Finally! The Feds Create BS-Free Nutrition Label, Give Americans Reality Check

The White House and the Food and Drug Administration have announced their plan today to update the nutrition facts label on food packages, a move that is being heralded and praised by nutrition experts and enthusiasts alike.

new nutrition label

Proposed changes include:

  • Calories displayed more prominently. Congress and the FDA are pushing for a larger, bolded font for calories and all parts of the label that affect obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
  • Serving Size. Have you ever noticed a bottle of soda actually contains 2.5 servings, while the average American drinks the whole thing in one sitting? Mary Hartley, RD, our resident nutrition expert, thinks this means we are all in for a big reality check. The new label will change the serving size from what we should eat to what people actually consume.
  • Detailed sugar labeling. The improved labels will have a new line for “added sugars,” or sugars not occurring naturally and have been including only after chemical processing (think naturally-occurring lactose in yogurt vs. added aspartame in a Yoplait). What does Hartley have to say about that? “Finally.” (more…)

Fraud Charges for Sensa, HCG, LeanSpa, L’Occitane

Four of the biggest names in the “lose weight, fast” game have been charged with fraud by the Federal Trade Commission. On Tuesday, January 8, the FTC determined that Sensa Products, L’Occitane, HCG Diet Direct, and LeanSpa had deceptively marketed weight-loss products and made “unfounded promises” that people could lose weight by simply using their products.


The four companies will collectively pay $34 million to customers as a refund. No company has yet admitted or denied the charges.


Jillian Michaels Overtakes Weight Watchers on the 2013 Most Popular Diets of the Year List

The most popular diet of the year is none other than the incomparable Jillian Michaels. It’s not entirely surprising when you consider she’s been one of the most consistent players on our list since 2008, with her online brand, detox product, and earliest workout DVD ranking each year. In fact, the latter two were both on last year’s top ten list. We expect to see Curves, ranking for the first time since 2008, as the Biggest Loser trainer just announced a new partnership with Curves.

jillian michaels

What is most surprising is how Jillian Michaels knocked the giant that is Weight Watchers out of the number one position. That’s only been done once before, by 17 Day Diet in 2011. Even that year Weight Watchers held on to number two, but this year they slipped in to the fifth most popular spot.

And 17 Day Diet grabbed ranking number four, hardly losing any ground since its overwhelmingly popular release in late 2010. Its position on our annual Most Popular lists, ahead of Weight Watchers once again, will no doubt help with the release of 17 Day Diet: Breakthrough Edition on the 31st.

The only constant between last year’s list and this – Medifast. They’ve got number 3 on lock, with the meal delivery diet staying strong in the top ten since 2010.

Another staple of our list fell pretty hard this year, with hCG falling down to number 14. No, the supplement boom isn’t over, as its disappearance only made room for brands like Skinny Fiber (a shocking number 2) and Plexus Slim (at number 6) to move on up the list. Dr. Oz-endorsed Raspberry Ketones (17) and Green Coffee Bean Extract (20) were other weight-loss-by-pill categories that did especially well this year.

Check out the 25 Most Popular Diets of 2013* as determined by you, our diets 2013

1. Jillian Michaels

2. Skinny Fiber

3. Medifast

4. 17 Day Diet

5. Weight Watchers (more…)

23andMe Broke the FDA’s Rules. Dr. Richard Besser Explains the Violation and Why This isn’t About Blocking Your Rights

UPDATE 12/7/13: 23AndMe may no longer support new clients in accordance with the FDA directive delivered to the personal genome testing company last month. Our interview, below, with ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser explains, as does this message on the company’s homepage.

23andme suspended

This week the FDA took action against 23andMe, the popular home genome testing kit, to discontinue marketing its product until years of unresolved requests from the government agency can be addressed.

“Since July of 2009, we have been diligently working to help you comply with regulatory requirements regarding safety and effectiveness and obtain marketing authorization for your PGS [Personal Genome Testing] device,” wrote the FDA in a letter made public on its website. The company has failed to comply with all of the FDA requests to receive proper validation and approval by the agency, something required of medical devices and tests.


