Proactol Fat Burner Review: Does Proactol Work?
Even though this Proactol review has been “live” for a couple of years now, the folks selling it have suddenly decided they don’t like my review. Here’s a copy of the “cease and desist” e-mail I received yesterday (Wed, Feb 24th, 2010) from Darren Beale, Business Development Manager from Soula Ltd…
Dear Paul Crane,
My name is Darren Beale and I represent the weight loss management product Proactol. In the last few months we have contacted many website owners which are using our trademarked brand to help increase their own sales.The majority of these companies have complied with our requests, however some have not and we have issued legal proceedings against these companies.Your site, http://www.ultimatefatburner.com and http://www.ultimatefatburner.com/proactol-fat-burner-review.html is using our trademarked brand and copyrighted imagery.You also clearly try to portray a negative view of Proactol for your own gain (by selling your own set of products to the customer). Despite any pretences of making the review appear ‘fair’, your review is quite obviously designed to sell your own products, or direct them to an EBOOK which then sells them different products.
We have contacted you before about this matter (Ref: Katie Downing Howitt). We require you to take down the page http://www.ultimatefatburner.com/proactol-fat-burner-review.html and to refrain from mentioning our brand on your site (the brand and product image is mentioned on many pages and needs to be removed).
We have already spoken to our lawyers in both North America and the UK and we are advised that we have a strong case against you. If we are forced to issue proceedings we will be looking to achieve the following:
- Immediate removal of the offending URLS and assurances that Proactol will not be used or mentioned on any of your sites
- All of our legal costs fully reimbursed
- Damages in relation to your unauthorized brand usage
We are being overly considerate by giving you the opportunity to remove all offending material by Friday the 26th of March, 2010 before issuing legal proceedings against you.
Hopefully you understand our point of view and will remove the offending material.
Darren Beale, Business Development Manager for Soula Ltd
Copyright and trademark infringement are two things that companies like to use to threaten folks who make “less than complimentary comments” about their products. If it was a legitimate claim, there is no way in the world any consumer advocate, journalist, or publication could say anything negative about any product without getting sued to high heaven (you’ll notice for example, that they haven’t disputed anything that I’ve said about their product?).
What the folks at Proactol are arguing is that because their product is on the marketplace, it is exempt from criticism. That is not true, criticism is part and parcel of free speech. They’re basically claiming that trademark law protects them from criticism, which is complete hogwash. And there’s plenty of precedent to validate this—just recently, for example, a court threw out Wal-Mart’s attempt to stifle criticism through trademark law.
The fact is, the material we have on UltimateFatBurner.com falls well within the realms of both “Fair Use” and “Fair Comment.” This allows consumer advocates like ourselves to draw attention to products in the public realm—even those that may be trademarked—that make claims that have no basis in fact. And we don’t need anyone’s permission to do so.
Frankly, making threats of legal action when you know you do not have an actionable case are acts of intimidation and even harassment, and they do not bode well upon this company.
In fact, any lawsuit brought against myself and UltimateFatBurner.com would meet the legal definition of a SLAPP suit:
“…a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.”
As the judge in this case so elegantly put it:
“[t]rademark rights do not entitle the owner to quash an unauthorized use of the mark by another who is communicating ideas or expressing points of view.” L.L. Bean, Inc. v. Drake Publishers, Inc., 811 F.2d 26, 29 (1st Cir. 1987).
There also some pretty laughable comments in this correspondence. Let me address some of them…
- We don’t sell any products. Let me repeat this very obvious and important fact that Mr. Beale appears to have missed: we don’t sell any products.
- The content of my review has exactly zilch to do with any of the e-books or other reviewed products advertised on the site.
- I have never been previously contacted by anybody from Proactol about various trademark or copyright violations.
- “In the last few months we have contacted many website owners which are using our trademarked brand to help increase their own sales.” Really? But you’re OK with web sites violating your copyrights and trademarks as long as they are increasing your sales?A search on Google for Proactol will bring up pages and pages of web sites very obviously in violation of the same copyright and trademark issues you are alleging for this site. The only difference that I can see between this site and these others, is that they all appear to be going on and on about its virtues, its fat burning powers, etc, etc, etc. Quite the contradiction, isn’t it?
As I was preparing this rebuttal to the folks at Proactol, I received another e-mail, this time from Michael Alexander Thorn (michael.alexander-thorn AT moreniche.com) the Brand Portfolio Manager for MoreNiche.com. MoreNiche.com is a company that provides the affiliate program the Proactol folks use to encourage webmasters to promote their products for a share of the profits (in sake of full disclosure, I was a MoreNiche affiliate, although the difference is I don’t compromise my integrity and write reviews that are not reflective of the truth. That’s why I got the cease and desist letter in the first place). Here’s his letter…
I’ve been asked to follow up with you to confirm receipt of an email sent to your by Darren Beale regarding your negative review of Proactol.Can you please update myself or Darren in relation to your review and the action/changes you are going to make – if your Proactol review is not altered then unfortunately you’re MoreNiche account will be subsequently disabled.
