I found out from a blogger friend of mine that there is a new fad diet called Sensa that involves sprinkling so-called ‘tastants’ on your food. They are supposed to make the food taste and smell better and then result in you eating less.
It sounds to me just like another scam to make money off of people desperate to lose weight – the 6-Month Starter Kit costs $210!
Is it magic?
They claim that you can eat whatever you want and don’t need to change anything with your eating or exercise habits. They even say on their site: “There are no food restrictions, and no change in lifestyle. … And you can continue to eat all your favorite foods!“.
That alone – even if some people do lose weight with it – should sound some alarms. Eating healthy foods and exercising isn’t just for losing weight. The nutrients found in foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains are needed for us to stay healthy. Cardiovascular exercise helps us to keep our hearts strong and strength training helps us to maintain muscle mass and to strengthen our bones.
Additionally, I don’t see any mention of the research for this product being published in a peer-reviewed journal, only a very brief summary of a clinical trial. No details of the methodology are included. It is only mentioned that the control group “was given a placebo — crystals that looked like Sensa Tastants, but unlike Tastants, did not enhance smell or taste”. If the ‘placebo’ tastants had no taste or smell, then obviously everyone in the study knew if they were in the test or the control group which could of course skew the results.
What’s in it?
According to the site the ingredients of the tastants are:
1. Maltodextrin (a thickening agent and sweetener)
2. Tricalcium Phosphate (an anti-caking agent)
3. Silica (inert, as far as I can tell)
4. Natural and Artificial Flavors
5. FD&C Yellow 5
7. Contains Soy and Milk ingredients
Apparently nothing in them needed FDA approval and seem only to do what they claim – add flavor and smell to the food.
Evidence based science?
The guy who is selling this stuff (Alan Hirsch) founded and is the director of the ‘Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation‘ which I believe conducted the ‘research’. I don’t have any other information about this foundation to be able to evaluate the scientific legitimacy of the foundation or its research.
Worth mentioning also –
<sarcasm> his research must be legitimate since he was interviewed by the ‘Prestigious’ medical journal ‘Alternative & Complementary Therapies’
</sarcasm>, as it stated on his foundation’s site.
Smell and appetite
On a personal note – the basic idea of sensa is that if you make food taste and smell better, people will feel full faster and eat less. I have never had a good sense of smell and have alway been pretty skinny. I attribute part of my thinness to my inability to smell. If your sense of smell is strong it seems to me that the smell of good food increases a person’s appetite, while for me – I can hardly smell food and so I don’t get hungry when I’m near it.
Around the blogosphere
Other bloggers who have already written about this include JoLynn Braley and Mike Howard. I would love to hear what medical bloggers like Dr. Val and science bloggers like Orac and those at Denialism would say about sensa, as they have written about weight management and obesity issues.
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