Monday, 15 August 2011

Shane Warne, TAIslim and the phantom clinical trial

Shane Warne is a man of integrity. He is the last person anybody would accuse of selling out. Sure, he is always going on about one product or another, but really, there is nothing wrong with telling the world about the things you like, and Warnie likes a lot of things. Why, in the last fortnight alone he has, on twitter, enthusiastically endorsed Russell Crowe's new album, McDonalds Cheeseburgers, British Airways, Carlton Draught (twice), Spinners by Shane Warne, 888 sport bets, Mr Whippy (twice), Special K and Dunhill1, and has not declared any financial or other interest in any of these products. He's just a fan.

And when he loses a lot of weight in just a few months, and puts it down to "Fitness and healthy lifestyle, with help from @StevenBaker10 and his protein shakes and Tai Slim drinks", and some people deign to suggest that it is simply a marketing exercise and not a genuine miracle weight loss product, then I am, to be perfectly honest, shocked and saddened. I mean, you only have to look at the post on his website2 to see how genuine he is about this.
During a game of poker at my house, I was chatting to my good mate Steven Baker (professional football player) about how he had managed to maintain his fitness over such a long career. Our conversation drifted onto how I really wanted to drop a few kilos and get super fit for my last year of cricket in the IPL with the Rajasthan Royals.
Bakes told me how his Mum had recently lost a substantial amount of weight on a new system. He is now totally behind the product as he has seen amazing results among his family and close friends, and realises it could help so many people.
I used the system in conjunction with a better diet and exercise, and couldn't be happier with the results. I managed to lose 12 kgs over the first 2 months and continue to maintain my current weight by continuing with the products and improved lifestyle.
The system is called the TAIslim Total Body System. It's a safe, easy and healthy way to manage your weight..The shakes taste great and the low calorie chocolates stop me snacking so much between meals. I highly recommend it to anyone serious about improving your health and well being.. 
I started with the best pack available, which is the ‘TAislim Quickstart pack with Skinny’s’ and reached my goal weight in only two months. I'm now keeping the weight off with ease on a smaller maintenance pack.
If you decide to give the system a go, I hope you enjoy the same great results as I have.
If you are thinking that that resembles a paid testimonial - like you might see in a bad late night infomercial - concocted by Shane, his mate Steve3, and their unnamed corporate paymasters for the pupose of gaining free press for their product worldwide, then you sir, are a heartless cynic!

For my part, I am quite prepared to take Warnie's word as gospel, and accept that TAIslim helped him lose his weight. He is, however, only one person, and I was interested to see whether his fantastic results could be replicated in the population at large4.

What is TAIslim?

From what I can gather, TAIslim is a series of products - shakes, powders and juices - with a base ingredient called Himalayan Goji berries5. It is produced and marketed by multi-level marketing company FreeLife, and WOW! Does it work a treat?
FreeLife recently undertook a strict 3-month randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind human clinical study (the “gold standard” of clinical studies), which included caloric restriction and moderate exercise. The results from this study are nothing short of miraculous. Compared to participants who were on a placebo, TAIslim® product users lost: 4 times more body weight; 6 times more body fat; 6 times more inches from their waist; and 4 times more inches from their hips. TAIslimusers also recorded a 6 times greater reduction in Body Mass Index (BMI), while also experiencing significantly greater improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar levels than the control group.
These are seriously impressive results that will revolutionise the weight loss industry, so I thought that I would take a closer look at this research, which was undertaken by their chief scientific officer, Dr Haru Amagase. I looked on PubMed, the major repository of peer-reviewed medical literature. Oddly, this particular research did not appear there. Thinking that it may be so new that it has yet to be indexed, I dug a little deeper.

