Pharmacy diet plans may help to shed extra kilos quickly, but most fail to deal effectively with the complex broader issues around weight loss.
CHOICE cannot recommend these programs until consultants improve their training and move beyond the “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Australia has a seriously escalating obesity problem. In the past 20 years the number of people who have a weight problem has doubled; about 60% of Australian adults are overweight or obese, and we’re on track to reach 70% by 2010.
What everyone is looking for is a quick, easy, personalised and private solution – which is why pharmacy-based diet programs appeal:
- There’s no fronting up for group counselling or public weigh-ins.
- Most use meal replacements which sound like an easy calorie-counting-free option.
- Some claim you can lose weight effortlessly in weeks – not months or years.
Our findings confirm these diet plans, if followed closely, will certainly shed the kilos in record time, but are they safe and are customers properly assessed and monitored by the pharmacies? Do these fast-track diet plans address the real issues at the root of the weight problem? And is it the pharmacies themselves who end up profiting the most?
Please note: this information was current as of January 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
To anonymously assess these programs CHOICE sent three overweight people to a selection of pharmacies offering seven different diet programs, and asked a panel of experts to assess our findings.
All the pharmacy plans involve a weekly visit to your pharmacy consultant and a diet that restricts carbohydrates to some extent. All except Ultra Lite use meal replacements to keep your intake in check. The basics of each program are shown in the table.
Programs we looked at:
- AlphaSlim Pharmacy Weight Loss
- Betty Baxter Complete Weight Management
- Dr. Tim’s Success
- Kate Morgan Weight Loss
- Tony Ferguson Weight Loss
- Ultra Lite Weight Management
- Xndo Weight Control System
Can meal replacements be useful?
Doctors and dietitians sometimes use meal replacements in hospitals and clinics to treat obese and very obese people, whose health is seriously at risk. These people usually have health problems, such as heart disease or high-blood pressure, and have failed to lose weight using other approaches. Meal replacements are also commonly used before weight-loss surgery, such as gastric banding. They’re most likely to be effective when there’s close medical supervision and effective counselling on long-term diet, lifestyle, behavioural and psychological issues. And this is the critical area where our CHOICE shadow shop found the pharmacy-based meal replacement programs fall short.