Today’s Target: Sensa for Weight Loss
Sensa is basically a powder meant to be sprinkled on your food prior to eating. Developed by Dr. Alan Hirsch, his “Tastant” crystals are meant to enhance the flavor of your food and work with your satiety sensors in your brain to make you feel full on less. Dr. Hirsch is a neurologist and psychologist who is the Neurological Director of the Smell and Taste Research and Treatment Foundation in Chicago. Hmmm… sounds impressive. You know, I often find the more words in a person’s job title, the higher your waders should be for the impending B.S. of the actual work done… but, maybe I’m being judgmental… Let’s sniff it out…
Is the product or company an obvious scam?
Sensa has “suspicious” written all over it. Dr. Hirsch was apparently intrigued by the fact that people who had lost their sense of smell and taste due to severe head injuries tended to gain weight rapidly. His theory is they never feel satisfied without these senses, so they continually eat to attempt to find satisfaction.
He decided to create “Tastant crystals” to make bland (yet healthy) foods like tofu or vegetables more appealing. The idea being people would be more satisfied eating healthy foods. However, in the study (which I’ll cover in a second) where he tested his product, the subjects were told to eat whatever they wanted. This makes the product sound like a magic bullet but there simply are no magic bullets in weight loss.
As well, the list of ingredients is as follows: “Sensa contains Maltodextrin (Derived from Corn from the USA), Tricalcium Phosphate, Silica, Natural and Artificial Flavors. Sensa also contains Soy and Milk ingredients.”
So, I guess the natural and artificial flavors are the proprietary “Tastans.” I’m confused. The $89.95 price tag is quite a bit for those ingredients.
More obvious is the “free trial” offer. Now, remember, not all free trials are bogus, but after all the auto-ship scams, you have to wonder. And in the case of Sensa, your free trial will cost you an arm and a leg. Keep reading for the nitty gritty…
Is the company guilty of deceptive marketing?
Yes! This is a very deceptive free trial offer. You are signing up for an auto-ship program. Basically, you pay a small up-front shipping fee for this “free-trial offer”. If you don’t return the product within 30 days, you’re billed $89.95 and they continue to auto-ship Sensa to you and bill you $89.95 every two months thereafter until you cancel.
As well, Dr. Hirsch’s study has been called into question. He tested 1436 men and women over 6 months. The test group used Sensa and achieved a 30.5 pound average weight loss whereas the control group only lost an average of 2 pounds.
Sounds great, but guess what? ABC News investigated this clinical study that Dr. Hirsch claimed was “peer-reviewed.” Now, this is an important thing “peer-reviewed.” This process ensures that data wasn’t faulty and proper controls were considered. I mean, who are these people that he tested? How overweight were they? What did they eat normally? So many questions.
The Endocrine Society had this to say: “it would be incorrect to characterize Dr. Hirsch’s study as having been rigorously peer reviewed by the Endocrine Society” and “they were surprised and troubled by the promotional nature of his presentation.”
I think Dr. Pamela Peeke (who was on the ABC news segment on this subject) said it best: “There’s no magic bullet, and there’s no magic sprinkle.”
Does the health product live up to it’s claims?
The “Sprinkle Diet” as Sensa has been tagged does not work to counteract many of the reasons we eat too much of the wrong foods. You cannot sprinkle Sensa on fries and hope to lose weight. All the Sensa on lettuce in the world won’t counteract an emotional craving for food.
In the F.A.Q. section on the Sensa site, there’s actually a question that asks “I have gained weight, what’s going on?” and the answer?
The Answer According to Sensa:
“Sensa is non-caloric and alone would not produce weight gain. The most likely reason that someone would gain weight when they begin Sensa is that they are not yet in tune with their body’s hunger signals. Eat slowly, and pay attention, as soon as you START to feel full you should stop eating. Also if you are already on another weight loss program or diet at the time that you start Sensa, you should continue on that program and use Sensa in addition to it. Sensa should not be used as a substitute for an existing diet plan you are on.”
