Sensa Tastants Review: Do Tastants Work for Weight Loss?
Sensa Tastants—”sprinkles” as they are also referred to on the TrySensa.com web site—are a product you “sprinkle” on your meals to increase satiety (the feeling of “fullness”) and decrease appetite. How does it work?
“The scientific principle behind SENSA® is remarkably simple. As you eat, smell and taste receptors send messages that tell your body it’s time to stop eating. This is a phenomenon we call Sensory Specific Satiety. By enhancing smell, SENSA® Tastants were designed to help speed up the process and trigger your “I feel full” signal, so you eat less and feel more satisfied.”
This certainly looks promising in theory, but how well does it work, in fact?
I have good news and bad news on that front…
The good news is that Sensa’s effectiveness was verified by a huge clinical study conducted by Dr. Allan Hirsch. In it, over 1,400 men and women lost 30.5 pounds in a period of 6 months—by doing nothing more than sprinkling the Tastants over their meals (this equates to the loss of 1.25 lbs. a week—hardly an outrageous amount, and well within the realms of what one can attain with a proper diet and exercise).
Of course, the first thing I do when I see a retailer “touting” a clinical study to sell a product is try to find out a little more about that study.
The first and most obvious question is, “in which reputable, peer-reviewed journal has this study been published?”
And that’s where the bad news comes in. Dr. Hirsch’s “study” exists only as poster presentation. And posters occupy a pretty low rung on the ladder of scientific respectability. They’re little more than summaries, without critical discussion of the methodology, data or conclusions. Their primary function is to alert the scientific community to the existence of breaking research, for the purposes of discussion and feedback. Presenting a poster is NOT the same as publishing in a respected, peer-reviewed journal. At best, it’s a first step.
This was confirmed when I first raised the subject with Elissa, our scientific and technical advisor back in 2009. She informed me that the study abstract had been presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in the spring of ’08, and that it takes a number of months for any study to proceed through the peer-review process and attain publication in any decent journal. Thus, I was willing to give Dr. Hirsch the benefit of the doubt through most of 2010.
It’s nearly 2013, now. Suffice it to say, Dr. Hirsch has run out the clock – I seriously doubt that the full study will ever see the light of day in a peer-reviewed journal.
I’m disappointed, but not surprised. As an ABC News report revealed at the time…
“…the Endocrine Society, which Hirsch says reviewed and approved of his work, said they merely invited him to present his findings for debate. And they were “surprised and troubled by the promotional nature of his presentation.”
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement by Dr. Hirsch’s peers. In addition, the ABC account revealed some problems that probably would have damned the study in the eyes of responsible peer-reviewers…
- Participants weighed themselves and reported their results with no outside checks and balances.
- The program regimen (“The study participants were not asked to add diet and exercise programs to their routines, but were instead instructed to “maintain their existing exercise routines and eating habits.”) was so generalized as to put each individual into his/her own unique study group.
- As can be seen from Dr. Hirsch’s poster, critical details are missing. One of the most important is the frequency and nature of interaction between the experimenter(s) and the test group. Expectations, support and reinforcement can contribute a great deal to the success of a weight loss program. And given the investment Dr. Hirsch had in the success of his approach, I seriously doubt that the members of the test group were simply left alone for 6 months to do their “thing.” Dr. Hirsch’s focus on the outcomes, rather than the steps taken to achieve them, suggests that the process was less scientific than he’s willing to admit.
In addition, researchers are bound to a code of ethics. When interviewed in 2008, Dr. Hirsch claimed a formal, peer-reviewed article was in the works…
“Hirsch said he would eventually have a finalized study that a journal would accept, but in the meantime he cannot turn his back on people who need to lose weight.”
More than 4 years later, it would seem that he’s reneged on this commitment. As Elissa recently concluded…
“Sorry, but Dr. Hirsch doesn’t get to have his cake and eat it too. He can’t simultaneously claim scientific validity, while implicitly extending a middle finger to scientific norms. As far as I’m concerned, he’s failed both the test of integrity AND the test of time (there are plenty of negative, “I didn’t lose a pound” reports out there, now – which certainly raises doubts in my mind about that ‘study’).”
Unfortunately, this apparent lack of professionalism appears to be a feature – rather than a bug – of Dr. Hirsch’s business model. Although some people have reported success with Sensa Tastants, the company itself has been the subject of numerous complaints over its customer service and billing practices.
See, for example, the Ripoff Report, the Complaints Board, and the feedback I’ve received on RealCustomerComments.com.
And lately, they were fined $26.5 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, who allege that they deceived consumers with unfounded weight-loss claims and misleading endorsements.
As you might imagine, this history makes it impossible for me to recommend Sensa. At this point, if you’re still inclined to experiment with this product, I’d advise you to purchase it through a third-party retailer, such as Amazon.com or GNC. It could save you some grief.
In the meantime, there are much, much cheaper ways to increase satiety—have a look at the glucomannan review for more information!
|Summary of Sensa Tastants