An Alberta doctor is calling for the regulation of the commercial weight-loss industry.

Dr. Arya Sharma says stricter rules would help prevent Canadians from falling victims to misleading claims from fad diets, diet pills and weight-loss devices.

Dr. Sharma is a professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in obesity research and management. He is also the medical director of a weight-management program.

In an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Sharma and Dr. Yoni Feedhoff, say too many weight-loss providers are taking advantage of vulnerable consumers desperate to lose weight.

The owner of The Diet Center in Calgary welcomes regulation of weight-loss clinics. "There are a lot of claims out there. A lot of people promote that, you know 'eat this, you drink that, you're fats are going to just melt away,' and that's just not the way it is. I have to exercise, you have to diet, you have to make that lifestyle change," says Audrey Radies.

The two doctors say consumers are not only being bilked out of their money, they are also being allowed to endanger their health.

Here are some of the changes they would like to see:

  • formal accreditation of weight-loss providers to ensure quality and a way for consumers to determine which methods are evidence-based
  • legislation that would subject weight-loss products to regulatory approval based on proper clinical testing before they can be marketed
  • require manufacturers of weight-loss supplements to substantiate their claims scientifically
  • education for health professionals on the weight loss advice and therapy that arebacked up by scientific study

On his blog, Obesity Notes, Sharma says the only proven way to lose weight is through the long-term management of dietary caloric intake combined with increased exercise.

He says consumers should mistrust any weight loss products that promise to:

  • cause weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise
  • cause substantial weight loss no matter what or how you eat
  • cause permanent weight loss (even when you stop using product)
  • safely enable consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks
  • cause substantial weight loss for all users
  • cause substantial weight loss by wearing it on the body or rubbing it into the skin