Want to Lose Weight and Be Healthy? Then Stop Chasing Golden Unicorns!

Want to Lose Weight and Be Healthy? Then Stop Chasing Golden Unicorns!

Want to lose weight? Eat healthier? Feel better? Have more energy?

Of course you do.

But if you’re looking for that elusive golden unicorn that pisses diamonds and farts rose petals, you’re not going to find it in a bullsh*t infomercial gadget, miracle diet, “teatox,” body wrap, or Instagram muppet.

You know what I mean. You bounce from one fad diet to the next, buy every infomercial gadget, and gulp down “metabolism boosters” and “fat burner” supplements, hoping that maybe, just maybe, THIS one is REALLY going to work….which it never does.

Still with me?

I know, it’s tough to think otherwise when your social feeds are overflowing with self-proclaimed “celebrity” nutritionistspersonal trainers, and health coaches spruiking the next latest greatest pill, diet, or exercise routine.

“Revolutionary thermogenic formula! Optimised macros! Dynamic inertia! Gyrotronic resistance! 28 day fat blaster challenge! 5 minute abs!”

Convincing?

Yeah, because that’s what health marketing does. It misrepresents science, celebrates the mundane, and embellishes barely legal marketing claims to sell you sh*t you really don’t need.

Two words: golden unicorn.

The secret to health is no secret

Want a real golden unicorn that DOES work and is evidence-based?

Granted it’s not sexy, but you’ll find it in the age-old scientifically proven advice your sage grandfather might have given you:

Golden Unicorn - Diet Exercise Research Summary

Click on image to visit Dr Bill Sukala’s Facebook Page

Beware the golden unicorn salesman

There is no limit to the useless sh*t marketers will try to sell you and the lengths they will go to accomplish that end.

And guess what? In their eyes, you’re the easy mark. The low hanging fruit. You’re the sucker and your wallet is their target.

Their mantra is always the same: “whatever people are buying, I’m selling.”

Their business is money. Their storefront is health, fitness, nutrition, or whatever.

Do they actually care about your health?

Unlikely.

Can they really be bothered to think about your health when they’re too busy counting cash grifted from gullible people desperate to believe in elusive golden unicorns pissing diamonds?

Ethics? Huh? Wha…?

Sure, they’ll use lame apologetic excuses like “well hey, anything that gets people off the couch is a good thing, right?

Uh huh. Yeah, sure buddy. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

Species of golden unicorns

As you have seen, there are a variety of golden unicorn species out there and the only way to protect yourself is to know and understand their natural habitat and behaviour.

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but will prepare you for when you come face to face with some of the more common diamond-pissing golden beasts.

Bullshiticus infomercialis golden unicornius

Infomercials. The scourge of late night TV – and now social media.

They come with fancy names like the Ab Circle ProAb WaveSpinGym, and Shake Weight.

You know the rest.

Don’t delayLose weight NOW for the incredibly low price of $199.95! That’s right, just $199.95 for the BODY OF YOUR DREAMS! But WAIT! That’s not all you get! Act now and we’ll throw in a golden unicorn pissing diamonds!

Back in 2010, I authored a comprehensive review of the Ab Circle Pro‘s deceptive advertising.

I was so viscerally furious about the sheer number of false and misleading claims, I transcribed the entire 10-minute infomercial and then categorically dismantled each claim through the lens of exercise science.

The article generated a lot of buzz in the media and resulted in my being interviewed by a number of international TV and radio stations, as well as print and digital publications.

The regulatory agencies eventually caught up with the Ab Circle Pro in Australia and New Zealand and forced them to amend their ads for making deceptive claims (i.e., if “results are not typical” then they’re misleading).

The final coup de grâce came in August of 2012 when the US Federal Trade Commission fined the company $25 million for making false claims, which contributed to the company going out of business.

The moral of the story is that the Ab Circle Pro is not unique and is only one drop in an ocean of dodgy infomercial products.

They all use the same regurgitated formulaic advertising (i.e., hammer on your pain points and insecurities, make grandiose promises, feature hired fitness models who’ve never used the product, add in weepy overacted “testimonials,” and repeated calls to action to buy now!) over and over and over again.

Why? Because it works.

When one golden unicorn runs it’s marketing cycle, the makers recycle the same tactics and invent a “new and revolutionary” golden unicorn.

And the end result is always the same. You’re lighter in the wallet, fatter than you were before, and the ab blaster piece of sh*t ends up on your sidewalk waiting for Tuesday morning garbage collection.

Golden Unicorn - Infomercial Ab Blaster

Click image to visit Dr Bill Sukala on Facebook

Bottom line

Golden unicorn infomercial pushers are bottom-dwelling scum who cannot sell their wares by honest means. Please do NOT be just another gullible sucker falling into their sales funnels. You are a dollar sign to them, nothing more, nothing less.

Bullshiticus miraculus dietes golden unicornius 

Bullsh*t diets have been around for centuries and, like infomercials, there’s no limit to the variety of names or wacky regimens.

How do you know if the diet you’re following is a golden unicorn?

Nine times out of ten, its name fits this syntax:  The  _____  Diet.

Here, let’s take a look at some real diet Hall of Shamers.

  • The HCG Diet
  • The Cabbage Soup Diet
  • The Grapefruit Diet
  • The Alkaline Diet
  • The Blood Type Diet

Tried any of these?

Did you lose weight?

Of course you did.

Losing weight is easy when you starve yourself on 500 calories or less per day.

How long did you last on the diet?

One week? Two weeks? Maybe you ran the gauntlet and lasted a full month. Bravo.

Then what happened?

You eventually said “f*ck this, it’s too hard.” You threw in the towel, went out for a burger, and then scolded yourself for being a failure.

But here’s the thing: you didn’t actually fail the diet. The diet failed you!

When you go from eating 3000 calories down to 500 calories or less per day, your body’s internal physiology and biochemistry goes, “sweet baaaaby Jesus, the famine has arrived!!

When a fad diet has you eating 500 calories or less per day, your body's internal physiology goes, 'sweet baaaby Jesus, the famine's arrived!' & will do everything it can to conserve energy & protect fat stores Click To Tweet

Thing is, your body is a lot smarter than any fad diet that ever was or ever will be. You see, your body has a built-in famine response mode to protect you from yourself and idiotic diets.

