The “worst” of the worst weight-loss products and programs
Most Outrageous – Worst Claim – Worst Product – Worst Gimmick!

For a discussion and explanation
of the above products over the years, click here.

The Slim Chance Awards are selected from products nominated by health professionals and consumers and reflect the opinion of
the panel making the judgments.

Frances M. Berg, M.S.

Fraudulent weight loss products and programs often rely on unscrupulous but persuasive combinations of the message, program, ingredients, mystique and method of availability. A weight loss product or program may be fraudulent if it does one or more of the following:

Questions and complaints should be directed to your State Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Affairs. Other agencies concerned with fraud are the FDA, FTC, Postal Service and Better Business Bureau.

Excerpted from Weight Loss Fraud and Quackery,” by Francie M. Berg. Copyright 1995. Healthy Weight Network, Hettinger, ND.

Rid the World of Fad Diets & Gimmicks Day is on Tuesday of Healthy Weight Week, which is celebrated the third full week in January. During Healthy Weight Week people are encouraged to improve health habits in lasting ways:

It’s a time to celebrate the diversity of real women, as well as men, and to help them shift focus from failed and risky weight loss efforts to being healthy at their natural sizes. Healthy Weight Week is a time for people to move ahead with a new approach and build confident, diet-free lives for themselves and those they love.
Healthy Weight Week
Handouts: Healthy Living at Every Size
Healthy Living Guidelines

MEDIA: To arrange an interview with Francie Berg email   (please begin subject line with: Berg ….) or call 701-567-2646.

Francie M. Berg, MS
Healthy Weight Network
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639


RELEASED DEC. 30, 2011

Weight loss schemes are more lucrative than ever!
The Worst Diets of 2011

HETTINGER, ND, Dec 30—Healthy Weight Network released its 23 rd Slim Chance Awards today highlighting four of the worst diets and diet promotions of the year.

“Weight loss schemes are more lucrative and offensive than ever,” said Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, chair of the event. “Here is a self-made millionaire—a 23-year-old high school dropout—who flushed the English-speaking world with illegal weight-loss scams and then cleaned up by draining credit cards.”

Another scam is a dangerous and illegal hormone treatment that just doesn’t quit despite 50 years of legal wrangling with the FDA and FTC. Like Jason in a Slasher movie it keeps coming back and back—long after it seems defeated.

Here are the 24th annual Slim Chance Awards:

MOST OUTRAGEOUS: Jesse Willms, the Canadian owner of Just Think Media. Willms is a multi-millionaire connected to more than 40 product and company names. The 23-year-old high school dropout is charged with deceiving people like Candice Rozak of Edmunton who ordered a free trial of a diet pill called Acai Burn that required only a small handling fee and later found her credit card depleted of nearly $700. It’s a major international problem says Canada’s Anti-Fraud Call Centre. The FTC in the U.S. agrees and is suing Willms and his associates—who collected more than $450 million from online consumers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The complaint says Willms sold at least 15 brands of acai berry weight-loss pills, six brands of colon cleansers and supplements containing resveratrol—all marketed with false or misleading claims. Promised money-back guarantees were often ignored. Despite the efforts of credit card companies and banks the money kept flowing through shell companies and manipulation of payment data.

WORST GIMMICK: The “Pure Energy Weight Loss plus Energy Band.” This plastic bracelet embeds green and silver hologram discs claimed to give off vibes that resonate throughout the body and stimulate weight loss and health. Among the alleged results are decreased appetite, balanced metabolism, balanced hormones¸ enhanced energy flow, increased energy levels and the promotion of positive emotions. A testimonial declares, “Since I bought my Pure Energy Band I have lost over 83Lbs and I feel fantastic.” Furthermore a disc does not even need to touch the skin—apparently it can hover at some distance. Supposedly, to be effective it “only needs to be within the body’s natural energy field. For most people, that is within two inches of the body.”