According to Dr. Richard Besser, Chief Health and Medical Editor at ABC News and author of Tell Me the Truth, Doctor, that’s exactly what 23andMe is. He thinks a lot of people online are missing the point about what is going on with the FDA’s motion, explaining “the way our system works, medical tests used for diagnosis, treatment, or prevention need to be approved by the FDA to make sure it does what it says.”

There in lies much of the problem – these genetic home testing kits aren’t always accurate. Dr. Besser cited a government study conducted in 2010 that used 10 kits from four different companies and had a group of volunteers submit their tests. He explained that the results varied not only by company, but within tests from the same company. Some tests showed positives for some genetic markers and diseases, while others showed negatives. The inconsistency can be incredibly misleading and disconcerting for consumers.

“These tests are fine if you want to look at your ancestry or for male pattern baldness,” explained Dr. Besser, who went on to say that when a test like this shows a woman that she is a carrier for the BRCA gene (the marker for breast cancer), “she needs to know that it’s right.” Some serious, sometimes life-altering, decisions have to come from the results of these tests.

What has happened in this instance is that 23andMe hasn’t just marketed this test as a cellular way to track your ancestry and family history, but instead with the intention of “diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or is intended to affect the structure or function of the body,” per the FDA letter. 23andMe’s website tells customers the test will provide health results for 254 diseases and conditions, and that’s a red flag for the FDA, who has been trying for the better part of five years to get 23andMe to relinquish the pertinent data, testing, and information necessary for validation and approval. (more…)

Jillian Michaels Cheated; Team Loses Big and Ruben Returns to the Biggest Loser Ranch

A shocking moment at last night’s Biggest Loser weigh-in left fans dismayed, confused, and some even celebrating.

Before the contestants stepped on the scale, trainer Jillian Michaels was confronted by Alison Sweeney about giving her team caffeine supplements. “Last week, Jillian broke the rules and gave caffeine supplements to each member of her team without [a] doctor’s permission,” said the host.


NBC responded with a statement this morning, telling us, “While caffeine is allowed in ‘The Biggest Loser’ house, Jillian did not ask permission to give it in supplement form. Because of this rules violation, the previous week’s weigh-in was thrown out.”

Michaels’ white team was penalized four pounds. Bob’s team regained the immunity they would have had last week. And Ruben’s elimination was void, allowing the former American Idol to return.

The trainer said she stands by her professional opinion and the decision she made to give her team caffeine supplements, calling the supplement “significantly healthier than unlimited amounts of coffee.” It should be noted that Michaels does not have formal dietetic training nor certification, but does have a nutrition and wellness consultant certificate with the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA).

It’s been widely assumed that this sort of back room behavior takes place on the ranch; with accusations of juice fasting, diuretics, and the like swarming for years. One source told us that select players were known to get such caffeine supplements, but it wasn’t something open or available to all contestants. Another source who also requested anonymity, told us, “Everyone knows Jillian has been giving caffeine supplements to her contestants since the first season. And Dr. H prescribes supplements we never hear about.”

If this is fairly common practice on the ranch, a rarely enforced rule, why punish Jillian now? Our first source was shocked that they even aired and explained what happened. Our theory is that the producers needed a reason to get the Velvet Teddy Bear, who revealed a 104 pound total loss in last week’s elimination interview, back on the ranch. (more…)

Herbal Supplements May Contain Fillers and Toxic Ingredients – New Study Finds

Herbal supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry, but do consumers really know what they’e ingesting? A new study shows that supplement pills may actually contain a high amount of filler including wheat and rice, the wrong herb entirely, and sometimes ingredients that are downright dangerous.

Herbal Supplements

Canadian researchers selected popular medical herbs and then purchased 44 bottles of varying brands from 12 local stores. The products were tested by using DNA bar-coding. Their findings concluded that many bottles were mislabeled or diluted. A staggering one-third of the plants advertised on the bottle had been replaced with another plant entirely. Customers were not getting what they paid for, and they were often receiving products with ingredients that could have annoying and potentially lethal side effects.

We reached out to our resident registered dietitian, Mary Hartley, for her thoughts on the study. “If one-third of the supplements showed outright substitution, then this is a huge, huge supplement industry problem,” she said. “Not only are the supplements ineffective, but they may contain harmful ingredients.”


