Burn fat while you sleep? Not so fast …

Burn fat while you sleep? Not so fast …

Harry Siskind gives a one-finger salute to the media as he leaves the federal courthouse in San Antonio
Harry Siskind gives a one-finger salute to the media as he leaves the federal courthouse in San Antonio

Body Solutions CEO Harry Siskind cried and apologized in a San Antonio courtroom yesterday.

His claims that a fruity drink could burn fat “while you sleep” had been debunked. He no longer pays radio disc jockeys to tout Body Solutions on the air. He’s not sitting in the front row at San Antonio Spurs games anymore.

And yesterday, a judge sentenced Siskind to three years in prison for lying to federal authorities about hidden financial assets.

Today, it seems so obvious that Siskind’s diet products were a scam — the blog Strange in San Antonio called Siskind a snake-oil salesman. But seven years ago, Siskind’s downfall looked doubtful. People were spending hundreds of dollars apiece on his fruit drinks, Siskind was a respected figure in San Antonio’s business community, and he was raking in tens of millions of dollars.

Then, in August 2001, San Antonio Express-News Reporters Travis Poling and Nicole Foy wrote two front-page stories detailing Siskind’s background as a tabloid journalist, and revealing how clinical studies never proved Body Solutions’ products actually burned fat.

Foy wrote:

It sounds so simple: Lose weight while you sleep, burn body fat – all while eating whatever you want.

All this from just one tablespoon of a fruity concoction taken every night on an empty stomach before going to bed. Minimal effort, great results – that’s the message behind Body Solutions’ wildly popular Evening Weight Loss Formula.

Is this the long-awaited answer to America’s battle with the bulge?

Not so fast, say leading scientists and nutritional experts. The Body Solutions program has more to do with big bucks and bold claims than it does substantiated science, say experts who reviewed the weight loss system.

“The only way you can tell if this works is by published, independent, objective, double-blinded scientific studies. And that hasn’t been done in this case,” said Sanford Miller, a former director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

These front-page stories provoked outrage by the disc jockeys who were paid to give personal testimonials about the effectiveness of Body Solutions’ products.

But the purpose of watchdog journalism is to tell people what’s really going on. Readers deserved to know they were spending their money on a fruity drink that did nothing for them.

The media doesn’t always fulfill it’s mission to tell the public unpopular truths. But it did this time. Perhaps that’s why, as he walked out of the courtroom, a defiant Siskind flipped off the news crews filming his exit.