this article I'd like to further illustrate how offerings come
and go, and there's a science, or maybe an art, to concocting
the next great scam.
go way way back in time, about 150 years or so. Prior to 1850,
fat was admired. Back in those days, if you could fatten yourself
up it proved you were feasting on meals fit only for the privileged.
Hunger was the plague of the less privileged, and those who
could pack on the extra pounds clearly enjoyed lifestyles filled
we moved beyond the first half of the 19th century, our population
learned to reap what they sow, literally. Yes, Americans were
mastering farming, harvesting, and the raising of livestock.
Food was a-plenty and eatin' became an event no longer horded
by the wealthy. As grains were turned into breads, pastries,
and pies, and butter, whole milk, and cheese became simpler
to obtain, "fat" became less in vogue. Once "anyone
can have it," it seems less appealing. The wealthy learned
to drink fine wines and developed gourmet dishes so they could
stay ahead of the curve, but they also began to pamper themselves
with a seminal focus on being "fit and trim."
around the turn of the century, a huckster named Frank J. Kellog
had an idea. He decided that "fat" was becoming burdensome,
and any time a problem becomes widespread, the solution becomes
very profitable. Kellogg invented a formula that he knew he
could sell as a fat loss aid, but how could he reach the masses?
The infomercial had not yet been invented, so mass marketing
required advertising in highly circulated print publications,
and that's precisely what Kellogg did. He advertised. He featured
a cartoon image of a rotund man resembling a well inflated balloon
in the popular Collier's magazine and assured readers he could
cure them. Yes, Frank J. Kellogg had released "Safe Fat
Reducer." From a marketing perspective, it was wonderful!
"Safe" means free from risk, so a formula that could
safely help people return to "fit and trim" was bound
to be a home run. Kellogg amassed great wealth selling his formula,
but the party ended when the American Medical Association reviewed
his product. It was discovered that Kellogg was selling thyroid.
You thought thyroid was only sold on the internet? Nope. Kellogg
had it going on way back when, and there's nothing safe about
messing with thyroid function among the masses. His product
name was clearly a misnomer, but thyroid was only one ingredient.
There were two others. Breadcrumbs and laxatives. The FTC hadn't
yet required warnings and disclaimers, but if they could go
back in time and put some restrictions on Kellogg's offerings,
Safe Fat Reducer might have been sold with a similiar disclaimer
to Xenical featuring those marvelous words, "anal leakage"
and "loose and oily stools."
may have been one of the first, but scores of followers quickly
emerged. In capitalist America, riches could be amassed selling
bogus products to fat folk. Some years after Kellogg's Fat Reducer
fiasco, Marjorie Hamilton came out with an astounding claim.
Epsom salts could actually draw fat out through the skin! If
you'd simply soak in a bathtub with some epsom salts, you'd
lose all of that blubber. Marjorie's offering had a bit of a
twist. Her epsom salts were sold with instructions. No, not
instructions as to how to use the salts, but instructions as
to what else must be done if the salts were to do the trick.
Yes, Marjorie might have been the first to claim a worthless
product "rids the body of fat" and in order to create
believers, combined it with instructions to "eat right
and exercise." Marjorie clearly stated that in order for
the weight loss salts to do their thing, users would have to
take long walks and write off bread, potatoes, cakes, pies,
and pastries. She might have earned some nice money in the early
1900's, and perhaps she paved the way for someone who wants
to sell a supplement and insist users avoid carbs and exercise.
prior to the 1960's, innovators had initiated and replicated
unsafe products sold as "safe," laxatives sold as
weight loss aids, and worthless products sold in conjunction
with starvation diets to create the illusion of actual benefit.
The scams continued, but in the late 60's things changed in
a major way. It was clear at that point in time, thanks to science
and pharmaceutical development, that stimulant compounds could
replicate or stimulate the production of the neurotransmitters
epinephrine and norepinephrine, and in doing so could flick
the appetite switch to the "off" position. In other
words, the drug companies were ready to roll out amphetamines
as prescription weight loss aids. The drug companies recruited
doctors as their messengers, and America was hooked on "diet
remember going to the Jefferson Starship concert in Central
Park in 1976. I was 16 years old and I'd never seen so many
people swallowing pills in one place. There was a rallying cry
throughout the park. "Dexadrine!" "Dexadrine!"
