Snake oil

Some of the beauty industry advertising really sets my teeth grinding, because it uses a pseudo-science. They get a model in a white coat to give so-called medical advice to sell something that's not even registered as a drug. So, it hasn't had to pass the sort of stringent tests doctors expect of the drugs they recommend.

The models are simply updated versions of the snake-oil merchants of last century. Like the medicine salesmen at side-shows, they use a smattering of scientific terms to persuade the gullible there's a miracle drug that can burn off fat while they sit around and eat all day.

Some drugs can increase your metabolic rate and, therefore, increase your fat burning rate. But they also lift your heart rate and increase the strain on the cardiovascular system. If you're overweight or have recently gained a lot of weight, you may well have undiagnosed heart problems and risk suffering a heart attack.

This may sound extreme, but there have been a number of cases recently where young women have suddenly died while taking a range of diet pills and products.

During the 1990s in America, there was a surge in the market for dietary supplements and over-the-counter products. Americans now reportedly spend some US$48 billion on complementary medicine. This includes not only over-the-counter products, but non-western medicine such as traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and homeopathy.

A great deal of that money is spent on products that are sold as 'natural' fat burners, herbal skin enhancers and so on.

The sellers of some of these products - particularly many non-prescription products described as natural or herbal - can't or won't say what's in their product, how it acts on the body, and what dose is safe and what level is toxic.

Whether it be food, medicine, so-called health drinks, or even a simple tea, don't put anything into your body if you don't know what it is or where it's come from. Medical and food products that don't list all their ingredients clearly don't deserve to be trusted.

Oh, and if you want to lose weight, here's some free advice that works: eat less food and take more exercise.