You might think you’re speeding up your metabolism but, contrary to your wishes, starving yourself actually slows down your metabolism. Your body wants to conserve as much energy as possible, which includes holding onto valuable life-sustaining body fat, because it has no idea how long this famine is going to last.

You might be thinking, “well, wait a minute. How come I lost weight if my body is holding onto fat? That doesn’t make sense to me.”

It’s because you didn’t lose fat, or not that much anyway.

One of the first things you lose on a starvation diet is your muscle glycogen and the water bound to it.

*Glycogen is just a fancy name for stored carbohydrate. It’s stored mainly in your muscles and your liver. (FYI, if you’re scared sh*tless of carbs, read my article Carbohysteria).*

Next, your body begins to break down it’s muscle tissue. This is bad – really bad.

Muscle is your body’s rock star tissue. Muscle is metabolically active and burns more calories than fat tissue per equivalent weight. In other words, it pays a higher metabolic rent in the body to earn its keep.

Not only that, muscle, particularly well-conditioned muscle from regular exercise, protects you from things like heart disease and diabetes by effectively siphoning sugar and fat from your bloodstream and burning it for energy (instead of floating around your body where it can wreak havoc).

Rule: muscle good. No muscle bad.

Fat tissue, on the other hand, is something of a metabolic freeloader… but in a benevolent tough love sort of way. It’s a rich source of valuable energy and burns comparatively fewer calories to earn its keep in the body – which is valuable for keeping you alive during a real famine or prolonged stupid diet.

If you’re starving yourself while on a high protein diet, then you might lose even more weight from peeing out all the excess nitrogen.

paleo diet, mediterranean diet - golden unicorn

If you go into ketosis, then it’s going to be tough (REALLY tough!) to stay on the diet for any length of time because ketones are sort of your DEFCON 1 emergency fuel. Eventually you’ll collapse or get tired of having disgusting smelling breath.

*FYI, check out my related article Fat Burns in the Flame of Carbohydrate

After several weeks of starving yourself on The Golden Unicorn Diet, yes, you may have “lost weight” on the scale, but you definitely haven’t lost as much fat as you think you did.

Tale of the DEXA scan

Last year, I ran before and after DEXA scans on a couple that was doing a so-called “weight loss challenge” at their local gym. They told me they were on a high-protein diet and were exercising six to seven days per week.

When they came back in for their follow-up scans six weeks later, they were smugly bragging about how much “weight” they lost, but the DEXA scan showed them the ACTUAL COMPOSITION of that weight loss.

They each lost a TRUCKLOAD of muscle and, to their astonishment, a comparatively small amount of fat. In fact, because they lost so much muscle, their body fat percentages had actually gone up!

And they were worse off for it because they had lost so much valuable metabolism-stoking muscle.

So what happened? They were under-eating, over-training, and under-recovering.

Bottom line

Focus on slow steady FAT LOSS instead of nebulous golden unicorn goals like “losing weight” or “getting results.” Steer clear of popular diets your friend Britney and Aunt Gertrude are doing and arm yourself with these 13 principles for safe, effective, and permanent fat loss.

Bullshiticus teatoxium golden unicornius 

The market is flooded with all kinds of “teatoxes” which come with all kinds of outlandish health claims.

But what gives? Can you REALLY “detox” yourself into “losing weight” or “cutting the bloat?”

No. It’s physiologically impossible.

It’s not possible because it’s not “toxins” that are causing you to be overweight in the first place.

But you might argue, “What do you mean? I ‘lost weight‘ on a ‘teatox.'”

In my Skinny Teatox and SkinnyMint Teatox review articles, I point out that these types of products are, in actual fact, nothing more than exorbitantly overpriced diuretics and laxatives.

skinny teatox review

Get ready to piss and sh*t….a lot…because you and your toilet are about to become good friends again (like back in your university days, downing 11 beers, 5 tequila shots, and a bottle of chardonnay every Friday night).

In an article on Science-Based Medicine, Scott Gavura eloquently provides a real definition for detox:

“Detox” is a legitimate medical term that has been co-opted to sell useless products and services. It is a fake treatment for a fake condition. Real detoxification isn’t ordered from a menu at a juice bar, or assembled from supplies in your pantry. Real detoxification is provided in hospitals under life-threatening circumstances — usually when there are dangerous levels of drugs, alcohol, or other poisons in the body. Drugs used for real detoxification are not ingredients in a smoothie.

Detox is a legitimate medical term co-opted by quacks to sell useless products & services. Real detoxification isn’t ordered at a juice bar. It is provided in hospitals under life-threatening circumstances.Click To Tweet

Still with me?

Thing is, these “teatoxes,” aside from making you piss and sh*t all day long, often recommend that you improve your diet to, you know, “synergistically enhance the effects of the teatox.”

And I won’t argue, eating better is definitely a good thing and is precisely what any responsible health professional would recommend. But you don’t need to waste your money on overpriced laxatives and diuretics to achieve good health.

Bottom line

Stay alert and don’t fall for the cutesy teatox advertising or the photoshopped Instagram pics. Remember, the business is money and the storefront is health.

Bullshiticus corpus wrapum golden unicornius

Body wraps.

Have you seen “those crazy wrap things?”

You know, the ones where you smear a herbal concoction over your fatty areas, cover yourself plastic wrap, and whammy, you’re thinner!?

I know, kinky right? But hey, who am I to judge…if you’re into that sort of thing?

body wraps weight loss

Yes, body wraps have been around for quite a number of years and, like bell bottom jeans and bad haircuts, this golden unicorn keeps coming back.

Can you really “melt away the fat” from those trouble spots with a body wrap?

In a word: no.

Fat doesn’t just melt away through the skin. You need to improve your eating habits and become more physically active.

Sure, you might “lose weight” or see brief cosmetic improvements from a body wrap. However, this is more of a temporary illusion than any lasting effect.

While you may see small reductions in scale weight or inches on the tape measure, the actual composition of your weight loss is not body fat.

By the very nature of being wrapped in plastic (and sometimes heated), you will “lose weight” through sweating and dehydration.

Bottom line

The concept of “spot reduction” has long since been debunked. You cannot melt away fat through the skin. Once you leave the spa and consume food and water, you will replace what you lost in sweat weight.

