Kim Kardashian is famous for, well, being famous—and for her killer curves. But she has raised eyebrows with her paid endorsement of the diet regimen QuickTrim. In January 2010, she told Ok! magazine that she used several of its products to quickly shed 15 pounds—and some of her curviness—in just a few weeks. Now the reality star and her sisters are in legal trouble, too. The New York-based law firm Bursor & Fisher reportedly filed a $5 million class-action lawsuit against Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian, on behalf of four customers who say QuickTrim didn't live up to its weight-loss claims. The plaintiffs allege in their lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in New York, that marketing claims about the products were "false, misleading, and unsubstantiated," according to Reuters. They added that there was "no competent and reliable scientific evidence supporting any of these claims."
QuickTrim products—which range from pills to powdered drink mixes—are designed to "detoxify and clean" the body by eliminating extra water weight and bloating, in large part because of the laxatives they include, according to the company. The products are available nationwide at more than 25,000 retail chains, including Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, and GNC. Many of Kim Kardashian's 13.6 million Twitter fans have tweeted that, inspired by her, they're going to give it a try.
But there's no scientific evidence to back up QuickTrim's claims, and recent research suggests such cleansing products don't work and might even be harmful. A study published in the Journal of Family Practice in 2011 analyzed 20 case studies reported over the past decade, and found that colon cleanses cause symptoms from mild cramping to kidney failure. These products "tout benefits that don't exist," the study authors said in a media statement.
Illusory benefits are exactly the problem with QuickTrim products, says registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. "They're just another quick fix," she says. "You might lose some weight, but the next step is gaining it all back, because you haven't actually changed your eating behavior."
With the help of Gans and Adriane Fugh-Berman, a physician and associate professor in the complementary and alternative medicine master's degree program at Georgetown University Medical Center, U.S. News deciphered the "Supplement Facts" label on three popular QuickTrim products. (QuickTrim did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)
Burn & Cleanse 14 Day Diet System. This purports to burn calories by day and cleanse by night. The morning and afternoon supplements contain a "thermogenic complex," two doses of which provide a total of 400 milligrams of caffeine—which is equivalent to four cups of coffee. The supplements also contain piperine (black pepper) and white willow bark extract, both of which Fugh-Berman says can increase the potency of caffeine, a stimulant that helps boost metabolism. Further down the ingredient list is green tea leaf extract, which may or may not contain caffeine. "It irritates me that they're not saying how much caffeine is in these pills," Fugh-Berman says. "Too much caffeine can make you jittery and increase your blood pressure and pulse. If you pop a couple of these pills with your Starbucks coffee, that's not good; you could get caffeine poisoning, which can cause heart arrhythmias."
The evening supplements contain the "IsoCleanse and Flush Herbal Complex," a combination of stimulant laxatives (senna, cascara, and rhubarb) and bulk laxatives (oat fiber, prunes, dates, and fig extracts) to increase the movement of food and liquid through your intestines. While Fugh-Berman says this might be helpful if you have constipation, it's not good for those with regular bowel habits. "You'll get diarrhea, which could cause dehydration and a loss of vital nutrients, which isn't good," she says. "Stimulant laxatives, of which IsoCleanse is chock-full, can cause your intestines to become dependent on them for stimulation, causing constipation if you stop."
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Fast Cleanse. This is billed as a "48-hour Super Diet Detox" designed to "help you drop a dress size for a special occasion." Wedding, perhaps? In essence, this is a fiber-rich drink that you ingest four times a day between meals consisting of clear soups, gelatin, fruits, and vegetables. Certainly, you'll drop a few pounds on this plan, which is fine, says Fugh-Berman, as long as you don't mind putting them right back on after taking the dress to the cleaners.
Sugar & Carb Cheater. The company says this is designed for dieters who are concerned their sugar and carbohydrate intake is keeping them heavy. Popping two pills ahead of your largest meal of the day supposedly keeps carbs from turning into fat by blocking the enzyme that causes the conversion. Ingredients include chromium, fenugreek seed, bilberry fruit, and vanadyl sulfate. However, Gans stresses that unless you consume too many calories, carbs break down into glucose, not fat. "Scientifically, it doesn't make sense," she says. "It's offering people false hope."
In a nutshell, QuickTrim elixirs have some pretty powerful stimulants, laxatives, and diuretics. "I don't think anyone should take these products," Fugh-Berman says, when asked if there are any health conditions that should preclude someone from using QuickTrim. The package material advises checking with a doctor before using the products, although it's unclear whether many people do. "Dietary supplements like these aren't regulated by the [Food and Drug Administration], and many of the ingredients haven't been shown to be effective," says registered dietitian Heather Mangieri, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "The good news is that these products are absolutely not necessary for weight loss. My suggestion is to leave them on the shelf."
Updated on 03/05/2012: This story was originally published on Jan. 19, 2010.