Don’t buy into the ‘lose weight fast’ scheme

By Linda Luk

“Lose 10 pounds in 10 days” or “Get big, lean and ripped muscle mass!”

These are the claims companies make about supplements to sell consumers quick fixes for their health issues. People now are purchasing supplements to get the results they want fast instead of getting it the old-fashioned way, through exercise and a good diet.

“I think there are a lot of people out there using supplements, but don’t know what they do,” said Greg Ehlers, assistant athletic trainer for NIU athletics. “Since FDA doesn’t regulate the use of supplements, people are using them for the wrong reasons.”

Generally, supplements can be placed into four categories: vitamins and minerals, performance enhancing, weight loss and meal replacements.

“I feel that a one-a-day multivitamin is very important in a daily diet,” said Kristie Emmons, an NIU dietetic intern. “As college students, we have busy schedules and compromised financial situations, making it difficult for us to consume the varied, balanced diet we need. The multivitamin by no means replaces the diet we all should consume, but it will help in areas that we may be lacking for that given day.”

While multivitamin supplements are good for you, weight loss supplements are not.

“Diet supplements [weight loss supplements] often contain Ephedra, a stimulant which essentially speeds up a person’s heart rate, giving them the feeling of increased energy and decreased appetite,” Emmons said. “Not only is this increased heart rate dangerous over any period of time, it can become an addiction. The body will quickly adapt to the Ephedra dose, requiring a person to increase the dose to feel the same effects.”

Ehlers also agrees that using weight loss supplements is one of the most dangerous kinds of dieting.

“A lot of people seem to be hypersensitive to the stimulant,” he said. “We see a lot of adverse effects to that ingredient. Over 100 deaths have been associated with Ephedrine. NCAA and other professional sports organizations have banned the use of Ephedrine for that reason.”

He added that since supplements are not very well regulated, consumers are never 100 percent sure of the purities of the ingredients. Many people believe the claims made by the company, and many have not been scientifically proven.

“We are always looking for quick fixes, and we need to be careful in listening to the claims of what the products does,” Ehlers said. “The products that contain Ephedrine have not been scientifically proven to work, and there has been no testing for long-term health problems. Supplements can hurt you, and it might even kill you, which can be in the case of Ephedrine.”

Ehler suggests that the best way for weight loss is good nutritional diet, cardio and strength training. He recommends that before taking any supplements, it is important to be educated by people who are knowledgeable in the use of supplements, such as dietitians, physicians or athletic trainers.

“The Office of Campus Recreation offers free nutrition counseling with NIU dietetic interns, which would be a good place to start,” Emmons said. “The health center should also be able to answer any questions a person may have regarding supplementation.”

It is important to be careful with the use of supplements because people might be buying something that is not helpful at all, or at the worst, it might be damaging to your health, Ehler said.