By Luca Zislin
In the age of body positivity, wherein average bodies are more visible than ever one would think the snake oil ‘lose twenty pounds in two weeks’ potions would fade into obscurity. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Weight loss products are more pervasive than ever.
Years ago, wacky miracle pills may have starred in a Dr. Oz episode or late-night infomercial. Today, Flat Tummy Tea, as just one example, boasts millions of followers and endorsements by multiple A-list celebrities. At the bottom of their millennial pink website, “these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration” is written in deceptively small font. Even more comical, the answer to the FAQ addressing side effects begins with “don’t worry babe.”
It is understandable as to why to the babes are not worrying. This is a company that has graced the pages of Vogue and even self described “positive community for women” Hello Giggles.
But the babes should be worrying. “Detox” tea is stimulant laxative tea. Flat Tummy Tea specifically runs the risk of harming contraceptive pill users. Dr. Karin Kratina, a nationally recognized nutrition therapist explains,“the weight loss [from detox teas] is primarily, and probably all, water weight.” In the long term, detox teas can cause serious harm to the bowels.
Flat Tummy Tea is the titan of the industry but it just the top of the dangerous weight loss product. Skinny Coffee Club uses Garcinia Cambogia, a substance the medical community has no verdict on. BoomBod boasts their products do not contain laxatives yet the products are Glucomannan based, a substance that can cause cause choking or blockage of the throat and esophagus. BooTea, advertised by Lindsey Lohan, shockingly writes in its disclaimer, “we are not responsible if information made available on this site is not accurate, complete or current.”
Most of the debate surrounding culpability boils down to the celebrities endorsing the products. There is a good conversation to be had about the ethics of advertising snake oil but at the crux of the problem is the existence of the snake oil itself.
How can a company make the claim they are not responsible for inaccurate information they use to sell products with? The answer lies within the FDA’s lack of regulation. Dietary supplements do not require FDA approval. The only regulation is that new ingredients must be notified to the FDA. Upon perusing the detox tea giants, there is a massive amount of crossover between the ingredients anyways. The side and long term effects are outright undocumented because no burden exists for them to be documented.
On January 15th, 2015 the FDA posted a warning on their website of too good to be true weight loss products. Who regularly browses FDA consumer updates? Especially in light of the tens of millions of people subscribed to sugar coated instagram pages plastered with beautiful, famous women clutching laxative powder in pretty packaging. The FDA effectively is doing nothing to at the very least monitor the sales of products with unknown implications.
The FDA should legally require the same due diligence from dietary supplement companies as they do from tobacco companies, food additive companies and biologic companies. Tobacco products must be branded with “Warning: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.” Unapproved detox teas must be labeled with “Warning: This product contains untested chemicals with undocumented scientific effects.”
A simple “don’t worry babes” is not enough.
Student written opinion pieces