WORST CLAIM: Sensa weight-loss crystals. The Sensa website states boldly that users can lose an average of 30.5 pounds in six months without dieting, exercise, food restrictions or drastic lifestyle changes—by merely sprinkling these weight-loss crystals on their food. It claims that Sensa has been “clinically proven.” Smell and taste receptors supposedly send the brain messages to tell your body to stop eating. It “activates a hunger-control switch in the brain and you “eat less and feel more satisfied… no feelings of hunger or intense cravings.” Class-action suits have been filed in California and Texas against the marketers of Sensa, developed by Chicago neurologist Alan Hirsch, M.D. and sold by California-based Sensa Products. The California complaint states that (a) there is no competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate these claims and (b) an expert who reviewed Sensa’s main clinical study judged it “beyond worthless.”

WORST PRODUCT: HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin. HCG was first introduced more than 50 years ago by British physician Dr. Albert Simeon who claimed the hormone, found in the urine of pregnant women, would mobilize stored fat, suppress appetite and redistribute fat. He contended that regular injections would enable dieters to live comfortably on a 500-calorie-a-day diet. For a time, these weekly injections were the most widespread obesity medication administered in the US. In the mid-70s the FDA and FTC effectively shut them down by ordering the Simeon clinics to stop claiming their programs were safe and effective, and requiring they inform patients in writing that there was no evidence HCG increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction.” More recently infomercial king Kevin Trudeau took up the cudgel. His 2007 book claims HCG is “an absolute cure for obesity discovered almost fifty years ago,” but “suppressed” by medical experts and the FDA. HCG is heavily marketed online and in retail outlets as oral drops, pellets, and sprays, while injections for weight loss continue. Labeling states that each should be taken in conjunction with a very-low-calorie-diet which, the FDA noted, can trigger gallstone formation, electrolyte imbalance and abnormal heart rhythms. (HCG is approved as an injectable prescription drug for the treatment of some cases of female infertility and other medical conditions.) In December the FDA and FTC jointly warned six companies that it is illegal to market over-the counter HCG products labeled as “homeopathic” for weight loss. This is considered a first step in halting sales (Dec 6, 2011).

“Deceptive advertising about weight loss products is one of the most prevalent types of fraud,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The new marketing is so lucrative and people with weight concerns so vulnerable that case-by-case enforcement action has little impact, quackwatchers say. To improve the situation, our society needs a plan that includes screening of certain types of ads, publicly exposing sellers placed on the Visa/MasterCard Match list and routine criminal prosecution of violators.

The Slim Chance awards are sponsored by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud. They are a lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, the third week in January ( ).


Lose fat by shining a laser lamp on it? Slim Chance!
Worst weight loss products and promotions of 2010

HETTINGER, ND, Dec 28 –A laser light that melts fat when it “opens the fat cells—right through your skin; the … stuff comes out.” A liquid dropped under the tongue that promises a pound or two of daily weight loss with, by the way, a 500-calorie diet. These are two of the worst weight loss products of 2010 as selected by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud from nominations by health professionals and consumers.

The 22nd annual Slim Chance Awards were announced today by Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist, adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, and chair of the selection committee.

In this year when the FDA declined approval for two weight loss drugs and forced withdrawal of another, Meridia, after 13 years of known risk for heart attack and stroke, one might think questionable diets are under control.

Not so, says Berg. It’s a slippery slope for law enforcement, with loopholes open for the supplement industry. “Dubious products have proliferated so widely today that three of our four selections represent not just one, but numerous products and companies,” said Berg. “Basic Research alone has an 18-year history of Federal Trade Commission violations, warnings, charges and fines.”

Here are the 22nd annual Slim Chance Awards.