Michael Alexander Thorn, Brand Portfolio Manager, MoreNiche.com
Mike, obviously you haven’t taken any time to learn about who we are and what we do. First and foremost, we act as consumer advocates. When we do a product review, we look at the retailer’s claims, and then we analyze the supporting data—should any exist. And then we report back to our audience. We’ve been doing that for over 10 years, and that’s why our visitors love us.
So here’s the bottom line; I will not “change my review” in order to “earn commissions” from you or anyone else (please go ahead and disable my MoreNiche account). I would however, be happy to revise my review with any new placebo-controlled, double blind, peer-reviewed, journal-published studies on the Proactol product.
One day after posting this material to the website I received this e-mail (Friday, Feb 26th, 2010)…
We have no problems with criticism and fair review of our product. Thank you for removing our product imagery, could you please remove product imagery from the other pages on Ultimate Fat Burner. However your review was purposely aimed at generating signups to your EBOOK which in turn promotes products that you make commissions from.Could you please do me the courtesy of removing my e-mail address from the website.
Darren Beale, Business Development Manager for Soula Ltd
Nice try Darren. The follow up e-mail from Mike at MoreNiche made it clear that the real issue was the content of the review, not the alleged copyright and trademark violations which are currently being made by every single one of your affiliates. But I can understand you trying to back-pedal. This isn’t exactly making you guys look too good, is it? Maybe you should have thought this one through a little more, hmmm?
Second, regarding the constant whining about “how I’m promoting my own products and products I’m affiliated with…
… please don’t project YOUR business ethics on me. You allege our reviews are only present as bait in order to market products. It’s exactly the opposite. We earn commissions on select, legitimate products and diet publications to offset the costs/time it takes to research, write and present the sort of high quality, scientifically-validated and balanced reviews our visitors love us for. For the most part too, these books neither slam or promote the use of commercial weight loss products so there would be no point in deliberately skewing a review.
This is my full-time job, and I have several staff members. If I didn’t earn commissions for legitimate products I’d have to charge people a membership fee for the privilege of reading about your scummy behavior.
But this way, everyone can read about it. Isn’t that fantastic?
And you know what Darren?
Because I’m a reasonable guy I will show you the courtesy you couldn’t be bothered to show me—by trying to intimidate me with a bogus lawsuit—and remove your e-mail address. But it is the last courtesy you can expect from me. Courtesy is a two-way street, don’t you know?
And now, the “unaltered” offending review…
Recently I received an e-mail from a site visitor, inquiring whether or not Proactol™ works, and whether it is, as proclaimed on the marketing web site, “clinically proven.” Seems he’d received a few unsolicited bulk e-mails (i.e. “spam”) promoting the product, and was interested in purchasing it.
Here’s the thing though…
In many countries — including the U.S. and Canada, it is illegal to send unsolicited bulk e-mail. Therefore any retailers who do so, or who condone affiliates who do so, are in direct violation of the law. A such, they have absolutely zero credibility and even fewer ethics.
So what can you really expect from a fat burner marketed by a company that feels this sort of behavior is acceptable? Do you really want to purchase any product from a company like this?
I was contacted directly by a Proactol™ staff member, insisting it was not their policy to send unsolicited bulk e-mail. The fact that they bothered to contact me at all made it seem likely that this was indeed the case.However, I did have a series of follow-up e-mails with the staff member (Proactol™ was, not surprisingly, not particularly impressed with my review of their product), and have become increasingly convinced of their commitment to “e-mail compliance.” Although Proactol™ is only available direct from the company, they do have partners that promote them — some of which may be guilty of the spam complaints I received.
With that said, let’s take a look at Proactol™. According to the “advertising literature, it…
‘…is an amazing patented fiber complex that is a 100% natural, 100% organic fat binder made from the nutritious cactus “Opuntia ficus-indica”.
Opuntia ficus-indica, by the way, is also known as the “prickly pear cactus.” But I guess “Opuntia ficus-indica” sounds more impressive. The Proactol™ people claim Opuntia can block 28% of your dietary fat intake, reducing your caloric intake and thereby allowing you to control your weight. And best of all, they claim to have the clinical data to back it up.
As usual, my first stop in investigating Opuntia ficus-indica was Pubmed.com, where I found plenty of clinical references. There does seem to be an increasing body of evidence to suggest that prickly pear cactus helps reduce blood lipid levels and other Metabolic Syndrome indicators — especially blood sugar levels (see Adv Ther. 2007 Sep-Oct;24(5):1115-25, Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2002 Oct 31;114(19-20):840-6, Arch Invest Med (Mex). 1989 Oct-Dec;20(4):321-5, Arch Invest Med (Mex). 1989 Apr-Jun;20(2):197-201).
