National Eating Disorders Association

Weight Loss Companies Charged with Fraud - “It’s About Time”

Caitlin Hamilton, Communications Associate

This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged several weight-loss companies with fraud and, to be honest, it’s about time. The products in question – Sensa Products, L’Occitane, HCG Diet Direct and Lean Spa – are just a handful of the hundreds of these types of companies that are peddling products that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. 

The FTC deemed the marketing claims by companies selling these popular dietary supplements, food additives and skin creams as “unfounded promises.” But more than simply “unfounded promises” these weight loss products are dangerous.

“For years, the eating disorders field has been sounding the alarm on fad dieting. The damage to public health runs deeper than corporate profitability,” said Lynn Grefe, president & CEO of NEDA. “Not only do 95% of all dieters regain their lost weight within five years, dieting causes many to use unhealthy weight control behaviors. For those genetically predisposed, this can lead to a life-threatening eating disorder. We are ecstatic to see the FTC hold these companies accountable for their false science and deceptive advertising.”

As part of the decision, the FTC ordered the companies to collectively pay $34 million in settlement funds that will be refunded to consumers. While this measure is clearly a step in the right direction, that amount is just a drop in the bucket when compared to the $66 billion that consumers are expected to spend on products aimed at weight loss in 2014.

It is time that the public be made aware of the dangers of weight loss products and that the corporations who sell and market them be held accountable.