Approximately 8 million Americans a year enroll in some kind of structured weight-loss program involving liquid diets, special diet regimens, or medical or other supervision. In 1991, about 8,500 commercial diet centers were in operation across the country, many of them owned by a half-dozen or so well-known national companies.

Before you join such a program, you should know that according to published studies relatively few participants succeed in keeping off weight long-term. Recently, the FTC brought action against several companies challenging weight-loss and weight-maintenance claims. Unfortunately, some other companies continue to make overblown claims.

The FTC stopped one company from claiming its diet program caused rapid weight loss through the use of tablets that would "burn fat" and a protein drink mix that would adjust metabolism. The FTC also took action against three major programs using doctor-supervised, very low-calorie liquid diets, and they agreed to stop making claims unless they could back them up with hard data.

Before you sign up with a diet program, you might ask these questions:


  • What are the health risks?


  • What data can you show me that proves your program actually works?


  • Do customers keep off the weight after they leave the diet program? ?


  • What are the costs for membership, weekly fees, food, supplements, maintenance, and counseling? What's the payment schedule? Are any costs covered under health insurance? Do you give refunds if I drop out?


  • Do you have a maintenance program? Is it part of the package or does it cost extra?


  • What kind of professional supervision is provided? What are the credentials of these professionals?


  • What are the program's requirements? Are there special menus or foods, counseling visits, or exercise plans?

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Originally published by the FDA










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