WORST CLAIM: Ultimate Cleanse
Ultimate Cleanse cashes in on a popular quack theme: the body must be detoxified regularly to get rid of wastes and toxins. An ideal scam, this notion sets up a problem that doesn’t exist and puts forth a solution to snare the gullible. If it were true, people would not survive, as one FDA agent pointed out: the body is naturally self-cleaning. Aside from their basic silliness, cleansing programs are often high-risk, containing potent laxatives. Ultimate Cleanse combines cascara sagrada, a harsh laxative that in 2002 was banned as an ingredient in over-the-counter drugs, in a mix of herbs and fibers said to produce “2-3 bowel movements per day, while sweeping, toning, and cleansing the digestive and eliminative system.” Supposedly it cleanses in five areas (bowel, liver, kidneys, lungs and skin) as well as bloodstream, cells and body tissues. An Arizona man who used Ultimate Cleanse is suing the maker and seller charging that it caused perforation of his colon requiring two operations; his surgeon believes the perforation was caused by cascara segrada. There is no proven safe or effective dose for cascara, derived from the bark of a buckthorn plant. Long-term use may lead to potassium depletion, blood in the urine, disturbed heart function, muscle weakness, finger clubbing and cachexia (extreme weight loss). Regular use is linked to increased risk of hepatitis and colorectal cancer. Though banned as a drug, cascara sells in dietary supplements through a legal loophole.

In a resurge in popularity of HCG injections among some practitioners and spas, this 1950s weight loss method has spawned excitement in the supplement field, as well. HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone produced during pregnancy, is claimed to reset the hypothalamus, improve metabolism and mobilize fat stores. However, there is no scientific evidence supporting HCG treatment as a weight or fat loss strategy. In its herbal versions, HCG drops are placed under the tongue (5 drops times 6 times a day or 10 drops, 3 times). Advertisers claim, “You easily can lose 1-2 pounds per day safely! Shed Excess Fat … HCG resets your hypothalamus so that your weight loss is permanent!” “HCG will melt fat permanently while maintaining muscle tone.” HCG does all this, it is claimed, without exercise. The caveat: the program requires a semi-starvation diet of 500 calories a day, with attendant severe risks to long-term health and almost guaranteed weight rebound. Further, the HCG program often begins with a liquid fast detox period. Common short-term effects include fatigue, headache, mood swings, depression, confusion, dizziness and stomach pain.

Basic Research, marketer of bogus products, carries an extensive history of FTC warnings, charges, fines and on-going lawsuits against multiple products. Basic Research, also doing business as Carter-Reed Company, has been a plaintiff or defendant in more than 40 suits filed in federal court in the past five years. In 2006, the FTC ordered the company to pay $3 million on behalf of six companies and three principals. Together with one of these, Akävar , Basic Research faces a class-action suit based on new charges for violating that order. Most recently Basic Research is being sued for false advertising in marketing “Jillian Michaels Maximum Strength Calorie Control” (Take Two Capsules Before Main Meals And You Lose Weight). Michaels, star and coach on the reality show, the Biggest Loser, gained a reputation as a credible fitness instructor before stumbling into the supplement quagmire, from which she now promotes her own Calorie Control, Fat Burner, Body Detox and Cleanse, and QuickStart Rapid Weight Loss System, marketing with Basic Research. ( ) Founded in 1992, based in Salt Lake City, Basic Research is listed as an international importer and wholesaler specializing in supplements, with an estimated annual income of $10.5 million.

With full page advertisements in daily newspapers, LipoLaser promoters promise: “Lose 3 ½ – 7 inches of fat in 3 weeks. … proven inches lost, without diet or exercise … the LipoLaser is the only non-diet, non-invasive, pain-free way to lose inches of fat … all effortlessly and easily.” Credible studies are missing to show this works. Supposedly, shining the lighted device on a pocket of fat gives results “almost exactly the same as exercise” only instead of “hormones opening the fat cells with exercise, the Laser light opens the fat cells—right through your skin. The same stuff comes out of the fat cells.” So excess fat is released and the fat cells shrink, or so it is claimed. The FDA classifies the device as an infrared lamp rather than a laser, so likely it is harmless. Yet the price is hefty: $1497 (on special 50% reduction) up to $5000 for the typical program of nine one-hour sessions. An online diet review site rates the LipoLaser treatment negatively, along with a user’s report, “Young girls administer the treatment and do not give you any eye protection even though they have warnings on the walls that laser is in process. I have had no good results for my $4000 and I want my money back. This is one of the biggest scams out there.” A self-identified professional confessed that about 80% of the “guests” who completed their series were dissatisfied with results.