The Food Fighters: 5 Immune-Boosting Nutrients You Need to Ward Off Cold, Flu and Illness

By Team Best Life

For every day of good health you enjoy, you can thank your immune system. Adequate sleep (7 to 8 hours per night), regular exercise, and well-managed stress all contribute to boosting your immune system. In addition, what you eat has a direct effect on how well your body defends itself from microbes and other disease-causing foreigners. And the best foods have plenty of these nutrients.

vitamin c

Vitamin A

What it does: Once converted from beta-carotene in the body, vitamin A helps develop defensive T-cells that protect you from foreign bacteria and viruses.

Where to find it: Beta-carotene-rich foods (look for orange), such as cantaloupe, carrots, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. Also, leafy greens like collard, kale, mustard, and spinach.

Vitamin C

What it does: It stimulates the production of immune cells such as neutrophils, which attack bacteria and viruses while protecting these cells from free radical damage.

Where to find it: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, sweet red pepper, tomato. (more…)

WIN An Essential Vitamins and Supplements Pack from Puritan’s Pride

Humans do not make their own vitamins, and they must get them from food or a supplement. Almost 80 percent of Americans do not eat at least five helpings of fruits and vegetables a day, the recommended minimum amount believed to provide sufficient essential nutrients. Even people who eat five daily servings of fruits and vegetables may not get enough of certain vitamins for optimum health. That is why it is prudent to take at least one multivitamin pill each day, as well as fish oil supplements to provide omega-3 fatty acids.
If you’re new to supplementing your diet with vitamins and minerals, this essential supplement pack will get you started on the right foot. No hype, nothing you don’t need.



The Essential Supplements Pack from Puritan’s Pride was hand-selected by our Mary Hartley, RD. One winner will receive one bottle each of the following vitamins and supplements, valued at $71.95:

  • Omega-3 Adult Gummy with Vitamin D3, 75 gummies
  • Sunvite Chewable Vitamin D3, 180 tablets
  • High Potency Calcium, 250 coated caplets
  • High Potency Timed Release Ultra Woman Daily Multi, 90 coated caplets
  • Omega-3 Fish Oil, 100 softgels


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We’ll draw one winner on Friday, September 13 to receive the essential supplements pack from Puritan’s Pride. (more…)

Octavia Spencer Sues Sensa for $700,000 After Sponsorship Goes Sour

The proverbial chocolate pie is hitting Sensa in the face, magic diet sprinkles and all. Octavia Spencer, the actress who won an Oscar for her performance in “The Help,” is suing the weight loss company Sensa for alleged fraud and breach of contract. Sensa markets tiny crystals called “tastants,” designed to be sprinkled on all types of food with the intention of making the eater feel fuller faster, thus eating less. It’s supposed to be automatic portion control, and when Spencer lost five pounds on the stuff last August, a $1.25 million sponsorship deal quickly materialized, tastants fall as they may.

But as with all sponsorships, marketing campaigns hinge on a fickle balance of popularity and exposure, and Sensa decided Spencer wasn’t exactly a trending topic. The company wasn’t pleased with the lackluster social media response generated by Spencer’s dimming star, and began to find a way out of the contract. (more…)

UCLA Study Finds Probiotics May Be a Natural Mood Lifter

Does a creamy cup of yogurt make you happy? Do you ever wonder why Jamie Lee Curtis is always smiling in those Activia commercials? It may have something to do with a new UCLA study that claims good bacteria is not only good for the gut, it may also be good for the brain.


The study, conducted by scientists with the Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress, part of the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, and the Ahmanson–Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA, appears in the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterology. For the purpose of the investigation, a small group of women were given the same yogurt containing several types of good bacteria, also known as probiotics, and instructed to eat it twice a day for four weeks.

Before and after the study, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were performed on the women. Their brains were examined at rest, and while performing an emotion-recognition task, which asked the women to look at angry and frightened faces. The result was a change in brain activity, as well as other internal “body sensations.” The women who ate the yogurt had less anxiety when looking at the images.

Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, lead author of the UCLA study is encouraged by the early findings. “Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” Tillisch said. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”