When it comes to those seeking hope in the world of medicine, the scammers find themselves awash in a sea of often desperate and willing victims. It’s easy to put our faith in the quick, cheap fix, but going this route often results in consequences that are far from easy.

Last week, we looked at miracle cures and cheap online pharmaceuticals. This article covers the scammers who prey on those seeking to lose weight. The number of shady products and systems making outlandish promises is astronomical. Here are a few:

These ads have become ubiquitous. They are a strong presence in online advertising, and have been listed as a hot product the last two years. While the berry is rich in anti-oxidants and fiber, there is no medical dating suggesting they are a miracle weight loss cure. You would never know this from the advertising.

Many companies selling acai-based pills and supplements make staggering claims of tens of pounds melting away with use of the product. Most of these claims come in the form of free trial offers and tout “celebrity endorsements” by such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey. These aren’t actual endorsements, but misleading ads that imply the talk show host is endorsing the product. In fact, according to an article in WalletPop, Ms. Winfrey’s spokesperson denies these claims vehemently.

The free trials are anything but cost-free. You will pay shipping and handling charges, and unless you read the fine print, two months after requesting the free offer you can expect a monthly charge to automatically generate for enrollment in a diet fitness and consulting service which normally consists of nothing more than spam email. The charges for this service and the continued delivery of the pills can be quite steep, from $50 to $100. They will continue to charge you automatically until you call and cancel.

Cellulite occurs as sugar is stored in the outer fat cells which then results in the appearance of lumpiness in the skin. Dr Lionel Bisson at estimates that over 3 billion dollars are spent annually by women hoping for a “cure”.

There are plenty of products on the market taking advantage of their search. Many of these contain caffeine and niacin as active ingredients. These two ingredients are known to cause redness and tingling in the skin. This falsely leads the user to the conclusion that the product is actually working, when in fact the cellulite is not affected at all.

Another cellulite cream was introduced by Nivea with a campaign featuring school-age girls dancing around a fountain in bliss. The active ingredient was L-carnitine. This is actually an amino acid, found abundantly in the body. It can be bought cheaply in health food stores as a supplemental pill, but is worthless when it comes to breaking down fat.

Cellulite has no miracle cure. The most successful way to fight cellulite is to cut down on the fat and work out rigorously, as the more toned the muscles are underneath, the smoother the skin will appear.

Hoodia was marketed as a weight loss wonder drug. Derived from the hoodia gordonii plant, it acts a natural appetite suppressant. The product has not gone through the extensive testing by FDA.

Most companies began marketing their hoodia weight loss products with false claims. Independent lab testing showed that Pure Hoodia, Inc. was selling counterfeit hoodia. It did not contain the amount of hoodia promised.

When the products began selling heavily a few years ago, the South American suppliers met demand by providing ground up hoodia roots, which is a part of the plant that does not even have the appetite-suppressing qualities and then filled out the bulk of the orders by cutting them with silica, leaves and sawdust to fill out their volume.

Even if the companies had been selling pure hoodia, as promised, its use as safe appetite suppressant is in question.

Unilever, a well-known company for their popular line of Slim-Fast products, spent over four years and $20million developing and testing a viable hoodia gordonii product to include in their food and beverage lines. The results of their trial for safety and efficiency were telling. The products were considered dangerous after consistently causing a dramatic rise in blood pressure, and moreover, they proved to be ineffective in reducing the trial participants’ calorie consumption. After nearly half a decade and tens of millions of dollars invested, Unilever dropped their pursuit of incorporating hoodia gordonii into their weight-loss universe.

This is another pill that claims to drop the pounds on those who take it regularly, as a fat-burner and appetite suppressant. The company has never produced any evidence to back up the fat-burning claims.

The product originally contained high amounts of ephedra, a stimulant feared to cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. After being busted for not labeling the ephedra contents or side-effects on their packaging, Hydroxycut replaced the ingredient with 200mg of caffeine, or the equivalent of two cups of coffee.

The company was also sued for false advertising in 2003 by the Missourri Attorney General, who claimed before and after photos were misleading due to varying lights and angles used in the photos, and one before photo used a woman who was pregnant at the time. The case was settled for $100,000 and the company claimed no wrongdoing.

In May of 2009, due to several confirmed deaths from hepatoxicity, Hydroxycut was recalled from the market by the FDA. They have recently released a new formula to the store shelves.

Many of these items will give you short term results, but true weight loss isn’t found in a pill or fad diet. Long-term weight loss is only possible through lifestyle changes in the way we eat and the amount we exercise. Any company that tells you differently is trying to sell you something you don’t really need. It might even be dangerous, so think twice, do a little research, and talk to your doctor before starting any weight loss plan.

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