Experts slam chemists fast track diet plans

Call for accreditation of ‘highly trained’ pharmacy consultants

A damning undercover CHOICE survey of popular diet plans and products offered by chemists’ shops has failed to recommend any of them with problems including a lack of training, supervision and in some cases, irresponsibility.

The report says while the pharmacy diet plans may assist in weight loss, most fail to deal effectively with the complex broader issues around obesity and overweight, with the so-called highly-trained consultants nothing of the sort.

CHOICE sent three shadow shoppers to 21 pharmacies offering seven different diet programs and then had an independent expert panel of dietitians and nutritionists assess the findings.

All but one of the plans uses meal replacement products which typically cost upwards of $40 a week. There are joining fees of between $20-30. Consultants also ‘up sell’ additional supplements to meet vitamin, fibre and mineral needs.

But the survey found the majority of pharmacy consultants didn’t assess important factors such as family medical history, current exercise levels, usual diet and lifestyle, alcohol intake and previous weight-loss methods.

For half the programs, the consultants only had between three to six hours of basic training, which the CHOICE experts described as grossly inadequate, the remainder only had two days. They also slammed two programs as disgraceful and irresponsible for accepting some children into their plans.

“We place a great deal of trust in our local pharmacists and CHOICE is concerned that the advice and support consumers are receiving about quick-fix diet programs is manifestly inadequate,” said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

Nutritionally, the experts said they had concerns about the kilojoule, carbohydrate and fibre levels of some programs.

CHOICE says its report highlights for a national accreditation system that includes minimum standards for training that covers all programs, consultants and leaders who counsel people on losing weight.

“Consumers are being sold a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, and it’s highly questionable whether it is enough to help those who are looking to overcome weight problems in the long-term,” said Zinn.

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Pharmacy diet plans

A growing number of pharmacies are getting into the weight-loss business, but how do these diet plans weigh up?

20 Jan 2009 | Pharmacy diet plans may help to shed extra kilos quickly, but most fail to deal effectively with the complex broader issues around weight loss.


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