FROM “skinny lollies” to “diet teas”, the weight loss industry is flooded with no end of dubious fat-burning products.
At best, they’re a waste of money. At worst, they’re downright dangerous.
And every time the latest product is discredited, another seems to emerge.
For months, Gemma Collins has been claiming that a vegan diet is responsible for her weight loss but she’s now admitted to having £250 weight loss jabs.
The jabs claim to work by “removing hunger from the equation”, while regulating blood sugar levels and helping the body to turn excess, stored fat into energy.
Dieters inject an insulin pen-like device into their bellies every day, which is supposed to make them feel more full.
The company claims that people shift an average of 13.4lbs in three weeks.
But experts have told The Sun the jabs are dangerous and could trigger deadly conditions, from hypoglycaemic episodes to thyroid cancer and severe pancreatitis.
Moreover, the company’s website has been criticised for not telling customers what’s actually in the jabs – a “risky” and “physically dangerous” omission, registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert warned.
The jab’s core ingredient is liraglutide, a drug first developed in the US five years ago to help morbidly obese, type 2 diabetics lose weight.
It’s marketed under the brand names Saxenda and Victoza and is prescribed on the NHS to patients with a BMI of 30 or higher – those classified as obese.
The drug works by mimicking the body’s hormones, making you feel fuller for longer after eating.
It also reduces how quickly the stomach empties after eating, and regulates blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Nutritionist Ruth Tongue told The Sun that in order to qualify for liraglutide on the NHS, patients have to have a BMI of over 30.
Meanwhile, SkinnyJab is prescribed by the clinic’s own doctors to overweight patients with a BMI of 25 or over.
“This drug is designed for people with type 2 diabetes or those who are severely obese, not people who want to lose a few pounds,” she said.
“It works by increasing the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas thereby reducing blood sugar levels.
In the long term, studies have shown links between this drug and risk of thyroid cancer and severe pancreatitis
Ruth Tongue, nutritionist
“If your blood sugar levels are not out of the normal range, you risk going too low and experiencing dizziness/light-headedness, fainting, nausea and more seriously having a hypoglycaemic episode which can be fatal.
“Other common side effects include stomach pain, gallbladder disease and kidney problems.
“In the long term, studies have shown links between this drug and risk of thyroid cancer and severe pancreatitis.”
Ruth said she wouldn’t risk spending her money on “something that has such a severe effect on hormones in the body and has so many side effects – both in the short and potentially longer term”.
Safeguards in place
SkinnyJab is the brainchild of mum-of-two Caroline Balazs, who was prescribed liraglutide to help her lose weight.
In six weeks, she went from a size 16 to a 10 – losing 24lbs, nearly two stone.
She said all customers are assessed by clinicians who are highly trained professionals, and who also work for the NHS.
They are trained to spot “vulnerable people who may be at risk”, and all patients must have a BMI of over 25 before they will prescribe the drug.
“It is not given to anyone under this. All patients are closely monitored throughout the programme,” she told The Sun.
10,000 patients have lost weight
Caroline said after devising the weight loss plan in February 2017, they have gone on to help more than 10,000 patients.
She said as well as the jabs, patients are given a healthy diet plan to help them shed pounds.
“The weight-loss results are amazing, with a 12-16lbs loss in three to four weeks,” Caroline told The Sun.
“The weight does not go back on very quickly as metabolism has not been altered, which is a common problem with every other fad diet out there.
“The medication is designed to target only fat stores, not muscle or water weight.”
She said experts started trials with the drug in 2009 to see if it helped boost weight loss in non-diabetics.
“It did,” she claimed.
“The drug works by normalising blood sugar levels by converting your own fat stores into glycogen into glucose.
“The net result is that (stable) sugar levels will suppress appetite and the need for a ‘sugar fix’ encouraging people to choose more healthy options.”
What is liraglutide?
In a review of five randomised, placebo-controlled trials, liraglutide was found to help dieters shift significantly more weight.
Coupled with a healthy diet and regular exercise, they lost up to 6kg – 10 per cent of their weight.
And scientists also found that the drug had the added benefit of lowering blood sugar levels too.
But the study did warn that not enough is known about the drug to say that it’s totally safe – we don’t know the long term impact of taking it.
NICE lists the following very common side-effects:
- dry mouth
- gallbladder disorders
- belly ache
- increased risk of infection
- feeling sick
- skin reactions
- altered taste
Unusual side effects can include heart issues, kidney problems, pancreatitis and dehydration.
But Medline Plus – a subsidiary of the US National Library of Medicine – warns dieters that liraglutide injections may put them at risk of developing thyroid tumors and thyroid cancer.
“Laboratory animals who were given liraglutide developed tumors, but it is not known if this medication increases the risk of tumors in humans,” it says.
It warns to notify your GP immediately if you experience the following symptoms:
- lump/swelling in the neck
- difficulty swallowing
- shortness of breath
Not a quick fix
But Caroline insists that it’s not a quick fix and rather, encourages healthy eating.
“The nation is overweight and addicted to sugar, obesity is having a life-threatening serious impact on our health and development of co-morbidities such as diabetes, joint problems and heart disease,” she said.
“This medication is proven to reduce cholesterol levels and lowers blood pressure.
“And it’s also been used to prevent borderline patients from developing full-blown diabetes.”
No such thing as safe, fast weight-loss
But registered nutritionist and founder of Rhitrition, Rhiannon Lambert warned the jabs can be dangerous, warning there’s no magic pill of jab to help you lose body fat.
“There is no doubt that these sorts of products pray on the vulnerable – encouraging quick fixes are bad for mental health but this one, in particular, may be physically dangerous,” she told The Sun.
As a registered nutritionist, I can safely say it is unethical and worrying to see anyone spend this much money on this sort of programme when the chances are it will be a short term solution
Rhiannon Lambert, registered nutritionist
“Any form of self-injection can be risky and an area that only your GP or health professional can advise you on, risk of infection, place of injection, the dose inside.”
She also said that there was no such thing as “safe, fast, weight loss”.
“(That’s) a term that should never be recommended,” she added.
“Fast weight loss can be physically dangerous with a whole host of side effects and a high chance of weight regain. You shouldn’t need to inject to work on your weight loss journey.”
“It comes down to eating the right amount and quality of energy each day that works for your lifestyle in comparison to the energy your expend,” she told The Sun.
“As a registered nutritionist, I can safely say it is unethical and worrying to see anyone spend this much money on this sort of programme when the chances are it will be a short term solution.”
No harm in snacking
If you want to get fitter and slimmer, there are better long-term solutions, Rhiannon added.
She said while the jab helps people stop snacking, there’s no harm in treating yourself.
“It depends on the type of snack and whether it works for you,” she said.
MORE ON WEIGHT LOSS
“Some will thrive on snacking throughout the day and others will not.”
And eating in moderation – if you can – certainly works out a lot cheaper than these jabs.
So while weight loss jabs may seem like the easy answer, unless you address why you’re overeating and putting on weight, it’s unlikely to be the long-term solution so many people are looking for.
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