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Each January, Frances M. Berg, M.S., editor of Healthy Weight Journal, presents "Slim Chance Awards" to promoters of weight-loss schemes. Here are the awards for 1997.
Worst Product: Equinox Weight Management System
The Equinox Weight Management System is an herbal program based on the quack theory that our bodies must be detoxified for proper balance and function of digestive and enzyme systems. It includes Equilizer Fast Start capsules (claimed to suppress appetite, stimulate calorie consumption and burn fat), Equi-lizer Steady Burn capsules (claimed to increase thermogenesis and stabilize appetite), Equi-lizer NightTime Formula (claimed to promote weight loss while you sleep, reduce sugar's ability to produce fat, reduce toxins, and help detoxify your body), Protein Plus ChromeMate capsules ("essential to keep calorie-burning capacity at its peak"), Equi-vites Multi-vitamin tablets, and Equi-lizer Almond Bars. Combination costs about $164 a month. Multi-level company. Equinox, Las Vagas, Nevada.
Most Outrageous: Absorbit-ALL PLUS.
Full-page newspaper ads across the country in July 1996 touted Absorbit-ALL PLUS in blaring headlines, all the more ridiculous in this day of cautious claims. "Guaranteed to blast up to 49 pounds off you in only 29 days! . . . Blocks up to 15 times its weight in fat, blasts up to 50% of your body fat in record time, obliterates up to 5 inches from your waistline, and zaps 3 inches from your thighs before you know it!" Just more chromium picolinate mixed with mysterious ingredients like "Asian root . . . fat blockers" in a pill that "stimulates your metabolic rate and prevents lean muscle loss while the fat just melts away!" Cost: $49.95 + $5.95 shipping and handling, for 30-day supply. SlimAmerica Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida.
Worst Claim: Svelt PATCH
The Svelt PATCH -- a stick-on patch to be attached anywhere on the body -- purportedly absorbs fat, triggers fat burning, speeds up metabolism, stimulates thyroid, fights water retention, prevents muscle loss, controls appetite, and maintains weight loss, all illegal drug claims. "Fucus -- a natural algae" is the active ingredient here, supposedly absorbed from the patch into the body. Each patch lasts 24 hours, and a four-week supply costs $42.95. Svelt-PATCH International, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and additional locations in Massachusetts and Illinois.
Worst Gadget: Slimming Insoles
Insoles that slip into your shoes, are covered with small knobs, and cause "weight loss with every step you take" are one of the most highly advertised weight loss gadgets on the market today. The knobs are claimed to stimulate foot reflex centers that control kidneys, bladder and stomach through acupressure -- "a 5,000 year old Chinese therapy." The theory is that weight problems are often linked to "under-performance of the dietary system." Therefore, when these organs are primed to function efficiently through acupressure your metabolism "works normally and does not store fat!" Testimonials claim no dieting or exercise needed: "I lost 74 pounds!" Cost $19.95. Body Well USA, New York, N.Y.