Supplement Perspectives

Peering Behind the Oz Effect's Curtain

The “Oz effect” has been a boon to the natural products industry. But Shaheen Majeed, Sabinsa’s marketing director, sees a significant downside—particularly when it comes to the weight management sphere.

Have you checked your spam folder lately? Mine is filled with pitches for forskolin:“loose that belly fat instantly,” “as seen on Dr. OZ,” and “no dieting or exercise needed with forskolin.” 

This is all driven by a Dr. Oz segment that used special effects on a wall filled with photos of overweight bellies zapped into athlete-worthy sculpted abs instantly, and claiming that forskolin would have that effect. In passing he mentioned some other benefits, but who heard those with visions of a flat belly dancing in their heads?

While it is always satisfying when studies on Sabinsa‘s products are cited by Dr. Oz a segment asking,  “Are you ready to make your stubborn stomach fat instantly disappear?” implied forskolin magically creates a flat belly. We respectfully disagree with Dr. Oz on such miraculous claims. We are, however, grateful that he has mentioned our studies on increasing bone mineral density, testosterone support, and increase in lean body mass—all of which were clinically shown with ForsLean.

But most of his hyperbole was much like the SPAM emails touting knock-offs marketed with the “loose weight without no diet or exercise” claim the FDA frowns upon, jeopardizing legitimate coleus products.

Similarly, garcinia cambogia’s hydroxy-citric acid (HCA) has been highlighted by Dr. Oz as a “fat buster,” but again with no emphasis on diet or exercise. Nearly two years ago, Dr. Oz reported this ingredient to be the least expensive in the weight loss category, but today prices are skyrocketing. Technically, HCA’s ability to inhibit the production of fat and promote satiety is stellar, pioneered by Sabinsa, the holder of a number of patents. The potassium version branded as Citrin® K, which claims the suppression of appetite and induction of weight loss, is the most recent patent. Also water soluble and affirmed generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for food and beverage use, it is still no magic wand, and should not be marketed as such.

The alarming rate of obesity, today nearly 2.1 billion people are overweight and obese, defines an epidemic that needs care and attention in all forms, from the foods we eat to drugs that do not have the side effect of creating extra weight in your body, to the supplements we can take. Sadly, the United States is home to the highest proportion of the world's obese people: 13 percent.

In a U.S. Senate Subcommittee hearing held June 17, “Protecting Consumers from False and Deceptive Advertising of Weight-Loss Products,” examining the ongoing pervasiveness of weight-loss scams utilizing unfair and deceptive marketing and advertising practices, Dr. Oz took a lot of criticism from Consumer Protection Subcommittee chair Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) for the language he uses and the claims he makes.

The “Oz effect” on product sales is well documented, but we can’t help but be concerned that such rapid popularity provides ample opportunity and incentive for knockoffs that lack a therapeutic dose of the actives, contain questionable ingredients, or are based upon stolen intellectual property. And the correlation has been made between companies making outlandish claims and business practices that are actionable by law enforcement and regulatory agencies. This is yet another reason for marketers of weight loss products to be scrupulous in their business practices to distance themselves from these bad actors.

I encourage marketers of weight management products to align themselves with legitimate products, include a therapeutic amount of the ingredient, and promote a healthy lifestyle alongside the product directions.  

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