Many weight loss products promise to melt away pounds, but few of them take this idea to such a literal extreme as the new ice cube diet. The premise is simple: You simply pop a "Hoodia satiety cube" into the drink of your choice once a day. The cubes naturally curb appetite so you snack less and ultimately, weigh less.
At least that's the claim.
Desert Labs, the company that markets the cubes, say the magic ingredient is hoodia, an herbal supplement South African bushmen have used for centuries to control hunger pangs while hunting game. But Jennifer Neily, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Dallas Dietetic Association, is skeptical.
"Hoodia is very rare and protected by strict environmental laws," she says. "So my question is how can all these products that claim to contain it, actually contain it?"
She's got a point. Tests done on dietary supplements often show that consumers aren't getting what they pay for -- and sometimes they're getting more than they bargain for, including strong prescription drugs like Viagra or steroids. And, as a government report released earlier this year found, many contain at least trace levels of contaminants such as lead, mercury, arsenic -- even pesticides. However, since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has little authority over the supplement industry, very few consumer protections are in place.
Even assuming the cubes are 97 percent hoodia, as it says on the box, that doesn't guarantee they're a dieter's secret weapon either. The few independent studies analyzing the supplement's effect on weight loss have been disappointing or inconclusive. A private study conducted by the ice cube makers and posted on their website claims that 88 percent of the participants lost a significant amount of weight -- but they don't specify any of the details.
What's revealing to Neily is that drug companies don't appear eager to jump on the hoodia band wagon.
"Pfizer actually tried to develop the active ingredient into a drug but stopped trials without any real explanation and Unilever, the makers of Slim-Fast also discontinued developing a drink with Hoodia," she notes. "Neither said why but let's assume if they could be making money with this, they would be."
All that said, Neily thinks the cubes might help you lose weight -- if the placebo effect kicks in. "The mind is very powerful. If you truly believe something will help you lose weight, then it well might."
Like most experts, Neily believes exercise and good eating habits -- not frozen supplements -- are still the best defense in fighting the battle of the bulge. So despite the fact that the ice cube diet's Facebook page is lit up with amazing success stories of instant weight loss, this is one diet fad that appears to be all wet.
What do you think? Have you had any success with the ice cube diet? Have you tried it to no avail? Or have you discovered another unconventional way to lose weight? Please post your comments below.