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Last year a team of scientists and medical researchers at several leading institutions in North America compiled the resutls of 10 studies of sham weight loss surgery. These studies looked at the question of whether you could just send a patient into the operating room, give them anesthesia, make a little cut on their tummies but quickly sew it right back up, and tell them they had gastric bypass surgery with the result that they lost weight. Sure enough, many patients responded to sham surgery as if they had had the real thing.

Even with weight loss, there is such a thing as a placebo effect. You can believe something works and get better even if it has no direct effect on your body. It's even possible to believe that placebos work, know you are getting a placebo that has no direct effect on your metabolism, and get benefits as if you were getting a real drug.

For that reason, I don't want to be overly critical of Isagenix. There are people who are getting better despite the fact it seems to be a placebo. Fortunately, even if I tell you it's nothing more than a placebo it can still help you as a placebo if you believe in the power of placebos. So please understand that placebos can make you better and Isagenix is a placebo.

Why doesn't Isagenix have a measurable effect in a more traditional sense? Here are some of the reasons:

  • The marketers of Isagenix claim users can lose 15 pounds (about 7 kilos) in nine days through a "cleanse." It's true that emptying your bowels will reduce your weight. It's also true that you can lose three or four pounds just by eating less for as little as one day, because your liver uses a back-up source of energy that combines sugar (glucose) and water. Your body burns the glucose and you urinate four times as many molecules of water as molecules of glucose your body burns.
  • One of the ingredients in most Isagenix products is fructose. This is the natural sweetener most often made from corn syrup. To be sure, there is no reason to think that the fructose in Isagenix is made from corn syrup, but fructose has the same role in the body no matter whether it comes from corn or fruit or honey or something else. Isagenix even uses fructose in its Myo-IsoLean weight loss products. Despite what you may have heard, a small amount of fructose actually isn't harmful. Up to about 25 grams of fructose every day actually activates a metabolic pathway in the liver that helps it deal with high levels of glucose from a high-carb diet. It's the higher amounts that force the body to store fat. But do you want to be on a high-carbohydrate diet and use Isagenix?
  • Gluten also shows up in Isagenix bars. It gives them the mouth feel that makes them just chewy enough to be satisfying. Again, gluten is not the bugaboo that many people make it out to be, but if you are one of the people who should not be eating gluten, you should not be using Isagenix.
  • Isagenix makes liberal use of peanuts. Peanut allergies are mostly a North American phenomenon, but they are very real, and sometimes deadly.

In addition to these objections, Isagenix is a multi-level marketing product. Distributors lean on their friends to buy this diet product they don't really need by making claims that aren't born out by science. "Our food lacks essential nutrients because of depleted soils," they say. Really? How did the plants and animals we eat grow to the point we can eat them if they couldn't get the nutrients they need? "Our bodies are not set up to detoxify modern food" is another common claim. Our livers are in fact set up to detoxify, and in some cases, actually retoxify, chemicals in food. Highly processed products like Isagenix are loaded with chemicals that add to the burden on the liver rather than reducing it. Eating just the two replacement meals plus a low-calorie meal every day is the reason Isagenix users lose weight. You could eat two tiny ice cream sundaes a day instead of Isagenix, and if you stuck to eating just one more low-calorie meal per day, you would lose weight.

Many Isagenix users have almost a religious reverence for their product. They tolerate no dissent. They at least enjoy a placebo effect. Informed people usually will not enjoy that placebo effect. If you lose weight, it's because you ate less. 

There are no doubt many Isagenix distributors out there who don't like the truth, but here it is. If you want to lose weight, eat less, but eat real food.

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