Tag Archives: snake oil

Doctors Consult on Fat Profits from Medical Weight Loss Programs

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New profits from an old formula

A recent article in the New York Times got my blood boiling this morning.  The article cites a few medical professionals (and others) talking about how to fatten profits from offering weight loss products, potions, procedures and magic pills.  In particular Dr. Kaplan (touted as a “leader in the medical weight loss industry) talks about his Long Island Weight Loss Institute and the various products and services he offers people to help them lose weight.

In fact, Kaplan is so well known as an expert in the industry that he has started a consulting business to help other doctors.  Is he helping other doctors figure out what are the best evidence-based options for helping their clients actually lose weight.  Well no.  He’s helping doctors figure out how to increase their bottom line by teaching primary care doctors how to bill insurers for obesity treatments.

This is a very big business, at least in part, due to a provision in the federal health care law requiring insurers to pay for nutrition and obesity screening.  Marketdata Enterprises Research Director John La Rosa has studied the weight loss industry for more than 20 years.  In an interview cited in the Times, La Rosa estimates that medical weight loss programs currently bring in $1 Billion annually–a number he expects to grow 5 percent annually at least through 2019.  La Rosa calls the Federal health care provision a “game changer” and mentioned a seminar he recently sponsored advising entrepreneurs to take advantage of the insurance coverage by opening their own weight loss clinics.

While the profits appear to be new, the procedures being sold don’t seem to be new at all.  In fact many of the procedures, potions, chants, and magic pills offered have not been proven to be effective or have even been discredited as widely ineffective.  Kaplan’s own office offers very low calorie diets, meal replacements, B12 shots and vitamin supplements.  None of these techniques have been demonstrated effective for anything but very short term weight loss which typically begins to reverse very shortly after the treatment period (which can be as short as six weeks).  What’s more, many of these programs offer little medical supervision.  The patients are often actually seen by nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants with little specialized training in the fields of nutrition or bariatric care.  One company, Medi-Weightloss (with over 76 locations throughout the country) advertised for a medical director at its Connecticut facility stating that the hours are “not very demanding” stating that files could be reviewed remotely and “there are no set hours or emergency calls”.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I think most doctors work very hard in a system that is not very hospitable to good medicine.  And I am an entrepreneur.  I believe in the power of invention and good business practices.  But when you are holding seminars to teach guys in white coats the best way to get insurance companies to reimburse the same snake oil they have been trying to sell us for centuries, I get a bit miffed.  I think people are entitled to research-based medicine.  And by research-based, I mean medicine that is proven to be effective, not just turn an ever increasing profit.

In this country, not everyone has access to even basic, decent medical care.  Medicine is very expensive here.  And we are often taught that the reason that medical care is so expensive here is that the fatties are driving  up the costs.  So the idea that doctors are learning to fatten their profits at the expense of their fat patients has got me more than a little upset.  Lets give every BODY access to bias-free, evidence-based, reasonable healthcare.  And let’s put the fat-shaming, profit mongering medical weight loss industry on restriction.  That would seem to be the healthy thing to do for our bodies and for our economy.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come and speak about evidence-based medicine and wellness to your group?  Go here.  Or just email me at jeanette at thefatchick dot com for more info.

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Santa Brings Coal for Snake Oil Salesmen: FTC and BMJ Call BS on Sensa, The Doctors and Doctor Oz

Call it a holiday gift.  This week I’ve come across TWO scathing reprimands of bogus weight loss profiteering and frankly it fills me with holiday glee.

First, I learned that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have sent refund checks totaling over $26 Million to people who bought the “weight-loss supplement” known as Sensa.  I remember the first time I saw this dubious substance.  A friend of mine smiled gleefully as she sprinkled this “magic powder” on her food.  “It will make me skinny!” she said.  “All I do is sprinkle this on my food and I will eat less and lose weight!”  I frankly could not imagine how this powder, purchased at Target would help her eat less.  Perhaps, I thought, if it made the food taste really bad, you know like that substance you paint on your nails to keep from biting them?

But Sensa advertising suggested another mechanism for their magic powder.  The advertising suggested that Sensa enhanced the taste and smell of the food, thus making eaters enjoy the food more, thus allowing them to feel full faster and stop eating sooner.  And then, they lose weight.

“Huh.  That’s a neat trick,” I thought.

Turns out the FTC thinks my skepticism was warranted.  The FTC complaint states that the manufacturers of Sensa provided no credible scientific evidence for the weight loss claims for Sensa.  In addition, the complaint states that Sensa’s manufacturers failed to disclose that they paid customers to endorse the product and that they doctored up a supposedly independent study.