I found a just published review article in the journal Food Research International by Dr Amagase entitled "A review of botanical characteristics, phytochemistry, clinical relevance in efficacy and safety of Lycium barbarum fruit (Goji)". At last, here was the proof I'd been looking for. Reading the paper, I found a small section on weight loss.
LBP-standardized L. barbarum fruit juice has been reported in several randomized clinical studies that it significantly increased postprandial energy expenditure compared to the placebo (Amagase, 2010). L. barbarum intake was effective to control waist circumference in the humans, and may reduce the risks of metabolic syndrome (Amagase & Nance, 2009). Subjects in the L. barbarum group maintained waist circumference at the starting point measurements even during the holiday overeating time at year's end. The placebo group showed no significant changes (Amagase & Handel, 2008). L. barbarum may stimulate metabolic rate through adrenocortical hormone control, and these effects may be related to the changes in waist circumference produced by daily consumption of L. barbarum in the form of fruit juice (Amagase, 2010). As these studies are preliminary and there are limitations, these did not include any functional measurements of substrate utilization, heart rate, muscle activity, temperature or respiratory quotient (RQ). These are additional relevant dependent measures that will need to be addressed in more detailed future studies. However, the absence of these additional measures does not diminish the clear functional and statistical significance we observed in the present studies in terms of postprandial energy expenditure. Considering the overall effects of L. barbarum, it appears that the combination of nutritional ingredients with L. barbarum may be useful for increasing metabolic rate and body weight control. Thus, future studies with additional measures of energy balance and anthropometric parameters related to the body weight control will establish the possible effects of L. barbarum on glucose and fat metabolism, metabolic syndrome, and obesity-related hormone levels in humans in order to identify the mechanisms of actions of L. barbarum.
Pretty impressive stuff, and there, finally, were the primary references I was looking for. So I looked them up.
Amagase and Handel, 2008 H. Amagase and R. Handel, Randomized, blind, placebo-controlled human clinical studies showed waist circumference reduction by an intake of standardized Lycium barbarum fruit juice, The Obesity Society 2008 Annual Meeting at Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, AZ October 3–7, P0751 (2008).
This is a reference to a poster presentation at a conference. I didn't go, so this was not much use. I was specifially looking for a detailed, peer-reviewed article in a respected journal. So I looked up the next one.
Amagase and Nance, 2009 H. Amagase and D.M. Nance, Effect of standardized Lycium barbarum (Goji) juice, GoChi® intake on resting metabolic rate and waist circumference: Randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical studies, FASEB Journal 23 (2009), p. LB419.
Again, disappointingly, this is a reference to an abstract (summary) of a poster presented at a conference. All my hopes lay with the last reference.
Amagase, 2010 H. Amagase, Comparison of Lycium barbarum-containing liquid dietary supplements to caffeinated beverages on energy/caloric metabolism activity and salivary adrenocortical hormone levels in healthy human adults, FASEB Journal 24 (2010), p. 540.13.
Another conference abstract! This was becoming ridiculous. It would be unethical for FreeLife to market their product with this study if it was not actually published. It just didn't make sense. So I dug a little deeper.

I found this on the FreeLife website.
Just this past October, our Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Haru Amagase, presented the results of our TAIslim Total Body System clinical studies at the annual Obesity Society Annual Meeting in San Diego. This important conference brought together the leading players in the field of obesity; from world-renowned speakers, researchers, and clinicians to educators, advocators, policymakers, and practitioners. This was a veritable “Who’s Who” of weight control experts, making it even more impressive that one of the biggest stars of the conference was our very own Dr. Haru!
Since returning from the Obesity Society meeting, Dr. Haru has been deluged with requests for information and manuscripts. The request excerpted below is typical:
Dear Dr. Amagase,
My name is Elizabeth Fetterman, and I serve as the lead editor of the peer-reviewed journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine.I’ve recently reviewed your extraordinary research from the Obesity Society’s annual meeting. . . and I wanted to get in touch to see if you would be interested in submitting your research for our upcoming May 2011 issue, which will have a clinical focus on diabetes and obesity. Your research would be of great value and interest to our readership.This issue will be distributed at the American Diabetes Association shortly after publication, so articles will benefit from instant recognition and distribution to its primary readership. In addition, we market every paper via press releases (, etc.), RSS feeds, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and all published articles are uploaded to Kindle, iPad, and eReader.
To understand the full significance of this request, which will help to spread the word of FreeLife science all over the world, you must first know that acceptance and publication of a clinical study in a peer-reviewed journal is not easily achieved. In fact, only 1 out of every 5 studies submitted are judged to be worthy of acceptance, and the journals don’t typically solicit articles. Therefore, it is a testament to the quality of our research that peer-reviewed journals are asking us to permit them to publish our studies!
Jackpot! I now had both a journal title and issue (May 2011). I had finally found the Holy Grail.

Except it wasn't there.