I did not find any published studies validating the 28% blockage of dietary fat intake. These claims are based on a couple of studies…
1. “Evaluation of the effect of patented fibre complex from Opuntia ficus-indica on the absorption of dietary fats in healthy volunteers (2003)”, a French performed double-blind, placebo-controlled, “pilot” study.
I didn’t see this study referenced on PubMed, so I’m assuming it hasn’t been published in a respected journal where its methodology and conclusions can be challenged by other professionals.
It is, however, summarized on the Proactol™ web site, where you can see it is an extremely small study, with only 10 individuals participating. While promising, it is well recognized in scientific circles that one small, single human study hardly constitutes “irrefutable proof.”
What it does, certainly, is demonstrate the need for larger, more intensive studies.
2. Studies performed by the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute (www.tno.nl/pharma). These studies are two of several featured on the Proactol™ web site. While TNO has an impressive track record mimicking the human digestive system with their “in vitro GI tract model”, it is important to note that these are not human studies.
They are “in vitro” studies — studies performed in a laboratory environment designed to mimic the human digestive system. So while there’s no doubt these studies add some weight to the “fat binding” claims of Proactol™, they are certainly not equivalent to the same studies performed in humans.
Even if Proactol™ is effective at blocking a portion of your fat intake, it is not necessarily a good thing. First, statistics show that the average North American is eating less fat, not more. It was this apparent contradiction (decreased fat intake along with rising obesity levels) that confounded the “experts” and led the popularity of the “low carb” diet (which by the way, was recently found to outperform low-fat diets by a large margin — click here for details).
And, if we accept the argument that Proactol is a potent fat binder, we have to recognize that it does not differentiate between the “bad” saturated fat, and the good poly and monounsaturated fats. In other words, a fat binder may prevent your body from utilizing the good, beneficial fats in your diet. Remember… you need some fat in your diet — your body requires it for many vital processes.
Third, fat binding substances can impair the body’s ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K (according to one of the “studies” published on the Proactol™ web site — again performed “in vitro” — this isn’t an issue with Proactol™). Nevertheless, it is recommended you take a high-quality multi vitamin up to two hours before or after supplementing with Proactol™ to ensure you’re getting adequate nutrition.
You’ll also see various doctors on the Proactol™ web site, either endorsing the product, or emphasizing the importance of increasing your fibre intake. I’m always wary of this… more often than not, doctors are paid very well for their endorsements, and often have little or no knowledge of the product they are endorsing. ( Check out some of the inconsistencies with doctor-endorsed products that were found by Consumer Reports!). However, when I asked them, the folks at Proactol™ insisted they do not, nor have they ever paid anyone for a recommendation.
Now, before I continue, let’s do a little math. On the Proactol™ web site, one ad claims you can lose up to 10 kilos (about 22 lbs.) in 30 days. Now suppose you eat 3000 calories a day (this will be an extremely high number for most people), with 40% of those calories coming from fat…
3000 X 40% = 1200 calories from fat.
Now suppose Proactol™ does eliminate 28% of fat calories…
1200 X 28% = 336
That means 336 calories worth of fat are not absorbed by the body and do not contribute to your overall daily calorie count. It also means that it will take 11 days before the equivalent of 1 pound worth of fat calories are absorbed (1 pound of stored fat = approx 3500 calories). That’s a far cry from losing 20 lbs in 30 days.
Of course, this is a highly simplified demonstration. Someone eating 3000 calories per day is very likely still over consuming calories at a substantial rate, and won’t see much of a difference in the way of weight loss. Additionally, the benefits of Opuntia extend beyond mere fat blocking. The blood sugar moderating effects of this supplement should lead to balanced blood sugar levels and a reduced insulin response.
This may contribute to weight loss indirectly as balanced blood sugar levels reduce cravings for high calorie sugar-loaded foods.
Removing them from your diet could elicit a caloric deficit, which could lead to weight loss. And obviously, any time you want to lose weight, you really need to implement a proper diet and exercise program.
Supplementing with a soluble fibre supplement is a good idea. Fibre fills you up quicker, allowing you to eat less. It’s good for the digestive system.
In the case of Proactol™’s active ingredient, Opuntia, there’s a fair bit of data demonstrating its lipid lowering and blood-sugar balancing characteristics. Data demonstrating its fat binding abilities — while certainly promising — is far from conclusive. As I indicated earlier, one small pilot study coupled with a few in-vitro studies do not constitute irrefutable proof.
Proactol™ might offer an easier, more convenient method to boost your fibre intake, as well as to capitalize on some of the other, aforementioned benefits this ingredient offers. It may, when coupled with a smart diet and exercise program, help you lose weight, although I’d be hesitant to suggest that you’ll attain the sort of dramatic results advertised on the web site.
Unfortunately, Proactol is not cheap. There are simply much more cost effective ways to add fibre to your diet — add more fruit or vegetables to your diet, eat a high fibre cereal in the morning or precede each meal with a dose of Metamucil. However, for those of you for whom cost is not an issue, the convenience offered by chucking back a couple of pills a couple times a day may be worth it.