Celebs like the Kardashian sisters are making a financial killing by endorsing everything from beauty products to slimming pills.
For example it has, been estimated that in 2010, Kim Kardashian earned $6m from her TV show, her clothing line, and the many fitness, beauty and other products she endorses.
But now, perhaps the wheel has turned, because a lawsuit has been filed against Kim Kardashian and her sisters Khloe and Kourtney, in connection with their endorsement of a slimming product (Channel24, 2012).
The lawsuit has been filed in the USA on behalf of four plaintiffs demanding damages in excess of $5m for claims that were made by Kardashian marketing and the manufacturers of slimming products sold under the name of Quick Trim. The plaintiffs contend that the slimming product claims were "false, misleading, and unsubstantiated" and did not produce the promised weight loss that the users had anticipated (Channel24, 2012).
The plaintiffs also put on record that "there was no competent and reliable scientific evidence supporting any of these claims".
Somehow this entire story sounds eerily familiar. The only difference is, that in South Africa, champions of the truth like medical researcher Dr Harris Steinman, who regularly takes companies that make slimming pills and potions to task at the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority of SA) for false, misleading, and unsubstantiated claims, does not get a $5m payout if the judgment goes his way.
Check out Dr Steinman's CAMcheck website for a seemingly endless list of South African companies that have had to retract their products and advertisements for precisely the reason that the claims they make do not contain any scientifically proven facts.
When I Googled "Quick Trim" in South Africa, I found that their website features a sexy image of two of the Kardashian sisters, and proudly announces that “the Kardashian sisters were brought on for marketing purposes” (Quick Trim SA, 2012). The rest of the introductory blurb is difficult to understand and I suspect that this is a translation which went a bit awry. One wonders if the original text, like the sisters’ ancestors, hailed from Armenia?
Well, there are sufficient products to meet every need for various degrees of "Burn", culminating in "Extreme Burn", and "Cleanse" varying between "Iso-Cleanse" to "Iso-Flush" to "Fast Cleanse" (Quick Trim SA, 2012). The text promises marvels not only of weight loss, but also of mood enhancement, metabolic stimulation and that dreaded promise of "detoxification".
But Quick Trim may deserve a pat on the back because, in contrast to many other over-the-counter slimming pills, they do list their "key ingredients" on the website. I say "may", because I am a bit worried that only the "key ingredients" are mentioned.
We know from some of the other slimming pill sagas that have unfolded in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, that in the past manufacturers did not list certain ingredients like sibutramine, with dangerous results for unsuspecting dieters.
The usual list of ingredients
The ingredients that are listed for the Quick Trim products are no different to most of the other OTC slimming products that come and go with monotonous regularity.
The list of product ingredients includes:
- Stimulants such as caffeine and guarana
- Laxatives and diuretics (e.g. buchu leaf extract, senna leaf extract, aloe concentrate, rhubarb extract)
- Green tea extract
- Chromium picolinate
(Quick Trim SA, 2012)
Except for green tea which contains epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG) and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which have been shown to enhance weight loss and chromium picolinate that can assist with normalising blood glucose levels, most of the other ingredients have no proven weight loss effects.
A word of caution about chromium picolinate
Although chromium can promote improved blood glucose control and may reduce insulin peaks, research published as early as 2003 by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK already cautioned that the picolinate form of chromium should rather be replaced by the polynicotate compound because of fears that chromium picolinate may cause cancer.
In addition, the FSA warned that chromium intake in adults should not exceed 200 microgram per day, a dose that is easily exceeded when slimmers use chromium-containing OTC slimming pills.
So why do perfectly sensible women and men use TV and movie celebs as their advisors when selecting slimming products? It is totally illogical to obtain advice about health and slimming from people who have no training or knowledge in these fields.
And yet, thousands and thousands of people throughout the world, rush out to buy slimming products endorsed by their favourite film or TV star in the faint hope that by using such products they too will miraculously be transformed into svelte and sexy sirens or hunks with rippling six-packs.
So what are we chasing? A dream? A mirage? A sham? Of course it is immensely alluring to dream that swallowing pills endorsed by a glam celeb, will make the kgs melt away and/or inflate our muscles.
The tragedy is that in the majority of cases, people may lose some weight, especially due to water losses induced by the potent laxatives and diuretics such products contain, but they usually don’t lose much actual fat and in the long run the slimmers will regain what they have lost often at the cost of their health. In this type of situation, the only people laughing all the way to the bank are the celebs and the slimming pill producers!
So before you rush off to purchase that exercise machine or slim-while-you-sleep-suit or those diet pills, wake up to the fact that you are deluding yourself and making other people very, very rich.
We laugh at our forefathers who bought "snake oil" from quacks at country fairs, but we are prepared to fork out large amounts of our own hard-earned money chasing a dream that by swallowing tablets X and Y, we too will look like our favourite TV or movie stars!
You would not dream of asking your pharmacist to fix your car, or your doctor to design your wardrobe, so why would you ask your favourite celeb to select your slimming products for you?
Perhaps we should wake up and smell the coffee!
Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc
Any questions? Ask DietDoc
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Dr Ingrid van Heerden is a registered dietician and holds a doctoral degree in Nutrition and Biochemistry. She believes that "we are what we eat" and offers free nutrition and weight loss advice via her DietDoc service on Health24.com. Read more of her articles.