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Update - August 5, 2004

By Phil Kaplan

I've had many guests on my radio show, but my favorite so far has been Brooke. She didn't say very much and she tried to eat the microphone but she was a great guest just the same. That aside, let's get down to business . . .

There are some issues that keep recurring, issues that have people confused and in desperate need of clarity. That's precisely why I'm here. Clarity is on the way. Let's start by discussing a nutritional supplement that has been selling like hotcakes.

Whoever came up with that? Do hotcakes really sell all that well? What is a hotcake anyway? A pancake? Hmmm. I make some good blueberry whole grain pancakes. Maybe I should start selling them. Phil's Healthy House of Pancakes. PHHOP doesn't have the same type of ring as IHOP. Am I getting a little off track? Didn't I promise news about a hot-selling supplement? OK, forgive me. I'm back on track. Here we go.


Before you read this complete article I'd first direct you to my previous assessment of the product Cortislim. Then c'mon back and pick up right here where you left off.

Go Now, then hit the back button and pick up where I say . . .

Welcome back! The last few months have been interesting in watching the expansion of Cortislim's advertising campaign. When that many dollars are pumped into an ad campaign, you know that campaign is generating lots and lots of money. Let me share some new insight into this "best selling" product.

I'll start by saying I enjoy listening to radio personality Phil Hendrie. I would even call myself a "fan." If you've never heard Phil, it may take a while to catch on to his humor, but once you "get it," you too will become a fan.

I've seen Phil Hendrie in person. He's large. He's also been up and down and up and down in the weight department. If you listen to the ads on the stations that carry Phil Hendrie, it's only a matter of time until you hear him promote CortiSlim. He's lost weight, his family is losing weight, and now apparently his listeners are losing weight. Well, that's what the ad says. I'm sure you know that radio personalities are paid for their endorsements. Some, such as I, are extremely selective in the advertisements they connect with (the salespeople at WIOD hate me). Others count their "spots" and watch their bank balances escalate.

Phil Hendrie, who is not a weight loss expert but rather a very entertaining talk show host, mentions that CortiSlim acts upon the hormone cortisol, and this evil hormone is the culprit America should blame for making everybody so fat (I'm paraphrasing). He also says it's important to drink lots of water when you take Cortislim. OK, let's stop there. Why should you drink a lot of water? If CortiSlim did in fact act upon the endocrine system, the glandular system responsible for producing hormones, if it went right to the adrenal gland to limit the production of cortisol, what does ingestion of water have to do with the supposedly hormone-adjusted weight loss? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

"Drinking lots of water" is certainly important, and most Americans fall short on the old rule of eight glasses a day. Products such as the 24-hour miracle diets facilitate water loss by asking users to drink the product, and . . . drink lots and lots of water. Oh, and these diets also suggest that for two days you avoid food. If, for two days, you fail to eat, and you literally flush your body with water, two things happen. One, you go to the bathroom a lot. Two, you lose water weight. The scale may tell you "it's working," but water loss is a common trick used by diet sellers. Take an individual who does not drink even a modest amount of water and start increasing water intake. I guarantee some pounds will drop. Water loss. Temporary and meaningless in the quest of long term weight reduction. If people take a supplement and the scale tells them the pounds are going, they falsely believe the supplement is "working."

One of the ingredients in Cortislim is green tea. Green tea contains alkaloids of our old friend caffeine. I can't find caffeine content on the bottle so I have no idea how much is in there. Caffeine, aside from being a stimulant, is diuretic which further aids in water loss. Interestingly, green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that seems to facilitate relaxation. This can balance out the stimulant effect without impacting the diuretic effect of caffeine.

CortiSlim marketers, in their creative marketing efforts, "invented" three compounds.

1. Cortiplex Blend
2. Leptiplex Blend
3. Insutrol Blend

Cool names. It makes it sound as if there are some drug-like compounds at work here. Cortiplex obviously relates to cortisol, at least in name, leptiplex draws a connection to the little messenger that plays a role in satiety, Leptin, and Insutrol sounds a lot like the pancreatic hormone we're all familiar with, insulin. Let's look beyond the names and see "what's in there?"

Cortiplex Blend: Magnolia Bark, beta-sitosterol, theanine

Magnolia bark is an herb. It's used in Chinese medicine to treat "upset" stomach. It appears to have a tranquiling effect, as do the herbs kava kava, valerian, and scores of others. Since cortisol is "the stress hormone," relaxing and minimizing stress would certainly be important. They insist in all the CortiSlim ads I've seen or heard that the product is scientifically proven. I can't find anything anywhere in the annals of science that illustrate that Magnolia Bark lessens adrenal activity or in any way shape or form controls cortisol. You know what though? If you take a tranquilizing herb, and also take theanine, you very well may "feel better," and there's another trap that lures you into relying upon the supplement you bought as a weight loss aid . . . not because it helped you lose weight but because it relaxed you.

