Okinawan Flat Belly Tonic

Okinawa Flat Belly Tonic is yet another scam weight loss product made up of a random grab-bag of vitamins, minerals, and powders.

A message appeared in my email in-box with the subject line “bulging belly”. It turned out to be an advertisement for another way to supposedly lose weight without diet or exercise, the Okinawa Flat Belly Tonic. It provided three links to click on, one titled “Red Soda burns 3 lbs every 5 days,” another titled “Discover the ‘Done for You’ Japanese Tonic to Melt 3 pounds every 3.5 days,” (so which is it, 5 days or 3.5 days?) and “Just have a quick cup before 10am to dissolve 3 pounds.” In addition, there is an embedded video you can click on to play. All of these lead to the same video presentation, which is a long, disgusting tour de force of marketing tricks, deception, hype, testimonials, incredible claims, and the typical offers of deep discounts with warnings that the price will soon go up. I won’t go into detail because I have repeatedly covered similar marketing ploys for other bogus products. There’s nothing new here.

The presenter is a firefighter, Mike Banner. He starts off with a story about his sister Susan, a dramatic, emotional appeal designed to tug at the heartstrings. He then claims she lost 54 pounds in seven weeks, despite being unable to exercise due to osteoarthritis in her knees, by simply drinking a tasty Japanese tonic before 10 AM. He claims doing this will melt twice as much fat as 1 hour on a “joint-destroying” treadmill. The entire presentation is an insult to the viewer’s intelligence.

He describes how he imports the ingredients for the tonic and says they cost him over $300, yet he is selling the tonic for much less. Does that make sense? How could he do that? He claims to have developed the tonic after he had been given the secret by a maverick Japanese doctor. The tonic is said to be sold exclusively on the Okinawa Flat Belly Tonic website, but guess what? sells it on their website. Some of the Amazon customer reviews report an objectionable taste, a lack of effect, labeling that doesn’t match the commercials, and poor business practices.

This discussion on Yahoo! reviews the claims and raises some questions.

What’s in it?

It allegedly targets the root cause of weight gain: elevated levels of inflammatory molecules known as C-reactive protein (CRP). When CRP goes up, the fat-burning hormone adiponectin is blocked. The product is claimed to expel CRP and to have many benefits besides weight loss: fewer food cravings, lower stress levels, lower bad cholesterol levels, improved mental clarity, increased energy and vitality levels, improved self-esteem, hormonal equilibrium, and even increased libido.

The published list of ingredients includes:

  • EGCG – Found in green and white tea, this plant extract burns body fat instantaneously and induces thermogenesis.
  • Piperine – Extracted from black pepper, this antioxidant is what makes the spice the best ingredient for effective digestion. This is what it does as an ingredient of the Flat Belly Tonic. Piperine aids in blocking the formation of fat cells too.
  • Inulin – Extracted from the chicory plant root, this fiber works by tackling visceral fats and eliminating increased food cravings. Additionally, inulin is a probiotic that promotes healthier digestion.
  • Hibiscus sabdariffa – This delicate red flower is endemic to the Okinawa region and aids in the acceleration of fat loss.
  • Antioxidant fruits – These fruits actively promote overall health. They facilitate quick fat burning, energy boosting, better immunity, and increased digestion.
  • Aronia berry – As a powerful antioxidant, Aronia berry promotes immune system health and energy. Furthermore, it helps to regulate glucose levels.
  • Acai berry – This berry regulates cholesterol levels whilst supporting brain health. Additionally, the Acai berry eliminates fat absorption.
  • Mulberry – Similar to Acai berry and Aronia berry, Mulberry helps to regulate cholesterol and blood sugar, respectively. Rutin, found in Mulberry, enhances fat burning rates too.
  • Momordica charantia – Whilst controlling blood sugar levels, Momordica charantia (also known as “bitter melon”) decreases fats in the waistline too.

But wait! There’s more! It also contains a vitamin and mineral blend (with over 80 minerals), a metabolic boosting blend with Shilajit extract (an Ayurvedic substance found in Himalayan rocks), a polyphenol blend with 25 potent antioxidants and plant extracts, and a digestive support blend with probiotics and prebiotics. If all these ingredients can fit into a small scoop taken daily, do you think any of them are present in amounts sufficient to have an effect?

The science

They claim to have scientific studies to support their claims, but it consists of sparse pickings for some of the individual ingredients. The product itself has never been scientifically tested. The rationale for taking the tonic before 10 AM is never explained.

Conclusion: just another dietary supplement with extravagant claims and clever marketing

In my opinion, this is a scam. I don’t think the marketers believe in their product: they can’t even agree on how long it takes to lose 3 pounds! I don’t believe for a minute that this product could enable users to lose weight without diet or exercise. The marketers use every trick in the book to persuade naïve customers. Not being as naïve as their intended victims, I found their spiel not just unconvincing but downright insulting. I used the “unsubscribe” link and with any luck, my email inbox will no longer be contaminated with their spam.

This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog.

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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