For more information on body wraps, please see my general body wraps article It Works wraps review.

Bullshiticus Instagramicum gurus golden unicornius

I’ve been doing consumer advocacy work in the health space for well over two decades now and never in my entire career have I seen a bigger cesspool of health misinformation than on Instagram.

I’ll admit, Facebook and Twitter are quite prolific on the douchebaggery scale, but Instagram is a particularly onerous place for someone looking for reliable, trustworthy, and responsible health information.

What do I mean?

Think all of the above: teatoxes, 28-day fitness challenges, diets, fake testimonials, airbrushed images, micro-targeted advertising. It’s all there, on your phone, in your face, in 3D, in full colour.

If you’re a a teenage girl or young adult woman reading this, please know that Instagram is a great place to inspire an eating disorder (#fitspo). It has been studied and linked to poor mental health outcomes.

First, in the quest to rise above the social static and noise, Instagrammers are going to great lengths to image craft and mould their feeds. What you’re seeing is not reality. It’s a carefully coordinated effort to enhance their “personal branding” and social influence.

Second, the “health advice” your getting is, in most cases, questionable. “Influencers” are now getting paid to say a “teatox” was the secret to their success. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

Third, the images you see are often distortions of reality. Some Instagrammers have had surgery, botox, and treatments to make them look like a top-heavy mannequin. The photos are often professionally done, with certain looks accomplished by altering angles, using different lighting, playing with after-effects filters, or, if all else fails, airbrushing in Photoshop.

Aside from social media’s distorted aesthetics, sometimes information can be downright, well, just plain idiotic.

Last year, a young Australian “health coach” named Olivia Budgen when down in a media firestorm for saying that “cancer and disease is your body trying to save you.”

Olivia Budgen Insta Muppet - golden unicorn

She eventually deleted the Instagram post under intense media scrutiny. Then, in a so-called apology video on YouTube, Olivia blamed everyone else for misunderstanding her. To add insult to injury, she doubled down and had the audacity to spruik her ebooks below the video.

Olivia Budgen YouTube fake apology

In the video, she cited a well-known cancer quack as the source of her comments. Based on her responses to comments, the only thing she appeared to be sorry for was getting called out (below).

Olivia Budgen fake Youtube "apology"

Bottom line

Social media has given a platform and voice to everyone, irrespective of whether or not they’re qualified to give health advice.

If your Instagram feed is plastered with “detoxes,” “cleanses,” “fat-burner” supplements, and 28-day fitness challenges, then you need to unfollow your #fitspo “experts” and “gurus” and follow reputable health professionals instead.

Closing thoughts

Yeah, I know. I sound like the drunk uncle at Christmas time telling the kids there’s no Santa Claus. And sometimes I feel like it too.

Maybe it’s not what you WANT to hear, but it’s certainly what you NEED to hear.

You don’t have to like it either, but sticking your head in the sand and continuing to pretend long-term health comes in a cutesy “teatox” or “fat burner” pill is only going to keep you from achieving safe, sound, and lasting health changes.

I know there’s always that little sliver of hope in the back of your mind, hoping that one of those golden unicorns will work.

But I’ve worked in the health field for a LONG time and I have never, not even once, seen someone attain and maintain good health and body weight by following bad advice and using gimmicks.

Now, having said that, repeat after me:

“Bill, even though I think you’re a smug, sarcastic a$$hole, I will accept your challenge by trading my golden unicorn for more veggies and walking!”

SkinnyMint Teatox Review | A Detox from Toxic Marketing

SkinnyMint Teatox Review | A Detox from Toxic Marketing

If you’re a woman between 18 and 44 years of age, then you’ve no doubt seen SkinnyMint Teatox ads in your social feeds – over and over and over again.

Chances are, you’re being regularly micro-targeted until maybe, just maybe, you start to believe that “detox” comes in a tea.

If so, then you really need to read this article.

There are lots of grandiose marketing claims floating around cyberspace, much of it downright confusing, and some of it simply deceptive.

Therefore, the purpose of this article is to:

  • Explain what SkinnyMint Teatox is;
  • Break down the ingredients and their effects on your body;
  • Evaluate and discuss the veracity of the marketing claims;
  • Discuss side effects and safety concerns; and
  • Provide a closing summary of the facts

What is SkinnyMint Teatox?

According to the company website, the 28 Day Ultimate Teatox is a two-step morning and night tea detox program:

The Morning Boost is designed to give you a boost throughout the day and start the morning right. It contains Green Tea, Yerba Mate and Guarana with a naturally sweet fruity taste. It can replace your daily morning coffee/black tea.

The Night Cleanse is designed to naturally purify the body which could lead to reduced bloating. It contains all natural ingredients to promote the restoration process. It is the perfect bedtime ritual, take one every alternate night.”

Right, so what the heck is in it anyway?

SkinnyMint ingredients list 

There are a lot of “teatoxes” out on the market these days and it’s important to think safety first and spend the time investigating a product’s ingredients before putting it in your body.

I’ve done most of the legwork for you below and have included links to more detailed information.

Morning boost ingredients

SkinnyMint Teatox Review

Credit: SkinnyMint website

Green tea leaf

Green tea contains a small amount of caffeine which might give you a feeling of pep in your step and help suppress appetite.

Yerba mate leaf

Yerba mate leaf is a caffeine-containing central nervous system stimulant. It might make you feel more mentally alert and can bump up your heart rate and blood pressure. Note: if you have any underlying heart problems, talk to your doctor before taking this product.

Nettle leaf

Nettle leaf, also known as stinging nettle, has a diuretic and laxative effect in the body.

Dandelion leaf

Dandelion leaf may exert a diuretic (makes you pee) and laxative effect to increase bowel movements. It may also increase appetite.

Guarana seed

Guarana contains the central nervous system stimulants caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine. Similar to yerba mate, guarana can jack up your heart rate and blood pressure.

Night cleanse ingredients

SkinnyMint Teatox Review

Credit: SkinnyMint website

Senna leaf 

Senna‘s active constituents are called sennosides which stimulate the bowel and causes a laxative effect.

