London, Nov 26 : Obese people are wasting billions of pounds every year on "quack" health foods, which are actually ineffective, says a nutritional expert on the online British Medical Journal.
Professor Lean from the University of Glasgow, is quite positive that a new European Union (EU) Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices, adopted this year in the UK, would actually help vulnerable consumers in avoiding purchase of useless food products or supplements in attempts to combat their disease.
Lean said that the "commercial exploitation of vulnerable patients with quack medicines" would hopefully be brought to an end with the introduction of the new EU directive.
In his opinion, food products that are marketed for health reasons do not go under stringent research trials and control like medicines, and thus can easily delude the consumers.
Already, it is against the law to make unsubstantial claims about the composition or nutritional function of food products, like foods are low in fat, high in fibre or help lower cholesterol.
Also, it is illegal to wrongly promote a food as effective in treating or preventing any disease-including obesity. But, one can still see many unsubstantiated health claims being made, or implied.
One can observe the prevalence of misleading marketing within brand names and images on packaging, in shelf or shop names, or on websites which suggest that products help weight control, are slimming, or are "Health Foods", when there is no evidence.
Lean was quite concerned that obese people have been misled into dishing out billions of pounds every year on products that cannot help them.
Though he was quite positive of the output of the new EU directive, he said that there's a need to enforce laws proactively so that doctors and consumers could move towards managing diseases confidently with evidence based treatment and diet programmes.
He highlighted that, of all the hundreds of products currently on sale to help people lose weight, only energy-restricted diets and exercise, the drugs orlistat and sibutramine, and in some cases bariatric surgery, are safe, effective and cost-effective.
And the rest of them, in his opinion are either not effective or not safe.
The new regulations "may even help with the bigger battle to prevent obesity, by prohibiting advertisements across the EU that encourage children to buy energy dense products or to pester their parents to buy them," reports the BMJ.