Last night, Kim Kardashian posted yet another sponsored Instagram for a FlatTummy product. This time, it wasn't a shake or a tea, but a lollipop. "You guys... @flattummyco just dropped a new product. They're Appetite Suppressant Lollipops and they're literally unreal," she wrote. Commenters went off on her, saying that she was encouraging disordered eating habits, and then began trolling a photo Kim posted last week of her kids, which was coincidentally captioned, "You don’t even understand how many lollipop bribes this pic cost me..." Kim deleted the first photo, but the ad stayed up on her Instagram story.
So, what exactly do we know about these lollipops — besides that Kim thinks they're "literally unreal"? According to the FlatTummy website, they're lollipops made from sugar and a "clinically proven safe active ingredient extracted from natural plants" called satiereal, which makes you feel full and suppresses your appetite for hours. Wow, there's a lot to unpack here.
Technically, it's true that "satiereal" is an ingredient that's extracted from plants, but just because something is "natural" or "plant-based" doesn't mean that it's good for you. Satiereal is derived from saffron, which is a spice that Ayurvedic healers believe can fight certain diseases, boost your mood, and make your skin glow, among other things.
That doesn’t mean putting [saffron] in a lollipop and telling people to eat it is a healthy approach to weight loss, body image, or nutrition.
Rekha Kumar, MD
There's some scientific evidence that compounds in saffron could have beneficial metabolic effects on blood sugar, cholesterol, and potentially impact weight, says Rekha Kumar, MD, endocrinologist at the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "That doesn’t mean putting [saffron] in a lollipop and telling people to eat it is a healthy approach to weight loss, body image, or nutrition," Dr. Kumar says.
One trial, which included 60 women, showed that those who took a daily satiereal supplement snacked less and lost more weight than the group who didn't. And studies have shown that satiereal suppresses the appetites of rats. But there haven't been studies big enough to really prove its effectiveness in humans. "Claiming that a lollipop will lead to appetite suppression or weight loss is probably a little extreme," Dr. Kumar says.
Whether or not this product "works," the most important thing to remember here is that appetite suppression is generally not a good thing.
Hunger is your body's way of communicating that you need to eat food. Your body gets energy from nutrients in foods. Without energy, your body cannot function, so it's vitally important to pay attention to those cues. Lots of diet foods and strategies are designed to convince your body that you're full, so you eat less and subsequently lose weight. But, over time, eating foods that trick you into feeling full can lead to binging, overeating, and malnutrition. For example, if you eat appetite-suppression crackers all day, you might feel full, but you'll also be depriving yourself of other nutrients. The same goes for sucking on these lollipops all day.
The first two ingredients in FlatTummy lollipops are cane sugar and brown rice syrup (which is another type of sweetener), so they're basically candy — which should be considered a treat, not something you begrudgingly eat because you want to make sure you don't get hungry. Doing this not only confuses your body's chemical hunger cues, but it could also twist your perception of what you consider an indulgence, and what you see as a health food. You'd be better off eating an actual lollipop if you want something sweet, or eating something with a lot of protein or fibre if you're hungry.
Another thing to consider? These lollipops are technically supplements, which means that they aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. "Any time there's a new 'natural supplement for weight loss,' the important thing to know is that these are not regulated by the FDA," Dr. Kumar says. "So, we don't actually know if they're safe until someone has a problem with them." Pharmaceutical drugs, on the other hand, have to go through several stages of clinical trials in order to get put on the shelves, she says.
At the end of the day, you shouldn't buy these $30 diet lollipops just because Kim K. says they're "unreal." There's no quick fix to healthy eating, so focus on listening to your hunger cues (rather than suppressing them), and eating a balanced diet. And remember: If a diet food sounds too good to be true, it probably is.