. 23 participants were trialled with 3.99g of glucomannan a day (1g more than the weight loss shots provide), and 24 were given placebo capsules. They were told not to alter their diet or exercise habits, and were tested for weight, body composition and numerous other factors after 2 and 8 week periods. The results showed absolutely NO significance in weight loss or changes in body composition in the glucomannan group in comparison to the placebo group.
Of course, no study is completely accurate, and all have limitations. Despite there being studies conducted previously which did show slight benefits to weight loss when consuming glucomannan, it is noted that this particular set of individuals did not alter their diets or exercise, whereas previous studies have incorporated a healthier eating and exercise plan. Essentially, it may not have been the glucomannan that helped them lose weight, but more likely was the inclusion of exercise and healthier eating habits. Maybe this company's insinuation that the shots do it all for you without extra exercise or healthier mealtimes is a load of crap after all. Shocker. Science doesn't lie, kids. Funnily enough, the study claimed that during the initial 1-3 days of glucomannan consumption, 12.7% of participants reported an increase in bloating, in comparison to 3.7% of the placebo subjects. But wait, anonymous weight loss shot company, didn't you claim that your glucomannan shots don't cause ANY bloating? You're really helping my cynicism here. Another point worth noting is that the scientists behind this study point out the lack of evidence for the safety or effectiveness of glucomannan long-term. What happens to the body if this product is suddenly stopped (because that is a BIG expense to keep up), will the weight come straight back on? Likely. So what's the alternative? People become dependent upon these products to keep their weight off? Doesn't sound very healthy to me, neither physically nor emotionally.
Here's an idea, just throwing it out there... if you struggle with your weight, filling your stomach with gel probably shouldn't be your go-to solution. Do you know what else contains fibre? Legumes. Vegetables. Oats. Fruit. Grains. WHOLE PLANT FOODS. "But these shots are only 10 calories each!"Yes they are, but if you eat a diet rich in whole plant foods the fibre will act in the same way as glucomannan: you'll feel fuller, you wont' be consuming as many calories as you would with heavy meat/dairy/processed and refined foods consumption, plus you'll be consuming a vast array of vitamins and minerals which you simply won't benefit from if you rely on a ridiculously overpriced weight-loss shot. You don't even need to be vegetarian or vegan; simply incorporating as many whole plant foods as possible into your diet will increase your fibre intake. Sweet potatoes won't cost you thirty quid a week, I can assure you.
Which brings me to their next unique selling point: vitamin content. This company LOVES to throw around the fact their shots contain lots of essential vitamins and minerals. By lots of essential vitamins, they're talking about B12, Vitamin C, Iron, Zinc, B6, B2, Selenium, Biotin and Copper. With the exception of B12, the daily dose of these shots only contain between 15% and 20% of the RDA. (Recommended Daily Allowance). I get more than 100% of my RDA of selenium from one brazil nut each morning. ONE, which costs me pennies.
Their daily dose of B12 is 25 µg , which they claim to be 100% of the RDA. In reality, this is the absolute minimum we should be getting from our diets on a daily basis, actually we should be aiming for between 25 µg and 10 µg per day. B12 is absolutely critical, and claiming that these shots are a 'good source' to entice vegans, or people worrying about their B12 levels is completely irresponsible. Maybe that's just me being pedantic, but it's just another nail in the coffin for me personally.
Weight-loss shots, shakes, turbo-powered coffee, and all the other absolute junk that is appearing from the 'wellness' industry has to be taken with a pinch of salt. (Or, preferably not taken at all). I'm no doctor, and nor do I claim to be, but what I do know from over a decade's worth of research into the science behind weight loss is that to lose weight, you eat less and you move more. Eating less DOES NOT MEAN starving yourself, restricting yourself, or eating way too little calories for your body to effectively burn fat, or even function properly. It certainly doesn't mean you should be filling your stomach with a glorified supplement gel, which contains absolutely NOTHING you can't get from some broccoli and a few beans. Don't fall into a clever marketing trap. Companies worldwide rely on this strategy: "Get your customers to sell for you." Those influencers you see on Instagram, they don't know you. They don't know your insecurities, your weight, your exercise levels, they know nothing. The majority of them don't even believe in the products they are pushing.
Nobody should ever feel that they have to spend outrageous amounts of money to lose weight, or aspire to look like ANYONE else. Don't let them get under your skin. If you need help, seek advice from a dietician who really knows about food habits and nutrition. And most importantly of all, just be yourself. These products won't give you miracle results, don't believe the hype. Never believe everything you see on Instagram, it's not real life.
Take Care xo