Ginger root

Ginger may exert a laxative effect on the body by stimulating the bowels and may be useful for upset stomach, gas, and diarrhoea. It may also promote fluid loss as a diuretic. Ginger might also stimulate appetite which may counter other ingredients in the teas that decrease appetite.

Orange leaf 

Orange leaves may exert a mild laxative effect on the body.

Lemongrass leaf

Lemongrass leaf may help improve digestive tract spasms and relieve stomach aches.

Peppermint leaf

Peppermint leaf may be helpful for digestive problems such as heartburn, nausea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Depending on the dose, it could have a laxative effect on the body.

Licorice root

Licorice root may help people with irritable bowel syndrome by soothing inflamed tissue, helping to relax muscles, and exerting a mild laxative effect on the bowels.

Hawthorn berry

Hawthorn berry is known to be a potent diuretic (which makes you pee) and may have value in patients with congestive heart failure by reducing water retention.

Psyllium seed

Psyllium seed is a bulk-forming laxative which soaks up water in your large intestines to make bowel movements easier.

Categorical review of SkinnyMint marketing claims

SkinnyMint claims that its teatox “reduces bloat and boosts energy,” is “designed for real results in 28 days,” and is an “all natural cleansing formula.”

If you’re trying to “lose weight” then this might be music to your eyes, but before you pull out your credit card, you need to first consider the phrasing and what it means to you versus what the product can actually deliver.

SkinnyMint Teatox Review

Claim 1: “Reduces bloat and boosts energy*

I’ll break this up into two parts for clarity.

“Reduces bloat”

This is where the marketing sleight of hand comes into play. It’s not what you’re being told but instead what you’re led to believe – or can make yourself believe.

First, the company does not specifically define what they mean by the term “bloat.” Bloat is plastered across a lot of different weight loss products these days and can mean a lot of different things to different people. Does it mean fat? Water retention? Glycogen storage?

In looking at the website, the company is very careful not to explicitly make weight loss (or fat loss) claims because that would be illegal.

No problem. Break out the testimonials.

At the bottom of the page, there are a number of before and after pictures of different women claiming the product did indeed result in weight loss specifically as a result of using the product (without mentioning which diet and exercise changes they made).

SkinnyMint Teatox Testimonials

Credit: SkinnyMint website

Taking on board the SkinnyMint’s vague claims and the more explicit testimonials, a reasonable person looking at the website in its entirety might assume that “bloat” means fat. And by using this teatox, it will result in bloat (fat/weight) loss.

So can SkinnyMint cause fat loss? Highly unlikely. As with all “teatox” programs, they are full of both diuretics and laxatives which will result in “weight loss” in the form of urine and feces. But as a stand alone product, it is not likely to result in any noticeable change in body fat.

If you are restricting your calorie intake and doing more exercise than you were before, then you will lose stored body fat. If this happens to occur in conjunction with taking a teatox product, then you might fool yourself into thinking your fat loss was solely the result of drinking a tea – instead of all your hard work.

To wrap up this point, I cannot stress this enough when I say there IS a difference between “weight loss” and “fat loss.” Anyone can “lose weight” by starving themselves or downing diuretic- and laxative-laden teas, but losing fat safely and effectively, and keeping it off, is something that happens slowly over time.

Read my article on 13 fat loss principles for losing fat and keeping it off.

“Boosts energy”

This claim is misleading because “boosts energy” is not well-defined and can also mean different things to different people.

The product contains only 2 calories per teabag so it clearly has no caloric energy value in the way food has energy (i.e., carbohydrates: 4 calories/gram, protein: 4 calories/gram, fat: 9 calories/gram).

To be more accurate, the “energy” you’re getting from SkinnyMint is not actually energy at all. It is simply a stimulant effect from some of the caffeine-containing ingredients which may make you feel more alert.

Claim 2: “Designed for real results in 28 days*

This claim begets more questions. First, what does SkinnyMint mean by “real results?” Are they talking about weight loss? Fat loss? How much weight loss or fat loss?

And second, why 28 days? Why not 27 or 29 days?

Where did SkinnyMint come up with this number? Is it based on research? Is it just cutesy marketing similar to those 28 day fitness challenges?

I conducted a search of the biomedical databases and was unable to locate any scientific research on SkinnyMint.

It would be helpful if the company was more specific and transparent in its claims.

Claim 3: “All natural cleansing formula”

Just more vague and meaningless marketing bluster. First, “all natural” is yet another one of those marketing terms that means different things to different people.

In some readers’ eyes, “all natural” means safe and effective (as opposed to those “drugs” pushed by evil pharmaceutical cartels). However, this is not always the case and even “natural” remedies can have health risks too (can I interest you in a delicious cup of all natural hemlock, arsenic, and cobra venom tea?).

And what, specifically, does SkinnyMint mean by a “cleansing formula.” What is it actually “cleansing?” Is it “cleansing” your liver or any other organ?

To be clear, there is no such thing as “detoxing” or “cleansing,” as Scott Gavura points out in an article on Science-Based Medicine:

“Detox” is a legitimate medical term that has been co-opted to sell useless products and services. It is a fake treatment for a fake condition. Real detoxification isn’t ordered from a menu at a juice bar, or assembled from supplies in your pantry. Real detoxification is provided in hospitals under life-threatening circumstances — usually when there are dangerous levels of drugs, alcohol, or other poisons in the body. Drugs used for real detoxification are not ingredients in a smoothie.

Damn you pesky asterisk!

And what about that pesky asterisk (*) after the claim? According to the SkinnyMint website:

*This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary from person to person and are not guaranteed.

English translation: “yes we’re kinda sorta making claims but not really, the FDA hasn’t reviewed our claims, and your “results,” whatever they may or may not be, may vary.”

SkinnyMint side effects and risks

SkinnyMint and other teatox products on the market are unlikely to cause harm when used as directed (and for the short term). But side effects are always a possibility.

Dehydration

First, senna leaves and a number of other ingredients in the tea exert a laxative effect on the body that could lead to diarrhoea and possibly dehydration, particularly if you are consuming a lot of the tea and leaving the bag in the water for longer than recommended.

Electrolyte imbalances and nutrient deficiencies

Second, the combined diuretic effect of many of the ingredients could further promote dehydration. If you have diarrhoea, then it could further hasten dehydration and contribute to a dangerous electrolyte imbalance and nutrient deficiencies. Moreover, if you are dieting and exercising a lot, this can hasten dehydration.

