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The Nonsense that is Sensa

May 5, 2011
Elise Truman_NL Featured Image

One thing infomercials are good for is reminding us health professionals that not only are many of the products marketed to the public unsafe, many just plain don’t make sense. Last week, while watching a bit of late night television, I was introduced to the Sensa weight-loss system. Though it has been on the market for over a year now, recent news coverage about the product’s discrepancies as well as a class action lawsuit has brought the weight loss product back to a media forefront. It didn’t take much time through research on the product to discover that there is not much sense in Sensa.

ABOUT SENSA

“Sprinkle, Eat, Lose”. The infomercial caught my attention for the reason that it has probably caught the attention of thousands of other Americans. The simplicity of the product’s claims and catch phrases truly serve its appeal. I couldn’t draw my eyes away from the television screen as I watched in-shape actresses sprinkle “tastants” on to their pizza and fried foods and carelessly enjoy. In fact, the product boasts the ability to help users lose weight with “no food restriction” and “no change in lifestyle”. Sensa’s non-sense claim is that by sprinkling their “tastant” crystals on any food they you will eat less.

SCIENCE BEHIND SENSA?

A likely reason that many consumers buy into the product’s authenticity is because it has been created and backed by a physician, Dr. Alan R. Hirsch.  The product’s website has attempted to additionally back up the claim by adding a “How it Works” section as well as a “Clinically Proven” section.

In an attempt to explain how the product works, Dr. Hirsch claims the product uses “Sensory Specific Satiety” to trigger the body’s “I feel full” signal. After scanning the product’s website, I noticed that the “How it works” section only includes a short paragraph. Apparently Sensa just wants you to take their word for it.

Chances are, if product users are losing weight with use of this product it is due to a placebo effect of the product. Whether or not the product does what it claims to do, some users may believe it works and therefore consciously believe that they’re fuller, faster. And in reality, this is what science has been suggesting we do for years. Conscious eating, as well as eating slower, have both been linked to decreased energy intake as well as feeling full quicker. Take time to eat and enjoy your meal by focusing on your food’s sight, taste, and aroma and you’ll likely eat less in the long run.

A BETTER WAY TO CURB YOUR CRAVINGS

It is no secret that the American public is always open to the latest “quick fix” that will help them to decrease food intake and thus lose weight. Though as nutrition experts we stress that there are no quick and dirty solutions to weight loss or hunger cravings, there are some all natural solutions that have showed promising results.

Fill up on fiber. Dietary fiber has several functions in the body but one of my favorite perks of a high fiber diet is longer satiety and energy intake regulation. In other words, fiber helps us to stay fuller, longer and so we ultimately eat less calories. Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables like apples, prunes, and spinach as well as in whole grain products like bread, cereals, and whole-wheat pasta.

 Step up your water game. Drinking more water is also a great way to help lower calorie intake. Studies show that drinking water before a meal can help decrease overall energy intake of the meal. Aim to drink an 8 ounce glass of water before you eat a meal as well as plenty of water through the day during non-meal times.

 Pack in the protein. Another easy way to feel fuller longer is to include a protein with each meal and snack. A study published in the Journal of Physiology and Behavior showed a significant energy intake reduction with what they call “protein-induced satiety”. You’ll get healthy proteins in a meal with the addition of lean meats, fish, as well as beans/lentils. An example of a healthy addition of protein to a snack is adding a tablespoon of natural peanut butter or hummus to an apple or slice of whole wheat bread.

BOTTOM LINE

The truth is, if and when there is ever a safe and health “magic bullet” or “quick fix” to weight loss, health professionals will probably jump at the chance to promote its use. Until then, I offer my own humble simplistic phrase which coincides with what dietitians and health professionals have been rightly recommending for years; “Exercise, Eat Right, Lose”.

References

  1. Burton-Freeman B. Dietary  fiber and energy regulation. Journal of Nutrition 2000; 130(2S Suppl.): 272S–5S
  2. “Water consumption reduces energy intake at a break… [J Am Diet Assoc. 2008] – PubMed result.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 May 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu
  3. “ScienceDirect – Physiology & Behavior : Protein-induced satiety: Effects and mechanisms of different proteins.” ScienceDirect – Home . N.p., n.d. Web. 3 May 2011. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T0P-4RJYV80-2&_user=10&_coverDate=05%2F
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