Never mind test scores when it comes to casting a cloud over the reputation of our collective American intelligence. Consider these other indicators reported Tuesday: As it does every year, the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on the highly successful purveyors of bogus diet schemes. This time, makers of a weight loss additive called Sensa must return more than $26 million to consumers to settle federal charges that the company used deceptive advertising — claiming consumers could lose weight by simply sprinkling the powder on their food.
So, Americans believe in magic. And they are willing to complain when any given product turns out to be merely a mortal ripoff.
Compounding this report is the news that just one in four teens meet recommended fitness guidelines — a mere hour or more of moderate to vigorous activity every day. Why should they worry about fitness when they can sprinkle a magic powder on their food to stay in shape? Or take some other magical supplement, drug and/or injection to moderate their weight? And people of all socieo-economic and educational stripes are suseptible. Rich people can simply afford more expensive swindles, like a $1,000 injection of human chorionic gonadotropin hormone, produced by the placenta and found in the urine of pregnant women, for the “off-label” use for weight loss.
With Sensa, the company promoted the powder through major retailers like Costco and GNC and with infomercials on the Home Shopping Network. The company sold a one-month supply for $59 and urged consumers to “sprinkle, eat and lose weight.”
The FTC said Tuesday the company used bogus clinical studies and paid endorsements to rack up more than $364 million in sales between 2008 and 2012. The agency will also collect $7.3 million from LeanSpa, a company that promotes acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight loss supplements through fake news websites. (Tip: Real news websites don’t sell diet products.)
Just because something is sold in a reputable store, such as Costco, doesn’t mean the product is a good one. Directives such as just “sprinke, eat and lose weight” are wishful thinking on its face. Anyone who actually thought it would work needs real nutritional education. Instead, they will be refunded their money. It’s the same story, over and over again. (Just take two tablets before eating and “lose pure body fat…”)
Naturally, exercising and eating right is too boring a prescription. But it’s the one that works. Additionally, for people struggling with obesity, more legitimate options for help are available than ever before — from Lapband surgery to a life coach, for example. Let’s show we’re smarter that the average swindler. Caveat emptor.