Low blood pressure

Third, if you have cardiovascular disease and are taking medications that promote fluid loss, then the tea could have a compounding effect which might further lower your blood pressure and make you susceptible to dizziness and fainting. Please consult your doctor if you have high blood pressure or any other cardiovascular disease.

Reduction in birth control effectiveness

Fourth, you should know that the laxative effect of these “teatoxes” can reduce the effectiveness of your birth control pills, particularly if you take your pills within 4 to 5 hours of using the tea.

Reduction in bowel movements

Fifth, the tea should be used for the short term. Long term use could result in your body adapting to the laxative which may lead to a reduction in bowel motility (leading to intestinal paralysis, lazy gut, and irritable bowel syndrome) and make you dependent on the tea for normal bowel movements. If you’re having problems with your bowel movements after using the tea, you should consult your doctor for further evaluation.

Weight loss abuse

Sixth, because the teas promote “weight loss” through increased urine and feces loss, consumers obsessed with quick-fix weight loss products may be at higher risk for abuse. If you’re the parent of a teen with body image issues, you should pay particular attention to their use of the products.

How much does SkinnyMint Teatox cost?

If you’re looking to buy SkinnyMint, it isn’t cheap. It will cost you about $55 US dollars and $70 dollars in Australia if you buy it on their website. I’ve also seen it sold on Amazon at higher and lower price points.

Return / refund policy

There is a return policy, but there’s also a catch.

According to the website, you can return your order within 60 days of purchase, but it must be unopened and in the original packaging.

So if you try the product and don’t like it or get the “results” you were expecting, then tough luck, no refund for you.

If SkinnyMint wants to put its money where its mouth is, then they should be willing to offer refunds to unsatisfied customers.

Bottom line: Should you buy SkinnyMint Teatox?

I hate having to be the jerk that ruins all the fun, but please allow me to smack you in the face with a wet fish and state unequivocally that there is no such thing as a “detox tea” except perhaps in name and branding only.

Let’s be clear that the word “detox” and its taxonomic offspring “teatox” are marketing terms and have no scientific basis.

Neither SkinnyMint nor any other “teatox” on the market causes fat loss. If you’re expecting to lose fat with the product alone (without eating less and exercising), then you will be disappointed.

If you’re expecting to “lose weight,” the laxatives and diuretics will do that, but you can expect to gain it all back when you stop using the product.

Bottom line: if you insist on using this product, then make sure you do not have any underlying health issues and use it only for the short term (for reasons I listed in side effects and risks).

Cockroach Milk: Superfood or Super Clickbait Headline?

Cockroach Milk: Superfood or Super Clickbait Headline?

Cockroach milk.

Ewwwww WT serious F?! I know. Exactly what I was thinking.

But there it was, cockroach milk, in the headlines, in all its glory, churning through this week’s international news cycle.

COCKROACH MILK! SUPERFOOD! HIGH IN PROTEIN!

I’ll admit the daily tsunami of bulls*t “health” headlines barely makes me raise an eyebrow these days <snore>, but this one actually caught my attention for at least 10 seconds. Ok, maybe 11 seconds.

I posted the article to my Facebook page with the question, “would you try it?” Every person who left a comment, bar none, said no, hell no, f*ck no, and every other graphical iteration of f*ck no.

cockroach milk gagging

Despite western cultural biases, there is a growing interest in insect farming as a sustainable food source, with numerous research studies now appearing in this space.

I figured I’d put aside my cultural ignorance <gag!> and take a serious look at the science and nutrition behind cockroach milk, and then compare it to the latest media headlines.

What is cockroach milk?

Cockroach milk is derived from the brood sac of the viviparous Diploptera punctata cockroach (or Pacific beetle cockroach) which provides nourishment to embryos during gestation. “Viviparous” refers to the embryos receiving milk BEFORE birth as compared to mammals which provide milk to offspring after birth.

Cockroach milk research

Despite the overly optimistic headlines, there really isn’t much research to support the superfood claims. I found only three barely relevant studies, one from 1977one from 2004 and another from 2016, with the latter mentioned frequently in news stories.

Study 1: Banerjee et al 2016

In the most recent 2016 study published in the International Union of Crystallography Journal (IUCrJ), researchers at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore, India looked at the chemical composition and structure of the milk with a few passing comments on its nutritive value for cockroach embryos (not humans).

The authors clearly stated: “a single crystal of cockroach milk is estimated to contain more than three times the energy of an equivalent mass of dairy milk.”

Translation: it has three times the amount of calories per equivalent weight of bog standard dairy milk.

However, a recent news.com.au article blew this out of proportion and erroneously stated the milk was “actually one of the most nutritious substances on Earth, containing three times the equivalent mass of buffalo’s milk” and that “it’s also more environmentally-friendly than dairy or almond milk.”

Um, no. I read the research study. That’s not what it said. At all.

Nowhere in the published study did the authors state it was the most “nutritious substance on Earth,” that it was “three times heavier than buffalo’s milk,” that it was more “environmentally-friendly than dairy or almond milk,” nor that was even fit for human consumption.

Study 2: Williford et al 2004

A second study from 2004 by Willford and colleagues at the University of Iowa investigated the genes that encode proteins found in cockroach milk, identified the amino acid composition of these proteins, and discussed the association to the evolutionary adaptation of viviparity.

As in the Bangalore study, nowhere in the study do the authors make any reference to the benefits of cockroach milk for human consumption.

Have a look at the PubMed abstract or the full length article in PDF and decide for yourself.

Study 3: Ingram et al 1977

An early study out of the University of Iowa looking at the composition of cockroach milk found it contained 45% protein, 5% amino acids, 25% carbohydrate, and 16 to 22% lipid. But again, no mention of the milk for human nutrition.

Is cockroach milk a nutritious superfood?

Easy question. Yes, if you’re a cockroach embryo.

Despite the headlines, you can’t buy cockroach milk at your local Paleo cafe, nor are Hollywood celebrities touting it as a youthful elixir (yet). But hey, give Gwyneth Paltrow enough time and she just might spruik it on her quacky Goop website, right next to the jade eggs for your vagina.