Berg advises consumers to skip the quick fixes and false promises and move ahead with lasting healthy eating and physical activity habits. “Learn to enjoy, but don’t limit yourself to, wholegrain foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, beans and low-fat dairy foods. And don’t forget to energize yourself with regular physical activity.”

The Slim Chance awards are part of the lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, the third week in January.


For more information see
MEDIA: To arrange an interview with Francie Berg email  (please begin subject line with: Berg ….) or call 701-567-2646.

Francie M. Berg
Healthy Weight Network
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639

RELEASED December 29, 2009

Worst diet scams of 2009 stung by 21st Slim Chance Awards

Diet pills sold as food supplements are secretly spiked with powerful drugs

. – “Diet pills are more dangerous than ever,” said Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, today in announcing the worst diet scams of 2009. This year the 21st Slim Chance Awards reveal the greatly-increased risks of taking weight loss pills spiked with powerful illegal drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration warns that many dietary supplements today are laced with potent drugs and toxic substances not listed on the label. The agency recently cited 69 tainted weight loss products, most originating in China, and says there may be hundreds more.

“How many deaths must occur before we demand federal approval before a new drug-like product is sold, as required in the European Union?” Berg asked. Her organization, Healthy Weight Network, started the annual Slim Chance Awards 21 years ago to alert the public to the glut of unsafe weight loss products on the market.

“Instead, Congress keeps loopholes open for the supplement industry with all its faults. New pills like these are rushed onto the market with impunity and FDA is required to jump through a long series of hoops to get them off, even after fraud is proved.”

On a lengthy case-by-case basis, this can include warning letters, requests for removal, fines, seizure, injunction and finally criminal charges.

All in all, it was a high risk year for those easily seduced by diet scams. Here are the 21st Slim Chance Awards:

  • Worst Product: Hydroxycut. FDA warns consumers to immediately stop using Hydroxycut products from Iovate Health Sciences USA, a distributor for the Canadian company of the same name. FDA has received reports of one death due to liver failure and 23 reports of serious health problems ranging from jaundice and elevated liver enzymes to liver damage requiring liver transplant. Other problems include seizures, cardiovascular disorders and rhabdomyolysis, a type of muscle damage that can lead to other serious health problems such as kidney failure. Iovate has agreed to recall 14 hydroxycut products from the market. Their claims are that the diet products decrease body fat, control appetite, cause weight loss, enhance energy and that users can “lose up to 4-5 times the weight than diet and exercise alone.”
  • Most Outrageous: Pills spiked with powerful undisclosed drugs. This year FDA found so many diet pills secretly laced with powerful drugs that it was impossible for the Slim Chance selection panel to single out any, and could only group them together as “dangerous and outrageous.” FDA cited 69 weight loss “supplements” containing hidden, potentially harmful drugs or toxic substances, most imported from China, and says there may be hundreds more. In an analysis of 28 weight-loss products FDA found sibutramine (a controlled substance) in all of them; some also contained rimonabant, phenytoin or phenolphthalein. Sibutramine is associated with high blood pressure, seizures, tachycardia, palpitations, heart attack and stroke, and the potency in the pills tested as high as three times prescription doses. Rimonabant (not approved in the U.S.), has been linked to five deaths and 720 adverse reactions in Europe during the past two years, and to increased risk of seizures, depression, anxiety, insomnia, aggressiveness and suicidal thoughts. In October the European Medicines Agency recommended halting all sales of the drug. Phenolphthalein is a suspected cancer causing agent. FDA warned consumers not to buy or use any of the 28 products. (For more information go to and search “tainted weight loss pills.”)
  • Worst Claim: QVC shopping network. The popular TV home shopping channel QVC, one of the world’s largest multimedia retailers, has agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it made false and unsubstantiated claims about four weight loss products. Charges are that QVC aired approximately 200 programs in which such claims were made about For Women Only weight loss pills, Lite Bites weight-loss food bars and shakes, Bee-Alive Royal Jelly, and Lipofactor Cellulite Target Lotion. This is not the first time the shopping channel has been charged with deception; QVC is in violation of a 2000 FTC order barring it from making deceptive claims. The latest claims say the products can cause significant long-term weight loss, prevent dietary fat from being absorbed, prevent carbohydrates from being stored as fat, reduce cellulite and decrease size or arms, legs and abdomens.
  • Worst Gimmick: Kinoki Foot Pads. FTC is suing the marketers of Kinoki Foot Pads with deceptive advertising for their claims that applying the pads to the soles of feet at night will remove heavy metals, metabolic wastes, toxins, parasites, chemicals and cellulite from people’s bodies. The ads also claim that the foot pads can treat depression, fatigue, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. All this is based on the quack theory of reflexology, which holds that specific areas of the feet affect specifid organs and glands. Since the foot pads darken, this is claimed as evidence that toxins are being drawn out of the body, but investigators show the darkening is caused by moisture and has nothing to do with “toxins.” For more, see “Detoxification” schemes and scams, at .

