Ahhhhh, marketing. It turns heads, and the really good kind may run you the risk of a neck injury. Take these gems, for instance:
“…one of the greatest steps forward ever made for human nutritional weight management”
“the Nike of nutrition”
“reach peak physical and mental levels”
“…[bringing] the health and wellness movement to a whole new playing field!”
Whose attention wouldn’t be grabbed with amazing descriptors like those? Pair them with a set of incredible before and after photos, and BAM…wallets open everywhere. We’re no doubt visual consumers. Curiosity is normal, though some inquiry needs to follow in order to make a sound purchase decision.
There are a few questions you MUST ask when you see the glittery halos around any “life-changing” weight loss pills, powders, patches, or potions.
The first question ISN’T, “Does it work?”
When I see all of the ads, quotes, and photos of tight, toned bodies on social media, my knee-jerk response isn’t intrigue. It’s irritation. Why? Well, “Tight-Bodied Theresa” may appear to be transformed due to the tiny square plastered on her arm.
However, the first question I want to ask her involves what she’s doing besides that fashionable bandage she sports:
What are you eating on a daily basis?
N-U-T-R-I-T-I-O-N. That’s where the magic lies. That is how the successful “thrive,” so the speak.
When I see the “supplement + skinnier ‘after’ pic = weight loss success” formula on social media, I’m confident that the supplement is only a fraction of that equation. Based on scientific research, experience as a health and fitness professional for the past 20+ years, and the successes hundreds of clients, I’ve seen whole-foods nutrition outcomes too powerful to take any supplement at face value. We consistently see nutrition as ~80% responsible for one’s physique on a daily basis.
You want me to perk up and pay attention? Keep posting those band-aided biceps, but how about showing me a 24-hour food recall along with those pictures? I guaran-dang-tee that the successful ones aren’t stringing along days filled with Oreos and nachos.
Next, let’s take a specific MLM product: Le-Vel’s Thrive weight loss patches. While I acknowledge that these patches are part of an entire “system,” I find it misleading when some post photos of their patches in ways that infer that the patch ALONE is responsible for their “transformation.”
These transdermal patches boast nutrient absorption through the skin to promote health and weight loss through six active ingredients:
· ForsLean – aka Coleus forskohlii: of only two studies performed, weight loss in women was not shown, and the other showed a minimal effect for men along with a 4% drop in body fat for men;
· Green coffee bean extract – lots of hype (thanks, Dr. Oz!) – a source of chlorogenic acid which may block carbohydrates, one notable study showed no effect on weight loss, while another concluded this ingredient to be minimally effective with weight loss;
· Garcinia gambogia – although a popular ingredient in weight loss aids for appetite suppressant and said to increase fat burning, study results have been mixed;
· Coenzyme Q10 (Co Q10) – associated with reduced muscle fatigue and increased exercise performance, it’s unclear whether it is present in adequate amounts in the patch and also not yet determined to be supportive of weight loss;
· White willow bark – has been used in Eastern medicine though more for pain relief and as an anti-inflammatory rather than for weight loss support; &
· Cosmoperine – derived from black pepper, may help with delivery of nutrients.
With regard to the patches themselves, Derma Fusion Technology (DFT) isn’t anything shiny, sparkly, or new. This type of delivery has been in use since the 1970s, beginning with the motion sickness patch and still in use for other conditions (hormones, birth control, tobacco cessation). However, the Thrive patch hasn’t specifically been FDA-validated.
Here’s a summary of the research (see links at the end of the article): in short, the active ingredients in Thrive have been found to have little to no impact on weight loss. Also, research has not proven that the transdermal technology in this particular patch can deliver ingredients effectively or in effective quantities.
If you’ve personally had results from Thrive or a similar product, congrats! But anecdotal evidence is only going to go so far with this health coach. It will only go so far with savvy consumers, too.
Personally, I require the “three T’s:” testing, transparency, & trustworthiness to truly pass inspection.
Here are three questions I need answered before parting with any of my hard-earned dollars:
(1) Who or what organization is making the claims? Insert red flag here if they come from any person or entity who stands to financially benefit from your purchase, which tends to be the case with most multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. I see quite a few posts with anecdotal evidence but the absence of quality research backing them.
(2) Are the claims that you see or learn about anecdotal or science-based? If studies are available, were they conducted by third-party entities or universities with no financial interest in the outcome, or were they been company-funded? If product evidence backing the claims is scarce to nil outside the company’s own website, take your money and sprint.
(3) Does the company claim to rank among the “fastest growing” in the industry, or is it characterized by “explosive growth?” Either or both may be code for, “We take anyone and everyone willing to participate rather than screening for qualified individuals.”
These questions are appropriate not just for vetting the Thrive patch, but any supplement.
Note that these patches are part of an eight-week program that also brags that it can improve digestion, promote healthy aging, and enhance brain and immune function. While prices aren’t published on the company website, truthinadvertising.org states that a company video shared a price tag of $100-300 per month. Even if the patch isn’t effective at all, let’s just call that the price of motivation: engaging in one “healthy” behavior might spark others like exercise and better food choices. Sure, you can spend that to jump-start motivation, or – how’s this for a million-dollar idea - can you imagine how many health-promoting, whole, unprocessed, foods (apples, eggs, beans, spinach, etc.) I can buy for that amount? Or even better, SHOES, speaking of those Nikes above 😉
Bottom line: when it comes to weight loss supplements, questions will get you everywhere!
Investigate before you invest, ask the key questions, and then…well, make your grocery list and still focus on that essential weekly meal prep. Because most of your physique comes down to the foods you’re consuming anyway. Supplements may be nice-to-haves, but they are just that: supplements, designed to bridge gaps, but never replace clean eating.
Finally, I’ll close with a cute little example of Thrive advertising:
A PILL, A SHAKE, and A PATCH A DAY!
This statement reminds me of that famous lyric, “one bourbon, one scotch, one beer.” Good things do not always come in threes, my friends. At least not always health-promoting things.
I will, however, give a toast to this: being able to unwrap the bandaged truth behind supplement marketing.
Jodi Sheakley-Wright, PhD, is a Lead Health Coach with KK Wellness Consulting and Certified Wellness Coach through Wellcoaches®. Her knowledge of MLM-based-supplementation began in 2005, when she began taking JuicePlus+, a whole foods supplement that is still in existence. From 2005-2009, she was a believer after only experiencing one head cold over the next 4.5 years! However, when asked to sell it, not only did she take a closer look at the research, she even wrote 191 pages on it for her doctoral dissertation. Upon discovering the lack of objective, third-party research available on JP+, she chose not to promote it. She remains passionate about coaching and helping others make educated, informed decisions regarding their health and wellness.
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