The next ingredient in the "Cortiplex Blend," Beta Sitosterol, is a plant sterol that appears to block the absorption of cholesterol. It's also been well documented as an aid in reducing enlargement of the prostate. The research, however, that led to the continued study of this sterol as a cholesterol-lowing aid used between 500 mg. and 10 grams per day. I don't see any science to support that Beta Sitosterol is a weight loss aid. I also have no idea how much Beta Sitosterol is in Cortislim. Because each capsule contains only 155 mg of the entire "Cortiplex Blend," I think it's a safe assumption to say that, even if cholesterol were the target, the amount of Beta Sitosterol in the product is insignificant.

Leptiplex Blend: Green tea extract, bitter orange peel extract

We've already discussed green tea, but let's turn our attention to bitter orange. Bitter orange is an herb from which we get synephrine, an isomer of the compound used in Neo-Synephrine nasal spray. It it safe? Who knows? It's only recently been integrated into thousands of weight loss formulas to replace ephedrine when the FDA pulled it from the shelves. Together with caffeine it can work to alter neurotransmission resulting in decreased appetite (remember, eating less and flushing the body with water is an old and misleading diet trick). Is there reason to suggest that synephrine may be potentially harmful. Absolutely. You can find that information in an article I've written on Synephrine. Go ahead. Read it. Then . . . come back!!!

Insutrol Blend: banaba leaf extract, vanadium

Banaba leaf is yet another herb that has found its way into many of the newest breed of weight loss supplements. Animal studies, and even some human studies, do show that it may potentially help to stabilize blood sugar or lower blood glucose levels in individuals with Type II Diabetes. With that said, the effects of banaba in research studies used up to 48 mg. and some of the "results" were nothing more than a 5% lowering of blood sugar. Is this significant? Sure. It shows that this can play a role as a tiny piece of a puzzle with the goal being healthful blood sugar levels. Does the research prove this to be a magical weight loss compound? Absolutely not. How much banaba leaf extract is in Cortislim? Good question. One capsule contains 16.5 mg of the "Insutrol Blend." Again, even if it's virtuous, the amount of banaba leaf extract in Cortislim is hardly signficant.

To finish off the ingredient list, Cortislim's label claims 100 mg of Vitamin C, 150 mg of calcium, and 50 mg. of chromium. These micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) do play a vital role in stress recovery, but the dosages included here are less than you'd find in most drug-store multi-mineral formulas.

Now that we understand the ingredients, and the potential value of these ingredients, let's look at some of the claims:

  • Cortisol is what makes us fat

  • 9 times the weight loss with Cortislim!

  • Cortislim reduces stubborn "stress" fat!

With the claims out of the way, let's better understand the realities. Let's start with the first claim, "Cortisol is what makes us fat."

Cortisol, which is an adrenal hormone, is vital in normal metabolism. Excessively high production of cortisol can negatively impact blood pressure, immune function, brain function, and maintainance of lean body mass. It can also contribute to the accumulation of fat. That doesn't make it "the reason" America's fat. Americans are fat because they don't move enough, they supersize their meals, and they're very misled about the obesity solutions (read my last update). Cortisol is but a tiny player in the orchestral act of fat accumulation.

Nine Times the Weight Loss?

There is a research study referenced by the "9 times" claim. The study was of course brought to you by the fine folks who manufacture Cortislim. There were two groups, one being a control group that used a placebo plus diet and exercise, the second group being the group that was given Cortislim through a 12-week regimen of calorie restriction and personal trainer-supervised exercise. There are many variables that would have to be considered to determine whether the supplement played a significant role in weight loss, but the outcome states the placebo group lost bodyweight (-.7%) and the Cortislim group lost more bodyweight (-5.3%).

Time out. I want to understand those numbers. It's always helpful to come up with examples, so let's consider a 200 pound person as an example. If a 200 pound person lost 5.3% of bodyweight, that would equate to a 10.6 pound weight loss in 12 weeks. That would be good. Keep in mind, supportive eating and exercise in and of themselves can stimulate the loss of 1-2 pounds of fat per week. If that same 200 pound person lost .7%, that would equate to 1.4 pounds lost. 9 x 1.4 is 12.6. At the very least there's an exaggeration here.

It's also significant to note that 32% of those in the control group dropped out of the study before it was complete. A study such as this would have to be replicated to gain relevance, as with any two groups, one group will always achieve a better result, even by accident. The "diet+exercise+cortislim group" might have lost more weight even if they hadn't taken the supplement. I don't see this "study" as being "conclusive." I see it as a marketing aid for the product sellers.