I was getting a little bit downhearted at this point and was beginning to bemoan my obvious incompetence. So I decided to take a different tack. Maybe if I couldn't find the study so I could evaluate it myself, I could find other experts who had given their independent assessments of it. Happily, there were a few, such as...
PHOENIX, AZ – October 28, 2009 – FreeLife International recently presented the significant results of several human clinical studies on TAIslim™, its proprietary triple-patent pending liquid weight loss supplement, at the 27th Annual Scientific Meeting of The Obesity Society. This important conference, held in Washington, DC, brought together the world’s leading players in the field of obesity - from basic and clinical researchers and clinicians to educators, advocates, policy shapers and practitioners.
FreeLife’s findings on TAIslim will be published in the respected journal Obesity6. “These results are very interesting and promising,” remarked Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge, noted obesity research expert and Assistant Professor at St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Qatar Islamic Bank Hospital and New York Obesity Research Center at Columbia University. She added, “The rise in energy expenditure (i.e., fat burning) with these goji-based products is interesting and suggests a mechanism by which they can assist in weight management.”
This looked promising, but then I found this...
San Francisco, CA — February 27, 2010 —FreeLife International recently presented the results of several human clinical studies on its TAIslim Total Body System, a proprietary triple patent pending weight loss supplement system, at an American Society for Nutrition (ASN) meeting. 
“These results are interesting and promising,” remarked Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge, noted obesity research expert and Research Associate at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital and Assistant Professor at Columbia University. She added, “The rise in calorie-burning capacity with these products suggests a potential mechanism by which they can assist in weight management and should be explored further.”
I guess she just forgot that she'd already said exactly the same thing at the earlier conference. But then I found this...
San Diego, CA — October 9, 2010 — FreeLife International® presented the results of several human clinical studies on TAIslim Total Body System, a proprietary triple-patent pending weight management supplement system, at the Obesity Society Annual Meeting...

"These results are very interesting and promising" remarked Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge, noted obesity research expert and Research Associated at the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital and Assistant Professor at Columbia University. She added, "The rise in energy expenditure and reduction in self-reported appetite level with these products is interesting and suggests a mechanism by which they can assist in weight management."
At this point, I was suffering from a potentially terminal case of déjà vu and I needed a quick lie down and a nice cup of tea.

Later I reviewed the evidence. 1. Shane Warne loses weight and claims that TAIslim products helped him achieve that aim. 2. The mainstream media uncritically report this claim. 3. The producers of TAIslim claim to have undertaken a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind human clinical study. 4. The results of this study have been presented as a poster presentation at a number of scientific conferences, but the details of the study have never been published. 5. Dr Marie-Pierre St-Onge, noted obesity research expert is caught in some kind of Groundhog Day situation wherein every time she goes to a conference she says exactly the same thing.

No matter how I look at it, I cannot put the pieces together. This is what you might call an un-solved mystery. Might this be an expensive but ultimately useless add-on to a perfectly sensible calorie controlled diet? Could Warnie have been hoodwinked? If so, is Baker in on it or is he a victim as well? Why are all of the best products sold by multi-level marketing companies (instead of in regular shops), where the purpose of sellers is not to sell the product, per se, but to recruit more sellers?

I will keep searching until I have satisfactory answers to all of these questions, but until then I'll take solace in the knowledge that AFL legend and all around good bloke Brendan Fevola is on-board. While I'm not totally satisfied, I have looked hard at what evidence there is, and I can confidently say that the authors of the taislimscam website are completely wrong.

1 The men's clothing store, not the cigarette brand. I prefer Benson & Hedges polo tops myself, but each to their own.
2 You have to be registered to get into so I copied the text from another website that had copied the text from Shane's website. I assume Warnie would be cool with this.
3 Who only ever mentions one product on his twitter feed... TAIslim. Every. Single. Day.
4 Or whether you had to be shagging a supermodel to get the best results.
5 Their real name is Wolfberry, and they aren't actually from the Himalayas, but don't let that distract you from their miraculous benefits.
6 When?


Tim said...

I had a look at the ingredients of these on their website. The skinny is basically a 20cal lolly with 1g of fibre, the liquid is a 20calorie carbohydrate drink with green tea and 5g of fibre, and the shake is 157cal with 10g of protein and 5 gram of fibre with a multivitamin. Fibre is what will help you feel full because most of it is insoluble.

You can buy green tea from places like and vitacost, fibre from supermarkets in the health food section in the form things like pure Psyllium Husk (66 servings with 2.4grams of fibre for $5 from coles for example) and protein from bodybuilding shops and websites. A LOT cheaper that way.

Anonymous said...

Yup green tea is "allegedly" supposed to help you loose weight. Unfortunately for me after taking green tea and watching the calorie intake, it failed dismally. I am now using ... yup you got it Tai Slim and the simple ingredients you cite are working far better than green tea ever did. As for me, The taislim is not a scam. Thank you very much! And I am choosing anonymous to keep from getting backlash from you!!

Anonymous said...

FreeLife' claims, however "scientifically" masked are the result of limited cohort studies with the results falling well within the placebo effect. The company likes to sprinkle words like "validated", "published" and "significant" throughout their literature while flogging the academic credentials of their advisers.

Getting back to reality, a basic modification in lifestyle and some dietary portion control will save the bank account and stimulate overall health in a profound and lasting way.