If you’ve heard of the Khardasians, you’ve heard of Flat Tummy Tea, or shakes, or lollipops. This dynamic “dietetic” duo is plastered all over Instagram in pastel pink and grey. The brand claims that by drinking a shake, sipping some tea, or sucking on an appetite suppressant lollipop, you can lose weight more effectively than through diet and exercise.
But are all those sports-bra-wearing, shaker-wielding influencers on to something? Or are drinks and products like Flat Tummy all promise and no proof?
Not your mama’s weight loss shakes
Flat Tummy Co., SkinnyFit, and similar products are far from innovative—weight loss drinks are nothing new. Metrecal first introduced meal replacement drinks in 1959, urging women to “Stop eating”. Despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings against their safety and efficacy, the shakes, manufactured by an infant formula maker, have gone on to inspire the likes of SlimFast, Soylent, and Flat Tummy Co.
The new wave of weight loss drink makers haven’t updated much about their marketing or product. They still target young women, preying on weight insecurities, and pretend to want what’s best for them—Flat Tummy calls their customers “babes.” Compared with past brands, today’s shake and tea makers just have a better ad platform: social media.
These products are still classified as supplements, meaning the FDA does not regulate these ingredients and assumes these products are safe for consumption. The FDA only investigates efficacy and safety if somebody falls ill, or worse.
The good, the bad, and the ugly (ingredients)
Flat Tummy Co., and companies like them, pepper products with specially formulated blends of ingredients, such as “Super Citrimax”, with lofty claims that have little, if any, scientific backing. Flat Tummy Co. claims that the ingredients in their shakes, teas, and lollipops are “3 times more effective than diet and exercise” when it comes to weight loss. They’ll also help you “kick your cravings, control your appetite, and remove stubborn lbs.”
But here’s the real tea behind these claims and ingredients:
- Super Citrimax (Garcinia cambogia): there is no convincing evidence that Garcinia cambogia, the standout ingredient in Flat Tummy’s shakes, can help control weight. In the limited studies that have been performed, this supplement has fared no better than a placebo in reducing body mass index or weight. Some evidence even suggests consumption of this dried fruit extract can cause adverse gastrointestinal events, headaches, skin rashes, and diarrhea.
- Magnesium oxide: there’s nothing wrong with this over-the-counter supplement, if you’re constipated that is. That’s right, one of the primary uses of magnesium oxide is as a laxative for the “short-term, rapid” emptying of…well, you know. So while you may “lose weight” with magnesium, it certainly isn’t fat. Because, as Dr. Tarek Naguib notes, magnesium products are commonly used to treat constipation, it’s highly recommended you talk to your doctor before consuming any form of magnesium.
- Satiereal (saffron extract): Flat Tummy uses this extract in their appetite suppressant lollipops, claiming it can help reduce cravings and “control” food intake. The problem? Besides the fact they’re trying to get you to stop eating, limited studies have been conducted on this ingredient. There has been no evidence that satiereal is any better at reducing weight or BMI than a placebo. Not to mention, saffron is number 4 on the top 10 most fraudulent foods in the US. So those saffron lollipops? They may not even contain that ingredient.
The list goes on. Flat Tummy’s teas contain herbs, such as dandelion and senna, that are known diuretics. Meaning yes, they help you lose weight—water weight, that is. Not actual fat. And those appetite suppressant lollipops? The first ingredient is sugar. The second ingredient? Also sugar. And Flat Tummy recommends you have 2 per day.
Bottom line: are weight loss shakes, lollipops, and teas good for you?
Listen, sucking on sugar-laden candy in an attempt to reduce snacking is probably not a good idea, for your health or your wallet. Each lollipop is about a dollar a piece. You’d be better off snacking on something healthy, think carrots and hummus.
Though the teas are made of “natural ingredients,” they do contain diuretics and caffeine. You should consult with a doctor before including them as a regular part of your diet. And if you’re relying on tea to help reduce your weight, Dr. Vance Harris says “they won’t help you lose or maintain weight loss”.
Weight loss shakes also aren’t inherently bad, as long as they contain all the necessary calories, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed to sustain a healthy body. But Flat Tummy’s shakes clock in at just 140 calories per serving. And they recommend you use them “up to twice a day” as a meal replacement. 140 calories is what Dr. Seema Patel considers to be a good snack, not an entire meal. There’s no need to so severely limit your food intake if you want to lose weight.
The bottom line is, these products are not the best option for losing or maintaining weight. They’re expensive and have little, if any, scientific backing. If you would like to lose weight, you’re better off taking the advice of a doctor. As Dr. Tanya Russo says, stick with the only tried and true safe way to lose weight: focus on eating healthy, balanced foods and exercising regularly.
If you need help determining if you need to lose weight or what diet and exercise program is right for you, always reach out and talk to a doctor.