The words almost leap off the page and into your lap.
And if you’re in the market for a fat burner, an over-the-counter diet pill or whatever you want to call it, they are two very powerful words that retailers use often to nudge you into making a purchase. After all, what have you got to lose (other than weight, course), if the product has been proven to work in a clinical setting by medical and health professionals?
But chances are, “clinically proven” doesn’t mean anywhere near what you think it does. With that said, here are the…
3 Things You Must Know Before Buying a “Clinically Proven” Fat Burner
1) It doesn’t mean you don’t have to diet and exercise.
1) It doesn’t mean you don’t have to diet and exercise.
Almost every single positive study performed on weight loss supplements includes caloric restriction (i.e., a “diet”) and moderate exercise of some sort. In other words, study participants ate less, exercised, and took the supplement in question in order to obtain the results they achieved.
Chances are unless you reduce your calories (usually to around 1,200 / day for women, 1,800 / day for men), and start walking 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes per session – in addition to taking the product – you can expect exactly ZERO in the way of results.
2) It doesn’t mean that the weight loss is dramatic.
In order for something to be “proven” to work in a clinical setting, the results obtained from the study have to be “statistically significant.”
Now here’s the thing… it’s pretty natural to think that the word “statistically” when used in conjunction with the word “significant” means there were some pretty meaningful results obtained. Makes sense, right? Uh huh. But in fact, in the context of study data, all “statistically significant” means is that the results are unlikely to have happened by chance.
So “clinically proven” might mean 8 lbs in 2 months or 1/2 pound in 2 months, and anything in between. It does not necessarily mean “a lot.”
Being able to review the study data itself will put the results into context, which is why most retailers touting the “clinically proven” claim rarely provide a link where you can go and review it for yourself. For instance, if the control group (i.e., the group that followed the diet and exercise program but got a placebo pill instead of the active ingredient) lost 4 lbs / month while those who followed the program AND took the product lost 5 lbs, the results appear a lot less dramatic. In this case, the retailer is unlikely to mention exact figures, but instead will say something like…
“People taking XYZ lost 25% more than those who did not.”
Which is technically true but in reality doesn’t warrant a purchase of the product.
3) It doesn’t mean it works.
How can something that’s clinically proven not actually be so?
Well, let me explain.
The typical “gold standard” for proof when it comes to supplements is the double-blind, placebo controlled, peer-reviewed study published in a reputable journal. Let’s break this down so you know what I’m talking about…
- Double Blind: Means neither the patients nor the clinicians know who’s getting the active ingredient and who’s getting the placebo.
- Placebo controlled: This means that in addition to the people taking the product in question, there’s another group of people who follow the exact same routine, who take a placebo (also called a “sugar pill”) instead.
- Peer reviewed: Means an editorial body “checks the work” of the clinicians and makes sure the conclusions are sound and the methodology (i.e., the way the study was set up and administered) was not flawed.
- Published: Most studies are peer-reviewed before they are published in a scientific journal, which makes the results public and open to critique, while at the same time adding an element of credibility to the study.
Now here’s where we run into problems. “Clinically Proven” may mean…
- The product was studied “in house” and the results were not made public: These sorts of studies always need to be taken with a grain of salt, since the people who have the most to gain financially from a positive result are the same ones conducting the study. Additionally, because the results are not made public, there’s no way to know whether the study was conducted properly, or the results obtained, authentic.
- The study was published and peer-reviewed, but in a predatory journal: Predatory Journals are not respected scientific journals (although they sound like them), but are profit based organizations who publish anything submitted to them without reviewing them for accuracy. So the study’s conclusion(s) may be inaccurate and the methodolgy flawed. If you want to get an idea how bad this is, check this out; a dude named Mark Shrime made up a study called, “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals” and used random text generator to create the content. He then submitted it to a series of predatory journals and 17 of them accepted it.
- There was no study at all and the retailers are lying about one (or more) existing. Although rarer, this does happen. For example, in 2008 a class action suit was launched against the makers of Akävar 20/50 who claimed the product the product was tested in a series of clinical trials. The suit alleged it was not. And it wasn’t.
- The study conformed the gold standard, except one or more of the study’s authors have a financial conflict of interest.
- The study conformed to the gold standard, but it was small and preliminary. Why does this matter? It’s not uncommon for follow-up studies to complete refute an earlier study’s conclusion. In addition, small studies are more likely to fall prey to statistical anomolies, something that gets more and more unlikely the larger the study gets. In short, the more (and larger) positive studies that have been performed on a supplement, the more likely the positive reported results are accurate.
Now that you know all this…
You’ll be a little more wary the next time you see “clinically proven.”
In reality, it probably doesn’t mean very much.
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