Weight-Loss Scams Cost Americans $70 Billion a Year


Drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro have risen in popularity over the past year, but for many, the highly effective but controversial medications are thousands of dollars out of reach.

Still, there’s myriad weight loss products available, and they’re often everywhere you look—your computer screen, Facebook or Instagram, the billboard you drive past or even on your personalized TikTok For You page.

All in all, they could end up costing Americans billions of dollars a year, according to Dr. Sharon Giese, plastic surgeon, weight loss expert and creator of the Elective Weight Loss program. Giese said the $70 billion industry is full of “dubious” products that only end up draining your bank account.

Bogus diet products and programs rank number one among health care scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

The anti-diabetic medication Ozempic (semaglutide) made by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. On TikTok, the hashtag “#Ozempic” has reached more than 500 million views. The anti-diabetic medication is trending on the social network for its slimming properties, a phenomenon that is causing supply shortages and worrying doctors.
JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images

Giese said Americans should look out for anything that promises rapid weight loss or sounds too good to be true. Anything that promises a certain amount of weight loss in a given amount of time should not be trusted.

“Watch for ‘free’ trial offers that will have later hidden costs or very inexpensive ‘intro offers,'” Giese told Newsweek. “Also keep an eye on products that offer a ‘miracle’ solution or ‘revolutionary.'”

All accurate weight loss programs will include changing your diet or exercise habits, so if a product says something else, it’s probably a good idea to run. These scams are also never FDA approved, either, Giese said.

“Weight loss scams can promote rapid weight loss by extreme interventions which cannot be sustained,” Giese said. “This can lead to yo-yo weight loss and gain.”

Many products also don’t disclose all of their ingredients, which can increase your blood pressure and risk for heart attacks and strokes.

For those who’ve used the products, weight loss salvation is rarely ever in store.

“Weight loss products, diets, food, contraptions are all scams,” Barb Herrera, who is taking Mounjaro for weight loss and runs the HealthAtAnyCost.com website, told Newsweek. “People needing or wanting to lose weight are often desperate and will try anything to be successful.”

Herrera said she has been desperate enough to fork away thousands of dollars on cookbooks and diet plans.

Still, Ozempic and its active ingredient, semaglutide, represent the first big change in weight loss research, which has historically centered around solely diet and exercise.

Giese said Ozempic has been linked to 15 percent weight loss, but she’s even seen it result in more than 35 percent.

“Many of these patients have tried ‘everything’ and have not been able to lose weight without some assistance,” Giese said. “This is exactly the time when trying an appetite suppressant, like Ozempic or semaglutide, may work.”

Even if you are fortunate enough to gain access to Ozempic or Mounjaro for weight loss, an overall lifestyle change will be necessary to see the changes, and personal trainer and Programme app founder Sean Klein warns people against seeing them as “magic solutions.”

“I always emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced diet along with regular exercise for effective and sustainable weight loss,” Klein told Newsweek. “Crash diets and quick-fix solutions may offer temporary results but are more harmful than good in the long run.”

The sustainable way to lose weight is always through lifestyle diet changes, but that doesn’t mean you should put yourself on any restrictive fad diet, experts said.

“Dieting disconnects us from our bodies,” Maryland-based dietitian Sarah Ganginis told Newsweek. “Dieting decreases metabolism and makes weight loss from dieting hard to maintain. The system of dieting fails us.”