The other day a Recreation Therapist co-worker was expressing dismay over the weight gain of one of her clients who has been known to eat large quantities of food in one sitting. This unfortunate man has impaired decision making capabilities because of a brain injury, and even though his caregiver is trying to feed a healthy plan he still has trouble with overeating. Caring for someone in this situation can be frustrating to say the least, and it can make one more vulnerable to the weight loss products that are advertised as helping people avoid overeating (particularly if they are labeled as "natural," etc). This particular therapist had wanted to recommend Sensa as she thought it might help prevent this guy's tendency to overeat, but fortunately she was skeptical enough to ask me about it first.
Sensa, for those of you who don't know, is a "food sprinkle" made of maltodextrin, tricalcium phosphate, silica, and flavors. It is basically a strong smelling and the principle behind it is that the enhanced smell will work on the "satiety switch" in your brain and cause you to feel fuller, sooner. The appeal of this product is also suppossed to come from it being "doctor designed" and he has apparently done research on this in which people lost weight. (Link)
Red flags? Of course. First of all, only one study was done and it was sponsored by HIS company. Second of all, the study was not published in a peer reviewed journal. Third, the study was only done for 6 months and there was no follow up to see if people were able to keep the weight off. Fourth, there was only one very small study that indicated there might be something to sniffing peppermint and feeling full, but apparently the effect is short lived anyway. (Link)
Then there is the practical problem--not everyone stops eating when they are satisfied or full (especially when the food tastes good), so you still have to make that concious effort to stop eating when you are full. (Behavior modification techniques for this will take up another blog post!) And as this blogger said, you apparently feel like all of your food tastes like onion powder and/or crushed smarties depending on which Sensa product you use. I think losing weight is hard enough work, do we really have to torture ourselves by eating food that tastes only of onion powder? (I like onion powder, but not on everything).
So, no, I can't see any good reason that someone should spend the money on Sensa. What I would do is take that money that you were going to spend on that product and take a cooking class that teaches you how to use herbs, spices, good fats, etc to actually help you enjoy what you are eating so you can actually stick with your plan. Or just start experimenting with different spices using recipes from the internet. Sure, you probably still have to limit your cheesecake consumption, but there's no reason that you can't eat well with what you have.
Take home message--Stay away from the Sensa, improve your cooking skills, and keep working on the behavior changes.