So yes, it is technically true that research shows cockroach milk is high in protein, and low to moderate in carbohydrate and fat content, but there is no evidence that it’s good for human consumption above and beyond normal supermarket food.

And what about safety? There is no scientific evidence yet that the substance is safe for humans.

And finally, extracting cockroach milk would likely be a massively tedious and time consuming process, possibly making it difficult to be financially viable. The substance would likely have to be synthesised and bulk produced in a lab (if feasible). Watch this space.

Bottom line

Cockroach milk has been bandied about as a “superfood” and, while it might be “nutritious” when viewed strictly from a chemical composition standpoint in a lab – under an electron microscope – there are no studies yet on the human consumption of cockroach milk on any given health parameter.

As of this writing cockroach milk is just a hypothetical what-if. The headlines which churned and burned through the recent news cycle were just bullish*t clickbait with no substance. The writers of these stories appear to have piggy-backed a load of bad and poorly interpreted scientific information and twisted it into something it was clearly not (see my article on the media distorting health messages).

There is no such thing as a “superfood” and no single food is the holy grail. The healthiest diets include a wide variety of food choices in order to safely provide a full array of nutrients.

But hey, if you want to suck on the bottom of a pregnant cockroach, then knock yourself out!

References

  1. Banerjee S, Coussens NP, Gallat FX, et al. Structure of a heterogeneous, glycosylated, lipid-bound, in vivo-grown protein crystal at atomic resolution from the viviparous cockroach Diploptera punctata. IUCrJ. 2016 Jun 27;3 (Pt 4):282-93. doi: 10.1107/S2052252516008903. eCollection 2016 Jul 1. [abstract] [PDF]
  2. Williford A, Stay B, Bhattacharya D. Evolution of a novel function: nutritive milk in the viviparous cockroach, Diploptera punctata. Evol Dev. 2004 Mar-Apr;6(2):67-77.[abstract] [PDF]
  3. M.J.Ingram, B.Stay, G.D.Cain. Composition of milk from the viviparous cockroach, Diploptera punctata. Insect Biochemistry. Volume 7, Issue 3, 1977, Pages 257-267 [abstract]
  4. Science Direct. Various insect farming studies [view list]
HMB Supplement Review | Big Claims and Flimsy Evidence

HMB Supplement Review | Big Claims and Flimsy Evidence


I was recently contacted by a well-known strength athlete who receives sponsorship from a nutrition supplement company that specializes in HMB (or β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate). We didn’t actually chat about HMB, but his sponsorship piqued my interest so I decided to research the company and their claims.

Most supplement companies realize that, as an athlete, science is important to you – which is why they often use “science” in their marketing. They also cash in on the emotion and passion you have for your sport. They know you want the most out of your training and that you’ll leave no stone unturned to gain a fair advantage.

Unfortunately, most of the time you’re being exploited. I’d like to share with you my experience about this company in hopes that it will make you wiser about the game being played with your passion for sport – and your wallet.

What is HMB?

In brief, HMB is a metabolite of the essential amino acid leucine. Both leucine and HMB have certain properties which might benefit strength athletes. Specifically as it relates to HMB, it’s been touted to be:

  • anti-catabolic
  • lipolytic
  • able to assist in strength and muscle gain
  • an aid in recovery from exercise

There is some evidence for this, but it’s far from conclusive.

Stretching the Truth 

Part of the problem is that many of the supposed athletic benefits are based on extrapolations and deductions from indirect measures in studies conducted on both animal carcasses and human subjects. For example, HMB is thought to be metabolized to β-hydroxy-β-methylglutaryl-CoA, which can provide a readily available carbon source for cholesterol synthesis which, in turn, provides precursors for muscle growth.

But is that sufficient to conclude that, if you lift weights and take HMB, you’ll end up with significantly larger muscles than from training alone? You can see how this is a bit of a stretch.

Just because a substance is involved in certain biochemical pathways related to muscle growth doesn’t automatically mean your strength and size will go through the roof if you take it as a supplement. After all, water is an essential nutrient, yet nobody would believe drinking more water before training will increase your power clean by 50 pounds (23 kg).


Misleading claims?

On the company website, they make claims that HMB improves “strength, endurance, and recovery.” They also claim they’re all about “science instead of hype” and then go on to cite research with their own brief summaries. From what I could tell, all of these research summaries were positive.

And that’s when I got curious…

The Science

From my previous investigations into HMB, I remembered that the research was equivocal on many training outcomes.  In other words, some studies showed benefits while others didn’t. Why then, if this company was so dedicated to science, did they cherry pick studies with positive results?

As a first step, I did a quick search of the scientific literature to refamiliarize myself with the latest findings. But they’re still not in agreement on whether HMB improves performance.

Before you assume that science is just smoke and mirrors, you must understand that study findings don’t always agree due to differences in research methods. For example, if you compare men to women, trained athletes vs sedentary couch potatoes, an upper vs lower body exercise, or taking a supplement for seven days vs. seven weeks, you’ll end up with conflicting results. It is for this very reason that results must be carefully considered and put into context for practical use.

Anyway, my next step was to look at some of the research the company claims to be proof that HMB will increase performance. Here’s an example of one of their cited references.

Company summary
This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study examined HMB supplementation in young male and female elite volleyball players for 7 wks. HMB supplementation resulted in improved body composition and significantly increased strength, while also decreasing fat mass percentage. HMB supplementation also increased peak and mean anaerobic power.  No changes in hormones or inflammatory mediators were seen in this study (Portal et al).


Inconvenient truths

Sounds good, but when I looked at the actual study, a rather different picture emerged. First, the subjects were adolescents, as young as 13. That’s a huge red flag because there’s an abundance of studies showing that adolescents respond to training and supplements quite differently than adults (i.e., hormonal variations etc). Besides, can you really compare a 14-year old girl’s physiological response to that of a 36-year old male strength athlete?

Methodological limitations and applications

Next, the researchers used skinfold thickness to determine changes in fat-free mass (i.e., gains/losses in muscle mass). That method, however, isn’t the most accurate way to measure changes in muscle mass, especially in athletes and young people. In fact, of the various formulas available, error rates can be as high as nearly 4%.

