Are Slim Fast and other weight loss products safe?

Kirsi Bhasin
Nutrition & Dietetics

Weight loss products are manufactured to have the attractive label of being low-calorie and low-fat and have catchy titles to highlight how quickly they will help you lose weight and get that killer body you’ve been looking for. So what could be wrong? The biggest problem with weight loss products like Slim-Fast and the countless others out there is in the word I just used to describe them: manufactured. Weight loss products like these tend to be overly processed and contain little to no all-natural ingredients. They may help you lose weight but in the process you end up starving your body of the essential nutrients it needs to function, which will cause you to end up gaining the weight right back after you finish your crash diet plan.

One of the biggest concerns with weight loss products and supplements is that many of them aren't regulated by the FDA. Many weight loss supplements don’t have to meet the same safety standards as the food we eat, and that alone can pose tremendous safety risks, as it has many times in the past.

Another big problem with weight loss products is the ingredients used to make them. While most of them are completely devoid of essential nutrients we need (calcium, iron, vitamins, etc.), they are loaded with artificial flavors and sugars to make them taste good and pumped full of protein so you don’t notice how hungry you really are. They’re also loaded with fake, unnatural ingredients that do nothing to help your body. Take some of the main ingredients in a Slim-Fast Chocolate Shake, for instance. Maltodextrin, xanathan gum, cellulose gel, acesulfame phosphate, and aspartame are all artificial sweeteners or food additives found in one Slim Fast shake. Now here’s the important question: have you heard of any of these ingredients? Aspartame probably because of the wide criticism and publicity of the health risks associated with consuming it, but what about the rest? These overly processed, not even remotely nutritious ingredients are not the kinds of foods that you want to be putting into your body. A good rule of thumb for ingredients: if you can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t want to eat it.

The bottom line is that weight loss products, while they won’t necessarily kill you, are neither a safe nor reliable way to lose weight. Losing weight is about feeding your body the right nutrients, in the right amounts. 

Wendy Batts
“Weight loss products” is a term that encompasses a wide range of compounds and foods and some are safe while others require some extra caution before considering their use. Some products work because they contain stimulants such as caffeine which works to reduce appetite and increase caloric expenditure. These types of products can carry a long list of health precautions so check with your healthcare provider first before taking one.
A product like slim fast, often referred to as a meal replacement, is safe for the most part. It is simply calories in a can. Envision chicken, rice and broccoli thrown into a blender.
Something like slim fast works because it reduces the calories you take in over the course of the day. It replaces the calories you’d normally consume in a usual whole food meal. Weight loss is about burning more calories than you consume in a healthful manner. Whether or not a meal replacement is right for you depends on your health status and what you feel your level of compliance will be like with a greatly reduced calorie intake. The drawback with these types of weight loss programs is that they don’t necessarily teach long term strategies for weight loss, they simply give you a “quick fix” to reducing calories. This could increase the likelihood of a weight rebound once normal eating resumes if you are not careful. So, be sure to choose wisely when it comes to weight loss strategies! Overall, the incorporation of increased activity with cardiorespiratory exercise and resistance training along with a sensible reduced calorie diet are the main things to look for in a long lasting program.

I would steer away from so-called weight loss supplements. Many of these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and therefore could be unsafe.

If you are considering using Slim Fast to help you lose weight, I have a few thoughts:

- Consider Slim Fast products as part of your I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) Plan. Bombared by an inpromptu meeting at work and no time for lunch? Then a shake and few almonds will can help keep you fueled and alert. Keep a supply of these non-perishables on hand at work.

- Is it the convenience factor what draws you to these products? Why not invest a few more mintues into your health and make a Super Shake? Blend ice, milk (skim, almond or soy), fresh fruit, protein powder, greens powder, a few nuts or a TB of peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon or vanilla. You can even throw the ingredients into the blender the night before, so you are out the door in no time! Make a double batch and store the extra serving in a reusable bottle for a healthy snack or meal later in the day. I will put a link of my wall to some great recipes.

- What is the alternative? What is the product you are going to consume replacing? If afternoon cravings hit and you have a choice between a candy bar or Slim Fast bar, the Slim Fast bar is the better option (unless you have a planned treat, then go for a piece of delicious dark chocolate).

What if you have access to whole, natural foods, then eating the Slim Fast would be the less desirable choice. Can you think of a better option like th Super Shake listed above? Or maybe a salad with grilled chicken?

Meal replacement work because they control your calorie intake. Your best prescription for weight loss is a diet based on whole, unproccessed foods.

Please post any additional questions you may have on my wall.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.