And speaking of doctors, that leads me to my second early holiday gift.  A study recently released in the British Medical Journal calls out US television shows The Doctors and The Doctor Oz Show for spreading bogus and sometimes downright dangerous health information.  This is yet another crushing blow for Dr. Oz, who actually spent time in front of a Congressional committee explaining why he felt it was okay to tell the American public for instance, that green coffee beans would make them skinny.  He was asked to explain his various Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir-like substances that served as medical miracles that simply melted the fat away.

The British Medical Journal study called out the antics of these modern snake-oil salesmen, suggesting that roughly half of the medical advice offered on The Doctors and The Doctor Oz Show was either not supported by medical science or directly contradicted by prevailing scientific evidence.

The study abstract states:

We could find at least a case study or better evidence to support 54% (95% confidence interval 47% to 62%) of the 160 recommendations (80 from each show). For recommendations in The Dr Oz Show, evidence supported 46%, contradicted 15%, and was not found for 39%. For recommendations in The Doctors, evidence supported 63%, contradicted 14%, and was not found for 24%. Believable or somewhat believable evidence supported 33% of the recommendations on The Dr Oz Show and 53% on The Doctors.

The study also explains that this is significant for US healthcare because “television is one of the most important mass media sources of health information.”  It notes that The Dr. Oz Show with it’s position as one of the top 5 American talk shows has the reach to do a whole lot of good.  Unfortunately, Dr. Oz frequently peddles bogus weight loss cures and consistently fails to provide any information regarding conflict of interest.  So, yeah.  Snake oil salesmen are having a rough week.

To be clear, the thing I’m taking out of this as my holiday gift is not that the Snake Oil Salesmen–Purveyors of Powders and Magic Beans exist or that they are so very good at their jobs.  I am simply doing a little holiday dance of glee on the multimillion dollar payout and credible medical journal smackdown these guys are receiving right now.  Just a little coal in their holiday stockings. Ho. Ho. HO!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Hold Your Tongue, Fatty!

tonguebrigadeIn the category of “not necessarily new, but new to me” I ran across this article about a doctor who claims that he can make you thin by sewing a patch on to your tongue.  Not surprisingly, the product is called the “miracle patch”.  The procedure seems simple enough.  A patch  is sewn onto the tongue that makes it extremely uncomfortable, if not impossible to swallow solid food.  Now you might get concerned upon reading this that without solid food the patient might starve to death.  But never fear!  The same doctor also sells a nutritional liquid supplement that “meets all nutritional needs” while “maximizing weight loss results”.

“It’s cheaper and faster and more attractive than wiring your jaw shut!” say the doctors.  “It is safer and cheaper than gastric bypass surgery.”  Of course, the doctors are altering the function of yet another perfectly normal organ and making it impossible for you to eat anything other than our prepackaged pap.  But hey, you’ll be (at least temporarily) thin!

This procedure is still listed on the site of the cosmetic surgeon interviewed for the article.  So while it’s not being touted much in the news any more, the surgery is apparently still being performed.  This is horrifying to me on so many levels.  It’s yet another example of the current spate of “we’ll do anything to make you temporarily thin and us permanently rich” school of medical procedures.  And I have to admit, that I was struck by the symbolism.  During this procedure, the docs are literally holding your tongue.  And it seems to me that this is precisely what society is continually asking us fat people to do.  Don’t taste.  And for heaven’s sake, DON’T TALK!  The web site assures us that for people who have undergone this procedure, “speech typically returns to baseline within 48 hours.”  I guess this means that physiological barriers to speaking normalize in a short time after surgery.  But what about the psychological barriers?  Isn’t this just another way to say that people who aren’t perfectly thin are without worth and that people who don’t have perfect bodies shouldn’t be allowed to eat or even taste?  Isn’t this just another striking example of how people without socially-mandated “perfect bodies” are told to hold their tongues?

Well you can just forget about that!  I’ve written nearly 400 blog posts on Fat Chick Sings, and I really have no intention of shutting up any time soon.  I’m going to continue to talk and sing and whistle and shout!  So how about you, my loyal readers?  Does the proverbial, societal cat got your tongue?  Or would you like to join me in a size accepting, bigotry smashing, virtual primal scream?  What do you say?  Shall we free our tongues to taste and savor all of the amazing things this world has to offer?  I will use my patch free, pliant and liberated tongue to whisper, shout, sing, and simply say, “Yes.”

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S. Hey all you Fit Fatties out there!  Don’t forget to enter your miles so we can reach Seal Beach for our Virtual Trek across the USA this Saturday!

P.S.S. Interested in joining me for my training programs?  I’m offering a one-month free trial period for any of my training programs for just $25.  Offer ends soon, so join now!