Sen-si-bil-i-ty : keen intellectual perception. Sen-sa : a weight loss aid developed by Dr. Alan Hirsch promising significant weight loss without the need to exercise or make dietary changes.
I have to laugh every time a new “miracle diet” or “magic pill” is introduced: remember Olestra, the fat substitute from the 1990s that added no fat, cholesterol, or calories to our favorite potato chips? This stuff was a hit as soon as it landed on the grocery store shelves (I’ll admit, I fell for it hook, line, and sinker — but then again, who doesn’t make stupid choices in high school?). Olestra gave people everywhere hope that we could continue our Pringles addiction and never pay any consequences — less the pesky “anal leakage” found to be among the product’s possible side effects.
Or, how about ma huang, also known as Ephedra? Diet pills popped up everywhere in the mid-1990s (also guilty), from health food stores to gyms to local pharmacies as an easy way to suppress appetite and enhance athletic performance. Also a strong stimulant, ephedra was later found to increase the risk for gastrointestinal problems, heart attacks, and stroke. The FDA banned the sale of supplements containing ephedra in 2004.
Just when I think that we have collectively grown wiser to the facts that eating healthy and exercising are the proven keys to healthy living, something like Sensa comes along. And totally exposes our weakness for too-good-to-be-true, instantly-gratifying, quick-fix gimmickry.
So what is this latest craze in dietary delusion? “Sensa is a doctor formulated weight loss system you sprinkle on your food to help you eat less and feel full faster,” according to the company website. The ingredients in our new-found excuse to eat endless amounts of fettuccine Alfredo and ice cream? Maltodextrin (a food additive used as a thickener in processed foods – derived in this case from corn), Tricalcium Phosphate (an anti-caking agent commonly derived from mineral rock), Silica , Natural and Artificial Flavors (no further explanation given). While not approved by the FDA, all ingredients listed are on the FDA list of GRAS – Generally Recognized As Safe. That makes me feel better.
Dr. Hirsch, a Psychiatrist and Neurologist specializing in the studies of smell and taste in relation to eating habits, created Sensa using what he calls Tastants. “Tastants consist of six different patent-pending scent/flavor combinations that are proven to help trigger the brain mechanism that signals when you are full,” as explained on his company’s website. The general pitch for this “diet system” is this: make no changes to your physical activity level, eat all the foods you like, and you will lose weight. Disregard the guaranteed damage to your heart, liver, muscles, bones, and skin. Who needs those things if we can all be skinny?
One of the most comical (of many, I assure you) FAQs listed on Sensa’s website regarding the adhesion of the powder to foods such as grapes or pretzels suggests that “Some users have found that spraying a fine mist of water to grapes or strawberries to get the Tastants to stick is effective.” Please, oh please, let me witness this in a restaurant: spray bottle in one hand, shaker in the other. Absurd.
We are actually talking about sprinkling this powder onto everything you eat, people. Yes, everything. Breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner, even hard candy. To what end?
Furthermore, where is the evidence that a placebo wouldn’t yield similar “results”?
In anticipation of writing a piece about Sensa, I compiled a list of actual subject lines from emails found in my junk folder from the company. Their claims are outrageous: “Look Great Naked – No More Calorie Counting!”, “Lose Weight Without Counting Calories!”, and my personal favorite, “Eat Yourself Skinny!”.
Are you kidding me?
For the love of all things that are holy, please stop falling for these hoaxes and listen to reason. If it sounds too good to be true, it undoubtedly is. You know what to do. Move your body. Fuel your body with the nutrients it deserves. Drink water. I know, these are not nearly as seductive as a fairy dust that lets you get away with gluttony. Question is, what unpleasant side effects will be discovered down the road with nonsense like this? Olestra’s anal leakage might be the least of our historical dietary shortcomings.
Jodilyn Stuart is the Health & Sports Senior Staff Writer for 303 Magazine, owner of ModaBody Fitness, and has been a professional fitness geek since 1997. If you have questions, feel free to email at: [email protected] *Vote for Jodilyn as Denver’s A-List top trainer here*