The Slim Chance Awards are part of the lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, which falls on January 17 to 23 in 2010.  Find more information at:



To arrange an interview call 701-567-2646 or email  (please begin subject line with: Berg ….).

Healthy Weight Network
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639

– END –

RELEASED – Dec. 29, 2008


The Worst Diet Promotions of 2008
snag 20th Annual Slim Chance Awards

HETTINGER, ND – Healthy Weight Network released its 20th annual Slim Chance Awards today, highlighting both the hidden dangers of diets and supplements that often contain unknown ingredients and sometimes potent drugs, and the merely ridiculous.

To call 2008 a typical year in the weight loss field would be too easy. This year’s awards go to an infamous huckster of diet infomercials, known for his outrageous disregard of injunctions against him; $139 body-shaping jeans impregnated with substances that supposedly reduce cellulite; a pill that’s “proven” to help your belly fat vanish; and a dangerous starvation diet launched recklessly on the Internet with promises of safe, fast and permanent weight loss.

All in all, a typical year that synthesizes all that is deceptive and exploitive in this field. So, here they are, the 20th annual Slim Chance Awards:

MOST OUTRAGEOUS CLAIM: Kevin Trudeau infomercials. It’s rare that regulatory agencies look at books, given our free speech laws, but the infomercials for Kevin Trudeau’s weight loss book and his repeated violations were just too much for the Federal Trade Commission, and this past August he was fined over $5 million and banned from infomercials for three years. In “willful efforts” to deceive, Trudeau told listeners they could easily follow the diet protocol at home, even though his book calls for human growth hormone injections and colonics that must be done by a licensed practitioner. The tortured case began in 1998 when FTC charged Trudeau with false and misleading diet infomercials. In 2003 he was charged with false claims; in 2004 he was fined $2 million and banned from infomercials. Again in 2007 a contempt action said he misled thousands with false claims for his weight loss book “in flagrant violation” of court orders.

WORST GIMMICK:  Skineez jeans ($139). A new item in the fight against cellulite, Skineez jeans are impregnated with a so-called “medication” of retinol and chitosan, a shellfish product once claimed to cut fat absorption in the stomach (see 1999 Slim Chance Awards). Friction between the jeans and skin supposedly triggers release of the substance, which goes to work on fat when absorbed through the skin. Reportedly a big hit in Europe, the “smart fabric” is also used in lingerie. Ironically, the creators of Skineez, Clothes for a Cause, profess to raise funds for breast cancer and “a wide range of other socially conscious charities.” So while the company hoodwinks women into buying an expensive pair of jeans, it promises they can “do good with every purchase … As our sales grow, so will our ability to help others.” FTC, however, is clear about such gimmicks, emphasizing that products worn or rubbed on the skin do not cause weight loss or fat loss.

