Diet pills pay Dr. Oz a visit

Commercializing and commodifying the industry

Our society is driven by the need to lose weight, the need to look ‘perfect,’ and the need to reinforce ourselves and our self-esteem by thinning down. Conversely, people say they don’t have time to work out, they don’t want to cut certain foods out of their diet, or they are too impatient to wait a few months or a year in order to see the full effects of their weight-loss regimens. Ours is a society of cutting corners, so how do people expect that to be applied to their weight-loss?

Then comes the creation of diet pills. Some researchers spend the entirety of their professional careers trying to find the best diet pill that can compel people to consume it, and pharmaceutical companies wait quietly and patiently for the next big thing to be created so they can snatch it and commodify it as fast as they can. Diet pills, then, become part of the marketplace, a product to be bought and sold, to be advertised, to be commercialized, and to be broadcast to millions.

Raspberry ketone
Raspberry ketone (a naturally occurring compound found in red raspberries that gives them their smell) was introduced on the Dr. Oz Show in February 2013. Unknown to many, he called it “The No. 1 miracle [pill] in a bottle.”

“The science is just not there. The studies aren’t there. I would not be spending my money on any of this stuff.” -Dr. Arya Sharma

Dr. Oz, accompanied by self-proclaimed “fitness and weight-loss expert” Lisa Lynn, said that the pill makes your body “think it’s skinny” by producing a hormone called adiponectin. Furthermore, Lynn added that this pill “slices up the fat in your cells” which makes burning fat easier, and that the pill is said to be “very healthy” and has no “side effects.” For it to work, Lynn says that you have to take at least 100 mg of raspberry ketone, the equivalent of one capsule per day. (To get the same amount of raspberry ketone naturally you’d have to eat 90 pounds of raspberries a day.) The results start showing after one to five days, and, the longer you stay on this pill, the more weight you lose.

This pill sold out in many health food stores just after this episode aired on television, according to an article published on April 5, 2013 entitled “Raspberry Ketone Frenzy.”

Lynn said she discovered this pill by doing “research, research, and research.” Lynn forgot to inform the viewers that raspberry ketone was never tested on humans in clinical trials. Instead, it was tested on mice in two different experiments in 2006 and 2010.
Dr. Arya Sharma, Professor of Medicine and Chair in Obesity Research and Management at the University of Alberta, said in an interview with the Globe and Mail in June 2012 that raspberry ketone acts on the body by activating stress hormones, which can lead to problems such as an increase in heart rate. Dr. Sharma continued, adding, “The science is just not there. The studies aren’t there. I would not be spending my money on any of this stuff.”

Garcinia cambogia
On October 29, 2012, the show aired another episode featuring another diet pill called Garcinia cambogia or, in other words, “the newest, fastest fat-buster.” Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit native to Indonesia. Dr. Oz said that you can lose fat without dieting or exercising with the help of this diet pill – he called it the “revolutionary fat buster.”

This pill is said to be different from other diet pills in the market because of its “dual action”: it decreases body fat while suppressing appetite. Furthermore, it is said to aid in suppressing the stress hormone cortisol, and therefore can help decrease belly fat.

Dr. Oz said on the show that “[he] does not sell this stuff, [he] does not make any money on this, and [he] does not commission any brand on this.” The raspberry ketone phenomenon repeated itself after this episode. Many health food stores that held the product suddenly found themselves lacking stock.

What is more important is changing how society views people who aren’t considered ‘skinny’ or ‘perfect.’

But does this pill actually work? Contrary to raspberry ketone, this pill was actually already tested on human subjects, but the results were not that positive. The first experiment done in 1998 – which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – and another one done in 2010 – published in the Journal of Obesity – came to the same conclusion: Garcinia cambogia failed to produce any significant weight-loss compared to a regular diet plan. But the last experiment showed that the Garcinia extract generated only short-term results, and that “its clinical relevance seems questionable.”

The harsh truth
If a diet pill is said to be ‘good,’ as shown on “The Dr. Oz Show” or just by good publicity, people will take it no matter the consequences. Our society is a fat-phobic one, and a lot of people will do anything it takes to lose weight and attain the supposedly ‘perfect’ body. Pharmaceutical companies make millions using that affective aspect. This marketplace is getting out of control, and Dr. Sharma asserts that “better regulations and tighter rules should be put in place to restrict the types of weight-loss claims companies are allowed to make.”

While that is one of the solutions, what is more important is changing how society views people who aren’t considered ‘skinny’ or ‘perfect.’ This could reverse the current trend, and people would not resort to drastic measures in order to become what society expects them to be, and shows like “Dr. Oz” wouldn’t feel compelled to thrust dieting into the mainstream.