Wait, according to their claims, Sensa is supposed to help you feel full based on your satiety center associated with your sense of smell. The company flips it around in their answer and says it’s YOU who needs to be aware of this feeling of fullness. Sounds like a load of crap to me…
In fact, if smell is supposed to be a big factor in whether we feel satisfied or not, why do I start drooling at the smell of steak? Well, obviously, it’s because we do have that built-in instinct to smell something delicious and want to eat it. But when we do eat it, does the smell make us feel full? Or, do we simply continue to eat it, long past being full because it smells great and tastes great?
And what about this F.A.Q.:
“I’m eating more often, what’s up?”
Answer: Everyone reacts to the Tastants differently. Even though you are eating more often you are probably still consuming less calories overall. In fact having smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day is a highly effective way to boost your metabolism.
How do they know this person is eating less calories? Maybe they are eating a donut every half hour (sprinkled with Sensa of course). It’s dangerous to assume these things. And while eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day IS a way to boost your metabolism, it only helps you lose weight IF you are making healthy choices.
Does the product have any dangerous side effects?
Only the feeling of frustration and embarrassment when you waste your money on a product that is basically soy powders and artificial flavor. In a sense, you could open up one of those packets in a ramen package and sprinkle it on your food for the same effect. But DON’T do that… As well, Sensa has no calories or “taste” just an odor.
In a way, I think this product does have harmful ingredients because it’s all about false hope. Hundreds have tried it, hundreds more will try it and none of them will find lasting weight loss based on learning how to eat healthfully, exercising and coping with negative emotions in a more positive way. And to me, that’s sad.
What does the Better Business Bureau say about the company?
Sensa Products, LLC is an accredited BBB business. There have been complaints by 98 people who say they did not receive a full refund, 5 who said they received a partial refund, 16 who say Sensa did not perform according to contract, and 1 who says they refused to make an adjustment.
The BBB keeps Sensa in good standing because “Our complaint history for this company shows the company gave proper consideration to complaints presented by the Bureau.”
What are people saying about the product or company on blogs and forums?
Submitted: Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Posted: Tuesday, February 09, 2010
“I did not purchase anything from this company, Sensa. I agreed to a $4.95 SHIPPING CHARGE for a FREE TRIAL of their product
When I saw what the product was I was glad that I was only out 4 dollars and 95 cents! It was a small 0.7 oz container of soy and milk powder! I felt stupid that I had even tried this thing.
A month later when I checked my Chase credit card I was SHOCKED and dismayed to find a charge of $89.95 from Sensa! This charge was made without my authorization!
I called Sensa immediately and demanded they return my money — that I did not sign anything nor authorize anyone to charge my credit card $89.95! The Sensa representative was condescending and rude. I asked her to explain to me how something that is FREE could cost $89.95!
She just kept reading from a script something about an RMA number that had expired. She then said that ANOTHER package was on it’s way and that my credit card was being charged ANOTHER $89.95! I managed to get that charge refunded but not the first chg.”
From the L.A. Times Blog:
“I’ve been using Sensa for about 2 weeks now along with my partner. Our appetites are less but no weight loss yet. I am curious to know if anyone else is suffering from gas and loose bowels with Sensa. Both my partner and I have noticed this unpleasant side effect. It’s not bad enough for me to quit Sensa since I want to lose weight so badly but I’ve gotten to be afraid to eat for fear of what will happen.
Posted by: Gen J”
Does the company sell any other “questionable” products?
There do not appear to be any other products. I would suggest they add a REAL diet and exercise plan to go along with the magical “Tastants.” Just my opinion…
Health Hound Overall Assessment: “It’s Ridiculous”
You can’t expect to sprinkle some magical concoction and lose weight. The verdict here is obvious.
There are way too many shady aspects of this entire “Sensa” scheme to grade it as anything other than a sham.
Share your Sensa story with the Health Hound! Leave a statement below and I’ll be sure to follow up.
I’m always on the trail!
Henry The Health Hound