WORST CLAIM: AbGONE. Throughout 2008 full page ads assaulted the eye in daily newspapers across the country touting AbGONE as “proven to promote pot belly loss.”  Claims are that AbGONE increases “fat metabolism” and calorie burn, promotes appetite suppression and inhibits future abdominal fat deposits. These are drug claims that, if true, would alter the body’s regulation, but unlike drugs, the pills are sold as food supplements not requiring FDA approval. The bold ads feature the obligatory before and after shots of models, cut-away sketches of the abdomen with and without belly fat, and a white-coated researcher with chart purportedly confirming success of 5 times reduction in fat mass, 4 times lower BMI, 4 times greater weight loss than placebo. No added diet and exercise needed – well, except, you may want to heed the fine print disclaimer at the bottom that reminds us “diet and exercise are essential.”

WORST PRODUCT: Kimkins diet. It must have seemed an easy way to get rich quick. Founder Heidi “Kimmer” Diaz set up a website and charged members a fee to access the Kimkins diet, boasting they could lose up to 5 percent of their body weight in 10 days. “Better than gastric bypass,” there was “no faster diet,” and in fact she herself had lost 198# in 11 months. Stunning “after” photos were displayed. In June 2007 Women’s World ran it as a cover story, and that month alone PayPal records show the Kimkins site took in over $1.2 million. Then users began complaining of chest pains, hair loss, heart palpitations, irritability and menstrual irregularities. This was not surprising since Kimkins is essentially a starvation diet, down to 500 calories per day and deficient in many nutrients (appallingly, laxatives are advised to replace missing fiber). In a lawsuit, 11 former members are uncovering a vast record of Diez’s alleged fraud. They found that the stunning “after” photos, including one of Kimmer herself, had been lifted from a Russian mail order bride site. According to a deposition reported by Los Angeles TV station KTLA, Diaz admitted using fake pictures, fake stories and fake IDs, and a judge has allowed the litigants to freeze some of her assets.

“Today’s economic downturn can remind us how foolish it is to waste money on unsafe, ineffective and energy-draining weight loss efforts,” said Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, whose organization Healthy Weight Network started the Slim Chance Awards 20 years ago. The National Council Against Health Fraud, for which she is coordinator of the task force for Weight Loss Abuse, co-sponsors the awards.

They’re part of the lead-up to “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” during Healthy Weight Week, which falls from January 18 to 24 in 2009.

With the New Year upon us, resolutions freshly on our minds, Berg is advising people to skip dieting and move ahead with healthy habits that last a lifetime.

“Here’s a plan for the new year that’s free, freeing of your spirit and available to all,” she said.

Record your dieting history (weight lost, weight regained, favorable and ill effects, time frame of each). Reflect on what you have written.

Resolve to follow a healthy diet-free lifestyle through 2009, adapting guidelines that work for you. (Handouts available at

It’s a way to get your life on track, improve your health and move on with what’s really important in your life, Berg explained. For more information contact Healthy Weight Network or visit


For more information see

Francie M. Berg
Healthy Weight Network
402 South 14th Street
Hettinger, ND 58639

MEDIA: To arrange an interview with Francie Berg call 701-567-2646 or email  (please begin subject line with: Berg ….).

– END –


Berg’s organization, Healthy Weight Network, started the Slim Chance Awards in 1989 to help educate consumers. They are part of the lead-up to
Healthy Weight Week, the third full week in January.

Sponsored by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud, the Slim Chance Awards are selected from nominations by health professionals and consumers and reflect the opinion
of the panel making judgments.