One final note on this topic. Driving home from the gym today I heard a Cortislim ad on the radio that said, "subjects lost nine times the weight and twice the fat of the control group." Let's think about that (I know I'm asking you to do a lot of thinking, but I'm thinking along with you . . . and besides, brain activity burns calories). If someone lost nine times the fat of someone else, that would certainly be impressive, but I've already expressed my confusion about the numbers. Let's put that aside and suppose there were in fact a "nine times" variable. That would mean that if the control group lost 10 pounds the supplement group lost . . . 90??!? Now let's consider the "twice the fat" comment. At most, in the example I provided, the control group could have lost 10 pounds of fat, after all, they lost 10 pounds in total. If the supplement group lost twice the fat, that would amount to 20 pounds. This statement, using the fabricated numbers I provided, would indicate that 70 pounds of the weight loss was something other than fat. That indicates a loss of lean body mass! Somehow the numbers just don't add up.

Stubborn Stress Fat?

Elevations in cortisol can lead to increased abdminal adiposity (body fat) but once that fat is stored, it is simply bodyfat, indistinguishable from any other adipose material stored in the body's adipose cells. In order to burn fat, you first have to release it, and the body releases fat systemically, proportionately from all over the body. I don't see how a supplement can target fat that was stored as a direct or indirect result of stress. Do you?

Legal Action

On July 12, 2004, the Superior Court of the State of California, Orange County, initiated a class action suit against the marketers of Cortislim. 27 disappointed customers from 26 different states banded together to begin taking actions to halt the proliferation of what they believe to be fraudulent and deceptive information. The action seeks redress for "fraudulent, deceptive, and otherwise improper advertising." The claimants feel they were deceived into buying a product promoted under the guise of "Scientific Research" when, according to the claimants, the claims are unsubstantiated and the product just "doesn't work."

Meanwhile Cortislim continues to sell. I just received an oversized direct mail postcard with a picture of Dr. Shawn Talbott dressed in a white lab coat and the quote "Our new study suggests you may not have taken Cortislim long enough. That's why I want to give you a 30-Day Supply FREE." That sounds incredibly noble of Dr. Talbott . . . until you call the toll free number. You do recieve a 30 day supply free, with the purchase of a 60 day supply! Allow me to translate the marketing ploy into layman's terms. "Even if Cortislim didn't work, you should buy more!"

You may be surprised to hear me say I find Dr. Talbott to be insightful, knowledgeable, and well informed. There are a few things that infomercial marketers do that can take insightful knowledgeable people and coax them over the lines of integrity. On the Cortislim infomercial, the language suggests that Dr. Talbott is a "doctor." He is a PhD. That's not lying. It's just working to create a false and powerful assumption. The infomercial is one of the contrived pre-taped "television shows" fabricated to make it appear as if the "host" is conducting an interview.

The "show" is called "Breakthroughs." I'm certain you won't find that show listed by name anywhere in your TV Listings, despite the fact that the infomercial probably airs in your area dozens of times each weekend. If you watch the show you'll hear somebody call in to report great success with the product. Think about this. If the show is taped in a studio, and never aired live, how in the world can anyone call in? They can't. The caller is obviously scripted.

The claims made on the show are questionable at best, and the references to Cortislim being "the first weight loss product that addresses cortisol control" and Cortislim addressing "the key areas of metabolism that drive you down the road to weight gain" further open the door for FTC scrutiny. Before CortiSlim, there were many far less publicized products that targeted cortisol ranging from the herb Holy Basil to phosphatidylserine. I don't believe CortiSlim was first, nor do I believe it "sets the standard."

The California lawsuit documents use some pretty strong language directed at Dr. Talbott. "Talbott has misused the corporate form of Window Rock (the corporation that controls Cortislim) to commit an intentional fraud upon the public, and in an effort to defeat the ends of justice and otherwise evade the law . . . "

I had Dr. Talbott as a guest on my show. A real show. A live show. You can listen to the show. It isn't scripted. Find it at my Radio Show Archives Menu. It aired February 14, 2004. You'll hear him say, "no one's going to get those benefits from a simple pill." He also says you'll want to supplement with 1000 mg of Vitamin C per day. That's 10 times what you find in CortiSlim.

Here's what I believe is unfortunate. Cortislim may actually have value. Magnolia Bark very well may lower the stress response, banaba may very well work to reduce cravings and blood sugar. I think the research on these compounds should be continued. It's sad that when a product may have some value, advertisers and marketers feel compelled to present it as a miracle, and make claims such as "14 pounds in 2 weeks" and "9 times the weight loss of diet and exercise." Perhaps with continued research on some of the compounds in Cortislim, a valuable aid may be developed, not as a weight loss solution, but as a helpful supplement.

Now, I'm anxious to see how the class action suit progresses. I'll keep you posted.

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