Junkfood Science: The spitball diet?

June 26, 2007

The spitball diet?

Did you hear that a new magical weight loss “bio-granule” has been licking obesity in the United States? That’s certainly news to us!

But sadly, this phony weight loss gimmick was sold across the UK and took thousands of people there for about $250,000 (U.S. dollars). The British press reported that a U.S. company has finally agreed to stop marketing the pill — which sounds like a spitball. Here’s the news:

US company promises end to slimming ads

...[M]ore than 120,000 UK households received mailings promoting the weight loss qualities of the SlimBall. The company behind the mailings – Kirkwood Advertising – described the device as a “surgery free gastric balloon” and the “No.1 weight loss treatment that's beating obesity in the USA.”

Consumers were told that a “bio-granule” taken 15 minutes before a meal would swell the stomach by up to fifty times its original size and suppressed users' appetites, ensuring safe and fast weight loss. More than 4,000 people in the UK placed orders for the treatments.... The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) asked Kirkwood Advertising to back up the claims but the company failed to provide any proper evidence. Instead it said it would stop sending the mailings to UK consumers.

There is nothing in the medical literature to support such a bio-granule.

The closest thing is a recent story in Wired Magazine a few weeks ago describing two Italians testing a new diet pill made of a cellulose compound of hydrogel that’s about the size of a spit wad. When taken with a LOT of water, they claim it will grow to the size of a tennis ball and could make people feel fuller and less likely to overeat.

Wired reported that the inventors had “been working with a team to develop super-absorbent materials for Swedish paper-product company Sca and wondered whether a hydrogel could produce an effect similar to gastric banding — without the surgery.”

Like a paper spitball.

What exactly happens to this tennis ball after it expands in one’s stomach hasn’t been revealed. But Wired did note that “in a market glutted with miracle cures and trendy diets, some folks don't gel with th[is] concept.”

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