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The Skinny on Diet Scams

Experts weigh in on the top 5 diet scams and how to avoid them.

Top Diet Scams continued...

4. Diet patches and jewelry

Patches that deliver drugs though the skin have become popular for helping smokers quit and delivering estrogen to relieve menopausal symptoms.

But experts say no effective weight loss drugs have been designed to be delivered through the skin via patches. Most of the time, these patches contain the same ineffective herbs found in dietary supplements or teas.

Also included in this diet scam category is jewelry, such as earrings or bracelets, designed to be worn on the body with the promise to help people shed pounds. According to the FTC, any claim that people can lose even a pound or more a week using these devices is false.

5. Body wraps or "slim suits"

If there were an "oldie but goodie" diet scam prize winner, experts say it would likely go to body wraps.

The thick, layered sweat suits once popular decades ago have morphed into silver "slim suits" and fat-melting body wraps designed to lock body heat in and melt away the pounds.

But researchers say the only type of weight loss caused by wearing these outfits is water loss caused by excessive sweating. As soon as you take a drink, you'll gain all that water weight back.

Experts say the only way to lose weight for the long haul is to burn more calories than you eat, and that process is slow. That means any diet products or program that promises "quick and easy" weight loss without any effort or sacrifice is bound to be bogus.

But if that's not enough to raise your suspicions, here are some frequently used buzz words to watch for, according to the FTC:

No Diet! No Exercise!
Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days
Eat Your Favorite Foods and Still Lose Weight
Shrinks Inches Off Your Stomach, Waist, and Hips
Scientists Announce Incredible Discovery!
Revolutionary European Method! Ancient Chinese Secret!
Turn On Your Body's Fat-Burning Process
Automatically Convert Fat to Lean Trim Muscle!
Absorbs Fat
Developed After Years of Secret Research
New Scientific/Medical Breakthrough

Not only do diet scam pitchmen tend to use the same words in their advertising, the FTC says they also employ some of the same sales techniques, such as:

  • Extravagant claims of dramatic, rapid weight loss.
  • Testimonials from "famous" doctors, researchers, or other medical experts.
  • Dramatic before-and-after photos depicting substantial weight loss.
  • Ads that tout the latest trendy ingredient in the headlines.
  • A footnote hidden somewhere in an ad noting "diet and exercise required."

"Any time you are tempted to get a new diet product, my advice would be to look into what the claims are and if they can be substantiated by science," says Mercer. "What people want is a magic bullet and quick fix, and that's never going to work. If it sounds too good to be true, it is."

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