Busted…Again

By: Jacqueline Jacques, ND, Naturopathic Doctor
Category: Jacqueline Jacques, ND

Just in time for the holidays, Kevin Trudeau, author and promoter, was found to be in contempt of a past FTC injunction against him for presenting false and misleading weight loss claims in his book The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About, and the associated infomercial.

Take a look at the any best-seller list for non-fiction and there is a good chance that at least two of the book in the top ten are weight loss books. Look closely at these books, and they are all sure to promote themselves as the best possible solution to help you lose weight and keep it off. So you might ask, if every single diet book in America promotes itself as the latest and greatest thing why is the government picking on Kevin Trudeau?

This is a reasonable question if you don’t know anything about Trudeau. But if you take a look at his history, he is clearly a repeat offender in the “take advantage of people who feel desperate” category. And for this reason, I have a hard time mustering a lot of sympathy for this current bust. Here is a brief history of his track record:

  1. In 1998, the Federal Trade Commission fined Trudeau along with a group of product developers and promoters for a long list of violations related to false and deceptive claims for products advertised for addiction, detoxification/weight loss, hair loss, IQ, and reading proficiency. Trudeau was personally fined $500,000 for consumer redress and was formally barred from making false claims for products in the future. You can read the FTC ruling here.

  2. Clearly, that didn’t stop him. In 2003, Trudeau along with Robert Barefoot, Shop America and others were placed under an FTC injunction forbidding them from making continued claims for a coral calcium product. They had been claiming in infomercials and other media that coral calcium could cure cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and more.

  3. Unfortunately, the injunction didn’t really mean much to Trudeau. He continued to make claims for this product and others (one being an analgesic tape that was promoted as a permanent cure for all sorts of chronic pain). So in 2004, the FTC charged him with contempt and fined him $500,000 in cash plus forced him to hand over $1.5 million in assets (including a vacation home and a luxury vehicle).

  4. In 2005 Trudeau released the book Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About along with an infomercial. This started what continues as an ongoing battle with the FTC and the State of New York.

  5. And now for the latest (and the reason this is going into this Blog. On November 19th 2007, Trudeau was found in contempt of court for violating the 2004 injunction. U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Gettleman ruled that Trudeau “clearly misrepresents in his advertisements the difficulty of the diet described in his book, and by doing so, he has misled thousands of consumers.” Punishment is yet to be determined. You can read the ruling here.

So besides being a repeat offender who clearly believes that the best way to make a living is to prey off the despair and trustfulness of people who are sick, in pain, and desperate to lose weight (which is contemptible by itself), what is Trudeau claiming in his book that got him in trouble this time?

The “diet” plan that Trudeau (beware – this is a spoiler if you haven’t read the book…) extols as a miracle that government conspiracy is preventing you from having access to is one with a troubled past. It is a four-phased program that claims to change your metabolism by controlling your hormones, banishing hunger, and regulating your body’s fat cells. The first phase requires the adoption of an organic diet that is eaten six times a day and also asks dieter to have 15 colonics in 30 days, take regular saunas, and exercise for an hour a day. The second phase, dieters are instructed to eat only 500 calories per day, find a doctor to give them off label injections of the hormone beta-hCG, and stop using all medications and cosmetics. In the third phase you can eat as much as you want as long as it is organic, unsweetened, and contains no starch or trans fats. You are also instructed to get massages, avoid fluorescent lights and air conditioning, sauna, and take homeopathic human growth hormone. The fourth and final phase (which is the rest of your life), is an ongoing relatively restrictive diet and exercise routine.

Trudeau says that “They” don’t want you to know about this because since significant parts of this plan were first introduced to America in the 1950s by British physician ATW Simeons who wrote the book Pounds and Inches: A New Approach to Obesity. The federal government has made repeat attempts to protect the public from something that is not only unproven for weight loss, but is potentially dangerous. A warning issued to physicians in a 1962 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) called the program “potentially more hazardous to the patient’s health than continued obesity.” In the 1970s as some unscrupulous practitioners continued to use this protocol to make money off desperation of their clients, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring all manufacturers of the hormone beta-hCG to place a warning on the product that reads:

hCG has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity. There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or “normal” distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.

Also in the 1970s, the FDA required that doctors and clinics using these methods for weight loss stop claiming that their methods are safe and effective. While it did not ban them from using hCG, it did require them to have all patients sign an informed consent saying that they understood that they were using a drug that was unapproved for this purpose.

For the record, hCG is a hormone that women’s bodies make in pregnancy – it is actually the hormone that is tested for when you get a pregnancy test. Repeat studies on hCG for weight loss have not shown it to be safe or effective (except in conjunction with a 500 calorie diet – which is going to cause you to lose weight anyway, trust me). It’s also not free of side effects which can include: Headache, irritability, restlessness, depression, fatigue, edema (swelling), gynecomastia (swelling of breast tissue in men or women), pain at the site of injection, exacerbation of epilepsy, migraine or asthma, and severe allergic reactions. In women it may further cause ovarian cysts, ovarian swelling, ovarian hyperstimulation, and blood clots. In men, it may also cause spontaneous tumors of the testicles. Click here to read a complete list of side effects.

You would think, given all of the above, that both doctors and patients would stop – but do a quick internet search for hCG and weight loss and you will find a thriving industry.

I want today’s blog not only to inform you about Trudeau. We are well into the holiday season – which means the post-holiday/New Year’s resolution-induced diet season is right around the corner. Be aware. Be aware of repeat offenders like Trudeau who really just want to make money and don’t care at all about you and your need to lose weight. Be cautious. I would agree that the government and the FDA don’t have a perfect track record, but if they have taken the effort to warn you about something, try to find out why. Be smart. You have probably tried to lose weight before and you know it is not a super easy thing to do. If a book or an ad is telling you that the pounds and inches are going to melt away forever with no effort on your part, they are lying. It’s that simple.