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Mind and Body

7 ways to tell if a diet product is too good to be true

Assorted group of health care prescription drug pills or vitamins

Back in January, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a new law-enforcement initiative designed to crack down on false and misleading advertisements for weight-loss products. 

It's a serious problem; not only have some products been caught using the likeness of respected brands without their permission to make it seem like they endorse these ineffective and sometimes dangerous products, but some have even stolen before-and-after from bloggers who've lost a significant amount of weight through diet and exercise—and falsely claimed that the pounds they dropped were due to the product. Pretty alarming stuff.

On Tuesday, the Senate held a hearing to address the problem of bogus diet ads. "We've all heard and seen the ads, promising quick and substantial weight loss if only you take this pill, drink this shake, use this device, or apply this cream," said Senator Claire McCaskill, a democrat who's chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance. "All without adjusting diet or increasing physical activity. It seems too good to be true—and of course it is."

While officials at the hearing said they largely support self-regulation of the industry, they also spoke out in favor of the FTC's seven point "gut check" as a way to tell if diet products are too good to be true.

If a weight-loss product makes any of the below promises, the FTC says it should raise a major red flag:

1. Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise

2. Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats

3. Causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops using product

4. Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight

5. Safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks

6. Causes substantial weight loss for all users

7. Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin

Of course, it all boils down to the same message: If a diet product seems too good to be true, it probably is. The best way to drop pounds is to make sustainable lifestyle changes that will also make you healthier overall. For more info on the FTC's seven point "gut check," you can visit its Web site.