PRODUCT AND WHO MARKETED FOR: Anyone who listens to local radio particularly shock-jock Howard Stern knows about Trim Spa, because Stern is one of the product’s biggest supporters. Stern says he doesn’t use the stuff, but a colleague on the program, “Cabbie,” credits it for his dramatic weight loss.
Trim Spa comes in several varieties, some of which contain ephedra, linked to high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, seizures, strokes, heart attacks and death. According to the company’s Web site, another variety, Lipo Spa, melts fat in food “and steers it right out of your body.”
Ninety pills cost $39.95. The first week is spent assessing your caffeine tolerance: Will one pill each day cause jitters? For the next nine weeks, two tablets are taken daily, then one daily in weeks 11 and 12. After that, Trim Spa should only be used five days each week, according to the label.
The company is a division of Goen Technologies and is based in Cedar Knolls, N.J. Trim Spa representatives did not return telephone inquiries.
WHAT’S KNOWN: Not much. Some of Trim Spa’s ingredients forskolin, chromium, glucomannan and vanadium are not listed in the Physician’s Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines. Another ingredient in some formulas is green tea extract, a caffeine-rich herb popular in weight-loss products, though its effects are unproven.
According to company literature, forskolin breaks down fat, chromium curbs sweet cravings by increasing insulin sensitivity, fibrous glucomannan gives you a full feeling and vanadium mimics insulin and enhances thyroid function.
In Texas, Goen must disclose one variety of Trim Spa may cause health problems because it contains ephedra, and no one under 17 can legally buy it there.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Proceed with caution and consult a doctor first, said Tammy Baker, a dietitian spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “If there was a pill that could really contribute to weight loss, everybody would take it,” she said. “They really have not proven these herbal supplements can help.”
The Healthy Weight Network of North Dakota, which monitors weight- loss plans, named Trim Spa the “most outrageous product” in its 2003 Slim Chance Awards and says some of the before and after photos are not of the same person.
Ernest Poorer, 44, of Bingham, Maine, said in an interview that he lost about 50 pounds, and most of the weight returned after he stopped taking Trim Spa. He’s still listed as a success story at www.trimspa.com.
OTHER ADVICE: In a recent study, the Federal Trade Commission reported 74 percent of tabloid weight-loss advertisements and 54 percent of newspaper ads contain at least one false claim. According to the FTC and the Healthy Weight Network, you should avoid products that imply a large and fast weight loss; use terms like ancient, miraculous or breakthrough; rely on before and after photos or testimonials; misuse medical terms; promise to treat a wide range of ailments and nutritional deficiencies as well as stimulate weight loss; promote aids such as body wraps, aromatherapy, appetite patches or acupuncture; say ingredients will surround calories, starch, carbohydrate or fat and remove them; and declare that the traditional medical community refuses to accept its miraculous benefits.
OTHER APPROACHES: The FTC and Baker suggest losing weight the old-fashioned way: with lifestyle changes.
“Small, permanent changes in the long run will help you take weight off,” Baker said.
First visit your doctor, who will craft an eating and exercise plan. Don’t set unrealistic goals — expect to lose one to two pounds per week. Baker also recommends starting a food diary. That way, you’ll be able to tell what and how much you’re consuming. Try to slice 100 calories each day from your diet.
Start exercise gradually and build up to 30 minutes each day. Park far away from stores or work and climb stairs instead of taking the elevator.