Consider that the placebo group showed changes ranging between 56.4 kg to 56.3 kg vs. 59.3 kg to 61.6 kg for the HMB group. Though the experimental group showed statistically significant gains in muscle, in only considering the approximate 4% error rate for the formula, you end up with around 4.5 pounds (~2kg) worth of error.

Since we’re talking about approximate error rates, and not even considering all sources of error for this method, evidence for changes in fat-free mass in this study due to HMB supplementation are pretty flimsy.

But what about strength? That’s even more interesting. The researchers found that the HMB group significantly increased their strength more than the placebo group, but only in knee flexion (i.e., leg curls). There were no improvements in knee extensions, biceps curls, or triceps extension.

Based on this, how can anyone claim that HMB will make you stronger? Also consider that strength was measured isokinetically. This means that equipment was used in which the speed of movement is held constant. In this case, rep speed was measured at 180 and 60 degrees per second. Of course, any exercise you perform in the gym or competition isn’t isokinetic, it’s dynamic in that the speed of movement changes throughout the range of motion.  So clearly, it’s difficult to generalize from an isokinetic single-joint leg curl to a multi-joint dynamic squat.

You don’t have to dismiss the science because they used isokinetics to measure strength. For the purpose of conducting controlled research, it’s necessary that study participants perform the exercises in exactly the same way to minimise error in the experimental protocols.

If any of this upsets you, your complaints should be directed towards the supplement company for misleading claims and promoting false hope.

The research team also looked at peak and average anaerobic power via a cycle ergometer. Though HMB led to a significantly greater increase in peak and mean anaerobic power (via Wingate test), no significant differences between groups were observed in fatigue, aerobic fitness, or on anabolic, catabolic, and inflammatory biomarkers. Thus, there does not appear to be any mechanistic explanation for these findings.

In short, you can’t conclude on the back of this study that HMB will increase strength in adults. The authors of this study discussed the various limitations of their work but the company conveniently left this out of their summary and grossly exaggerated the study findings.


A shady industry

You might want to know the supplement company’s name, but I’m not going to give it. Why? Because what I shared with you is common in the supplement industry. This particular company isn’t any worse than the rest and their name is irrelevant. The point is, you can’t trust them, even if they throw around words like “science” and “clinically proven.”

Even if the company employs scientists, that’s no guarantee either. Last year, I shined the spotlight how on a company that produces mouthpieces with claims it could increase strength actually misrepresented what their scientists said.

Are these companies purposely lying to you? I can’t say for certain, but there is no question that they purposely hype their products to drive sales.

Take home message

My personal opinion is that you’d get more out of your training by focusing on maintaining a scientific approach instead of relying on supplements with a flimsy evidence base. A recent meta analysis concluded that improvements from HMB in trained athletes were trivial.

Here’s the bottom line: train your muscles but don’t forget to train your brain. When it comes to supplements, critical thinking and a healthy dose of skepticism go a long way in keeping you from wasting your time and money.

References

  1. Nissen, S., et al. Effect of leucine metabolite β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate on muscle metabolism during resistance-exercise training. Journal of Applied Physiology 81:2095-2104, 1996. (view abstract)
  2. Portal S., et al. The effect of HMB supplementation on body composition, fitness, hormonal and inflammatory mediators in elite adolescent volleyball players: a prospective randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 111(9):2261-2269, 2011. (view abstract)
  3. Rowlands, D.S. and J.S. Thomson. Effects of β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate supplementation during resistance training on strength, body composition, and muscle damage in trained and untrained young men: a meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  23(3):836-846, 2009. (view abstract)
  4. Slater, G.J. and D. Jenkins. β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate supplementation and the promotion of muscle growth and strength. Sports Medicine.  30:105-116, 2000. (view abstract)
Carbohysteria – An Open Love Letter to Carbohydrate

Carbohysteria – An Open Love Letter to Carbohydrate

Dear Carbohydrate,
I love you. I do. I’ve always loved you. From the moment I first set eyes on your chemical structure – C6H12O6 – I knew you were the one for me.

Remember all the great threesomes we had over the years? Just you, me, and some pretty darn grueling exercise.

How about the time I ate you before, during, and after climbing Mount Whitney, a 35 kilometre (22 mile) day hike?

Or on our 80 kilometre (50 mile) weekend bike rides around San Diego?

And who could forget that time surfing for five hours straight in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa?

I couldn’t have done all this without you, Carbohydrate. You were there for me and now I’m there for you when you need me most.


Macronutrient muddled media

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written you a heart-felt love letter, but I just want you to know that I’m here for you despite all the negative publicity you’ve been receiving lately.

I’m sure all these venomous attacks must be hard for you. They’re plastered all over the tabloids. Donald Trump even tweeted that you’re nothing more than a “sweet poison” with no redeeming value whatsoever (#FAKE NEWS)! But why?

Maybe your old arch nemesis Protein is partly to blame for your bad reputation. I hear he’s been swanning around town like a rock star, hitting all the cool clubs, going to the best parties, towing an entourage everywhere he goes, picking up chicks, and promising to make them look like swimsuit models.

Racism is out, “carbism” is in

It just seems so unfair. Why the heck is everyone so “carbist” these days? They discriminate against you without really understanding all the nutritional wholesomeness you bring to the table.

Maybe it’s all the popular “alternative fact” carb-bashing books written by laypeople like lawyers and journalists with zero science training. They take a little bit of information out of context and then blow it out of proportion (just to make a buck and feed their egos).

They might be selling books like gluten-free hotcakes, but they don’t know you like I do.

They don’t know that you’re the preferred high octane fuel for the brain and rest of the nervous system – far more efficient and healthier than those clunky ketones spun off from high-protein, high-fat diets.

They don’t know that you come in all kinds of delicious shapes, sizes, colours, and flavours like brown rice, quinoa (I know, quinoa….so trendy, right?), wholegrain breads and, yes, your buxomly beautiful fruits and veggies!

Oh, and you’ll never believe this! The other day, I overheard some girl down at the beach say to her friend “I don’t eat any carbs at all. I just eat lots of vegetables and the rest is protein and fat.” Yep, I know! WTF?! (and I don’t mean the World Taekwondo Federation either). She’s so brainwashed that she’s eating carbs and doesn’t even know it!