It was as blatant as the beer vendor at Shea stadium yelling
"beer here." The "diet pills" were clearly
being used for other purposes, and that's when the government
put the brakes on. They initiated controls, new drug regulations,
and "diet pills" were suddenly less available. Oh,
you could still get them, if you had a willing physician with
a pen and a prescription pad, but the drug companies had to
go back to work to come up with something with greater appeal
than their compounds that were being linked to overdose and
the late 1980's there was a new buzz. There were some new drug
compounds that were being used successfully to facilitate 'safe
weight loss" in France. Soon thereafter, phentermine and
fenflouramine were all the rage, and by the mid-1990's, Phen-Fen
was "hot." That's about the time I released my first
book, Mind & Muscle, Fitness For All of You (later re-released
under the name TRANSFORM! The Ultimate Fitness Solution). I
traveled the country doing media appearances and Phen-Fen became
a huge platform. I did extensive research and came to learn
some very disturbing things about what was being sold as a wonderful
drug combination. Shortly after I completed my book tour I had
become the go-to guy for media stories on Phen-Fen, and the
show Hard Copy sent reporters and camera people to my home to
interview me (my neighbors no doubt thought I was involved in
some kind of scandal). The interview lasted a few hours, and
I discussed how the Phen-Fen drugs, in combination, affect the
same neurotransmitters in the brain as cocaine. I pointed out
that while we openly accept that cocaine leads to brain damage,
when the drug companies stand to make lots of money the language
changes. In the Physician's Desk Reference, the Phen-Fen drugs
were referenced as leading to "possible short term memory
loss." I emphasized the side effect was the result of the
destruction of brain cells. I also went on to explain how there
was an ever-growing correlation between Phen-Fen prescription
and the onset of an irreversible disease, PPH (Primary Pulmonary
Hypertension) for which the prescription was a heart and lung
transplant and a much-shortened lifespan. Soon thereafter the
Mayo Clinic released a report linking 24 cases of heart valve
disease to the drug combination. What followed was additional
study revealing that of 291 Phen-Fen users tested, 271 showed
ECG abnormalities. In 1997 Phen-Fen was removed from the market,
but here's the stunning part from my perspective. My phone continued
to ring for two years afterward from people who had heard me
discuss the dangers of the drugs on TV and radio shows. The
overwhelming question was "where can I get some?"
I heard stories from people who were crossing the border to
Mexico, others who were buying from people who knew people who
knew other people, and many that were switching over to two
drugs used in the treatment of asthma, clenbuterol and ephedrine.
Phen-Fen gone, the now drug-dependent weight-loss-wanting population
was ready to buy virtually anything. Phenylpropanalamine, previously
used in cold meds found its way into weight loss supplements.
The FDA found overuse of PPA to be linked to increasing episodes
of strokes so PPA was pulled. Ephedrine then became the drug
of choice. In 2003 the FDA stopped manufacturers from aggressively
selling ephedra compounds as weight loss aids, but by this point
in time internet drug sales opened the doors to purchase anything
from Phentermine (The "Phen" in Phen-Fen) to prescription
stimulants without having to ever leave home.
drug companies continue to pump out their releases, although
history shows us an almost planned obselescence. A drug sells
as long as doctors prescribe it for weight loss, and until side
effects or risks become clear due to reported episodes, billions
of dollars can be generated. By the time one drug is pulled
or abandoned another one is ready.
you look at the offerings now, you'll find they're all extensions
or replications of some of the things I've mentioned.
as Jonas Kellogg, supplement sellers today create "combinations"
of compounds, each with its own reputed effect, to create "proprietary
formulas" and with creative marketing people buy.
offered on infomercials follow the trail blazed by Marjorie
Hamilton and promise their products "work" in conjunction
with a diet and exercise program.
central nervous system stimulants, ranging from high dosages
of caffeine to herbal compounds which serve as raw material
for stimulant drugs (as an example, ephedra contains ephedrine
hydrochloride which is the raw material for the most addictive
substance on the planet, methamphetamine) are offered for sale
with creative labelling and creative advertising.
(generically named Orlistat ) isn't far off from Frank Kellog's
"laxative," and combinations of stimulant herbs such
as bitter orange (providing synephrine alkaloids) with "tranquility-inducing
compounds" such as 5-HTP attempt to replicate the Phen-Fen
effects . . . "naturally."
"new formula" mixes aloe vera (a laxative when ingested
orally) with uva ursi, a diuretic herb, and promises it's "a
revolutionary product release to solve the biological problems
that lead to obesity." Marketing spin is powerful, and
as the marketing machine widens its net with announcements of
amazing new products, revolutionary diets, and miraculous discoveries,
you'll now realize it's all been done before.
can keep waiting for science to invent the solution, or we can
recognize that we've had the power all along.
this article plays a tiny role in giving someone the "a-ha,"
in helping a single individual wake up, grab hold of some common
sense, and recognize that if a fit healthy body is the goal,
exercise and supportive eating are the answer, if this article
leads anyone from a place of confusion to a place of clarity,
I can rest well knowing I've done something good.