Eleven billion dollars. That’s how much, give or take a few million, is spent around the world each year on trying to lose weight, on brand-name diets, supplements, and other efforts to drop unwanted pounds. Now, scientists at Nestlé are working on a new solution?a pill that will burn fat without exercise. The trouble is, you could lose a lot more than a few pounds.
At first glance, the news about the Nestlé research seems marvelous. And from a medical and scientific standpoint, it is. As the Toronto Star reports, researchers have “identified how an enzyme in charge of regulating metabolism can be stimulated by a compound called C13, a potential first step in developing a way to mimic the fat-burning effect of exercise.”
Ideally, this would lead to a product (say, a pill or processed food) that would boost or even replace the “effect of exercise for people with limited mobility due to old age, diabetes or obesity.” In those cases it could bring the valuable health benefits that accompany weight loss, such as reduced blood pressure. Benefits that would be hard to get for people whose ability to exercise is limited by things like balance, fragile bones, or other concerns.
But, as we all know, the weight-loss industry thrives on selling people the promise of a quick fix. Which means that, no matter what the original intention of a fat-burning product is, there’s a good chance it will eventually be touted as the latest miracle weight-loss cure.
It’s not hard to see how big that potential market is. As ABC News notes in this 2009 article, the US weight loss industry alone had yearly revenue of $20 billion, including weight-loss surgeries. On average, celebrities who endorsed weight-loss products earned anywhere from half a million to three million dollars.
Even more interesting is that the same companies that sell us delicious, processed foods are often the same ones that own weight-loss brands. Like Unilever, which owns both Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Slimfast. Or Nestlé, the food giant that bought the Jenny Craig diet brand in 2006 (and partially sold it off in 2013).
So what does that mean for the potential fat-burning fix researchers are working on? If it works, what’s wrong with using it instead of exercise for people who don’t want or have the time to hit the gym?
It might seem like common sense, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Especially when it comes to your health. A genuine, well-researched fat-burning product would undoubtedly help people lose weight. If they have no other choice, it could well be a lifesaver.
But relying on it (or any other diet product) could also cost you the proven health benefits that can only be gained through exercise.
No fat burner or diet pill is going to strengthen your heart or improve your lung capacity. It can’t keep your bones and muscles strong and help avoid problems like osteoporosis. And it certainly won’t increase endorphins or have the proven mood-boosting benefits of regular exercise.
The bottom line? Save the quick fixes in your weight-loss regime for a salad?or even the occasional double bacon cheeseburger.
S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.