I have to confide in you, all this confusing carb controversy is turning well-intentioned eaters into carbists. I really think they’re throwing out the proverbial carb baby with the lactose-free bathwater.

What the heck is a carb anyway?

I think the problem is that the terms “carbohydrate” and “sugar” are used interchangeably and the general public is now confused about the difference between what constitutes good and bad carbohydrates.

High quality complex carbs, like those mentioned above, are low in calories and packed with valuable fiber, vitamins, minerals, and lots of health-promoting phytochemicals (i.e., beta-carotene, lycopene, etc).

It’s pretty hard to overeat when you’re taking in the good stuff.  In fact, this one time, at band camp, I took a bet that I could overdose on broccoli. I bought three kilograms of it, but failed miserably when I was only able to get through one stalk. Further evidence that good carbs are the kind that fill you up without all the calories!

On the other hand, simple carbs, like the monosaccharides glucose, fructose (aka fruit sugar), and galactose are more refined and broken down versions of complex carbs and tend to be sweeter.


Fructose and the dark side of food fame

You know, now that I think about it, your sweet little brother Fructose might have thrown you under the bus.

Fructose was pretty cool when he only hung out in fruit, but his personality has really changed since those dodgy food company executives got a hold of him. They told him they were gonna make him famous. You know, give him a star on Hollywood Boulevard ‘n all that sh*t – wish granted but he’s probably more infamous than anything.

They took Fructose into the lab where their food chemists pulled him apart and perverted him into dozens of different incarnations with benignly pleasant names – like nectars and syrups – just so they could hide him in processed foods without anyone knowing any better.

And what about your inbred cousin Sucrose formed from an incestuous chemical bond between Fructose and Glucose?  These days, Sucrose goes by his better-known gangsta’ rapper name Table Sugar, well known for his greatest hits like soda, doughnuts, and candy bars.

FrankenSugar

The main problem is that your refined little brothers and inbred cousin have been chemically castrated and stripped of any real nutritional value – no fiber, no vitamins, minerals, or phytochemicals – turning them into slutty empty calories. People just can’t seem to get enough of them.

And because they’re already broken down to their simplest forms, they pass through the digestive tract very quickly, leaving their loyal disciples feeling unsatisfied, and therefore likely to eat more and more. Cha-ching! Every day is Christmas bonus time for food execs!

CSI Carbohydrate

I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say “carbs are fattening.” Yeah, ok, it’s true that people are eating massive quantities of refined carbohydrate (sugar) and they are getting fatter and fatter.

But while sugar is at the scene of the crime, does that make it wholly culpable or just an innocent bystander who witnessed the crime?

The answer to this is, probably a little of both.

Firstly, from the excess calories = obesity argument, it is far easier to eat too many calories when they’re in the form of two-litre bottles of soda, doughnuts, and ice cream than brown rice and veggies.

I don’t think the bog-standard calories in vs. calories out mantra accounts for everything, but it still accounts for a significant part of the obesity epidemic.

And let’s not forget, we’re unfit and out of shape. Physical activity levels are lower than ever since the technological revolution left us legless in the office tethered to a computer (or tablet) playing Candy Crush – I know, good carb pun, eh?

Lucky we don’t live on the African savannah ‘cause even a hyena with two broken legs could easily run us down for dinner!

Public health experts and government officials keep looking at the stats, scratching their balls, and wondering why our waistlines continue to expand.

Well don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s raining. Isn’t it obvious we’re not burning off all the calories we’re taking in? Plus we’re extremely deconditioned and metabolically unfit.

Secondly, aside from the “eat too much, move too little” argument, we also know that fructose is metabolised differently in the body than other sugars and may contribute to fat formation in ways not explained by the calories in vs. calories out gospel.

Plus refined sugar can wreak havoc on our blood chemistry in ways that leave us susceptible to metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia (high blood fats).

Reduce sugar intake, not common sense

So my dear Carbohydrate, I fully support people limiting their refined sugar intake – especially since Fructose and Sucrose think they all that and a bag o’ chips, what with their big fat egos.

Unfortunately, the FEAR SUGAR campaign has backfired in ways that have left people scared shitless of sugar with no real consideration for the quality or quantity of carbohydrate they’re eating.

Sugar: The devil is in the dose

No matter which side of the carb fence you’re on, everyone still agrees the devil is in the dose (though the sugar-bashing brigade frequently tends to downplay and gloss over this fact because it goes against biases).

If people tend to eat clean and healthy, but have a small cup of ice cream once in a while at a birthday party, you know what will happen to them? Absolutely nothing!

If they eat three tubs of ice cream each day washed down with two-litres of cola, then you can bet they’re in for a world of hurt, sooner than later.

Did you hear that people are now cutting fruit out of their diets? What is this world coming to when people deny themselves nature’s candy?

Yes, fruit contains fructose, but does this mean it’ll have the same effect in the body as the FrankenFructose found in our children’s cereals? No. Probably not.

Natural fructose found in fruit comes packed with fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals, not to mention it tends to be much lower in calories than energy-dense, low-nutrient refined junk food. Therefore, the digestive profile of fruit is different than a glass of refined fruit juice.

Related: read my article Is Fruit Sugar Bad For You?

Carbohysteria and food anxiety

All this carbohysteria has created a climate of food anxiety. People are terrified of you, Carbohydrate.  They’re afraid to sit down for a meal at a restaurant unless they have a full accounting of each and every carb molecule.

Everywhere I turn, it’s low-carb this, gluten-free that, or lactose intolerance. We’re turning into a bunch of food sissies, I tell ya. Forget the sugar, a scoop of concrete in their coffees oughta harden ‘em the <bleep> up!


Hug a carbohydrate today

If Martin Luther King Jr. was around today and saw such hatred towards his carbohydrate brethren, his I Have a Dream speech would have sounded something this:

“I have a dream that one day, this world, with all its vicious “carbists,” with their lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will release the people from the tyranny of this carbohysteria, so they’ll be able to join hands with white sourdough and dark pumpernickel bread without fear of prejudice!

Well my beloved Carbohydrate, I just want you to know that, no matter how this turns out, I love you.  And when the smoke clears and the flour dust settles,  I’ll still be right here by your side.