Every month DietDoc receives countless queries about the latest miracle diet pills and aids on the market. Slender Wonder is the latest slimming regimen that DietDoc investigates.
Not a week goes by that members of the public do not ask me to comment on one or other diet pill or fad diet or slimming programme. Seeing that at least one new slimming pill, miracle diet or weight loss regimen is launched every week with monotonous regularity, it is financially impossible for me to purchase all these products to scrutinise them and their ingredients. I, therefore, particularly appreciated it when I received a detailed description of what the Slender Wonder programme, diet and products consist of, from one of the contributors to the Ask DietDoc message board.
According to my source who had signed up and paid R2 500 for the Slender Wonder regimen, the programme consists of a dietary component, a meal replacement shake and a variety of supplements.
The diet component
The diet appears to be divided into four phases:
- An initial 3-day detox phase, which only permits the intake of 300 g of fruit 3 times a day [Approximate energy content = 1800 kJ/day]
- Meal Plan A: Breakfast - 1 glass of protein shake*; Lunch - 1 portion of starch (2 Provitas or Melba toast or Crackerbread) and 1-2 portions of fruit (an apple, orange or naartjie or 100g of so-called "negative energy" fruits such as strawberries, spanspek, pawpaw or mango); Supper - 1 portion of protein (100g raw weight of lean beef, chicken breasts, venison, or 1 egg, or 90g low-fat cheese or 175ml low-fat yoghurt) and 1 portion of so-called "negative energy" vegetables (120 g raw weight of lettuce, tomato, spinach, broccoli, etc). No milk allowed during this phase. [Approximate energy content = 3700 kJ/day]
- Meal Plan B: Breakfast - 1 glass of protein shake; Lunch - 1 portion of starch, 1 portion fruit and 1 portion protein; Supper - 1 portion of protein and 1 portion of vegetables. 2 tablespoons of fat-free milk a day. [Approximate energy content = 4500 kJ/day]
- Moderate Meal Plan: Same as Meal Plan B, but the protein portions are increased to 120g, the vegetable portions are increased to 150 g, the starch portions increase from 2 to 3 crisp breads like Provitas and dieters are permitted to have 1 cup of cooked oats or hi-fibre Bran as one of their starch portions. Finally 1 cup of fat-free milk per day is allowed. [Approximate energy content = 6400 kJ/day]
(* I have assumed that 1 glass of protein shake will provided at least 2100 kJ or 1/3 of the 6300 kJ/day energy requirement of an adult woman on a slimming diet)
Phases 1-3 of this dietary regimen are so low in energy that they can actually be regarded as starvation diets which will initially result in weightloss no matter what else you take. The problem is that the human body tends to resist starvation at all costs and may shut down its weight loss mechanisms and switch over to conserving energy which will then slow down weight loss.
The final phase or Moderate Meal Plan with an estimated energy content of 6400 kJ per day if you add a cup of cooked oats and a cup of fat-free milk to your food intake, for the first time has the same energy content as recommended slimming diets.
It is debatable how long slimmers will be able to stick to phases 1 to 3 of this typical high-protein diet, and the fall-out rate is probably high.
In general, the 4 phases of the diet are not balanced and the ban on milk in phases 1 to 3, is not logical in view of the finding that slimming diets that use low-fat or fat-free dairy products tend to promote weight loss (Zemel et al 2008).
So from a nutritional point of view, only phase 4 of this dietary regiment has merit.
The Meal Replacement Shake
According to my source, the meal replacement shake that is recommended for breakfast contains the usual components used in protein shakes, namely protein, maltodextrin, medium-chain triglycerides (as a source of fat), fructose (a low-GI sugar that has been implicated in the development of degenerative diseases), L-glutamine, all the known vitamins, L-carnitine (should not be taken by anyone with an underactive thyroid) (Benvenga, 2005), and chromium ( which may stabilise blood sugar levels, but should not be taken in doses of more than 200 microgram per day to prevent toxicity because chromium is a heavy metal).
Meal replacement shakes are a well know aid to slimming and provided they contain sufficient energy (about 2100 kJ/serving), some dietary fibre, and 1/3 of all the known vitamins, minerals and trace elements, can be used as a substitute for a main meal such as breakfast. This shake does not contain dietary fibre (for regularity) and few minerals which may thus not make up for the lack of minerals such as calcium in phases 1-3, which prohibit the use of milk.
My source lists eight other supplements ranging from Pyruvate capsules to herbal slimming products, that also form part of the Slender Wonder regimen.
My concern is that slimmers who use the meal replacement shake and the two other mineral, trace element and so-called "bioactive" compound combinations may ingest more than the RDA for each nutrient on a daily basis.
Research has shown that taking more than 100% of the RDA for certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful and should be avoided. If you are already getting a dose of the B vitamins from the meal replacement shake you drink every morning and the 100g of meat you eat, then taking even more B complex vitamins via the other supplements is not necessary. This is a typical example of vitamin overdosing which can be potentially harmful (NICUS, 2007).
The herbal supplements
In addition to the pharmaceutical supplements, my source mentions six herbal supplements that form part of the Slender Wonder arsenal: Herbaboost (with Spirulina, Siberian Ginseng, Ginger root, Gotu Cola, Kelp, Astragalus; Liquorice root, Resishi Mushroom and Bladderwrack); CLA; PLA (prime lipoic acid); Hoodia; Easy Cleanze (which contains laxatives such as Aloe Ferox and Cascara, probably included to counteract constipation that often occurs on a high-protein diet that is deficient in dietary fibre; and K-L Cleanze intended to “cleanse the liver and kidneys” (containing Green Tea, Co-enzyme Q, Quercetin, Selenium, Vitamin C, Bioperine and Olive leaf).
I have in the past compiled lists of such herbal ingredients with their side-effects and potential for assisting weight loss, or not. Visit Health24's A-Z of pills/shakes to check out if there is any substantial evidence that these ingredients do promote weight loss or not, and what negative side-effects they may have.
If we just take the Easy Cleanze as an example, you will see that both Aloe Ferox and Cascara are laxatives that can cause constant diarrhoea which may over time result in a loss of normal bowel movements so that you become dependent on laxatives to ensure regularity. In addition, constant, severe diarrhoea can lead to loss of essential minerals, cause electrolyte imbalances and dehydration, which are all harmful to health and should be avoided.
I would personally not be prepared to pay R2 500 for a starvation diet and a whole shopping bag of pills and products that can be potentially harmful or tend to provide duplicate nutrition. It makes one wonder about Slender Wonder!
- (Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc, October 2011)
(Benvenga S, 2005. Effects of L-carnitine on thyroid hormone metabolism & on physical exercise tolerance. Horm Metab Res, 37(9):566-71; DietDoc Message Board Contributor, 2011. Slender Wonder. Personal Communication, 28 September 2011; NICUS, 2007. Are we oxidising ourselves with antioxidants? Be careful of the supplements you take. http://www.sun.ac.za/nicus; Zemel MB et al, 2008. Effects of dairy intake on weight maintenance. Nutrition & Metabolism, 5:28)
Any questions? Ask DietDoc