On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

ANECDOTES ARE ENCOURAGING, BUT DON'T REPLACE SCIENCE

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I read with interest your article on the Sensa weight-loss product. Although you did not state a definite "yea" or "nay" on the product, I thought I would share that I've been on Sensa for five months and have lost 36 pounds. I was skeptical at first, but am now a firm believer in the product. If you sprinkle it on all foods (except liquids) and drink at least 64 ounces of water a day, you do lose weight. The weight loss is slow, as it should be. Sensa also has an awesome support community online and a coach to answer any questions about the product. Just my two cents. -- J., via email

DEAR J: Thanks for the two cents. I don't often write twice about a particular product, but yours is a wonderful story and you have my congratulations. But in addition, I wanted to explain the basis for my obvious skepticism, which goes beyond this product and is reflective of the field of weight-loss products in general. Namely, my skepticism is based on the lack of reliable, objective evidence affirming the effectiveness of this product -- and many others.

Not to lessen your ongoing accomplishment in the slightest, but you can find individuals who write about successful experiences with most approaches. I look for support that is evidence-based and objective. The testing of a product or theory is only considered objective when it's conducted by individuals who have no association with the success of the method, and one must be reserved in the claims for any product until such evidence has been gathered. What is needed is a controlled test of each method, with the results then written up, put through a peer-review process and published in scientific literature. Until that happens, all we have are products being promoted by those with a financial interest in sales, and associated theories where we don't really know what might be causing what.

For example, you state that you are drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day. A review article in the December 2009 issue of the journal Eating Behaviors reported that increased consumption of water, by itself, is associated with a decreased caloric intake. Granted, none of the studies summarized in that report found that water consumption was associated with weight loss approaching 2 pounds a week, like yours, so something is obviously going on in your case. But does the Sensa produt involve an actual biochemical mechanism that will work for others?

There is also the "you gotta believe" aspect: There is evidence in the scientific literature that a significant part of any approach to weight management is a personal commitment to it and a belief in its efficacy. One using a method because of personal motivation is more likely to be successful than another who is only using the same method at the insistence of another. Marketing and support services can serve as important adjuncts to success, but nothing replaces personal motivation and belief.

You have my wishes for your continued success. Keep me informed of how things proceed.

Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.