Choosing to take an appetite suppressant isn’t a decision to make lightly. Despite the heap of “miracle” cures available online, only four weight loss drugs have actually been approved of by the United States Food and Drug Association, and most obesity specialists are very reluctant to prescribe them. And advising individuals that they need a tool to skip meals isn’t just bad science, it’s a psychological trigger for millions of people fighting eating disorders.
That’s why Kim Kardashian West’s recent endorsement of Flat Tummy Co. Lollipops, a company that produces candies containing a plant-derived appetite suppressant known as Satiereal, has gained so many detractors online. On Wednesday, Kardashian West’s ad was posted, accidentally deleted by Instagram, and then reposted, earning more than a million likes as well as numerous comments criticizing the message behind the post. One user wrote: “Eating isn’t shameful, our bodies aren’t shameful. We deserve better.”
According to Boston University clinical associate professor Joan Blake R.D.N., using an appetite suppressant like Satiereal is also just a bad way to maintain a healthy weight.
“The message from this product is that people need a better appetite suppressant to manage their weight,” Blake tells Inverse. “But you don’t. Instead of suppressing your appetite with a stimulant or a lollipop, what you need to do is eat good food.”
Blake explains that if you eat healthily at the proper times during the day you’re not only going to suppress your need for between meal snacks, “you’re also going to feed your mind and your body with nutrients.” Meals that are full of adequate amounts of proteins, good carbohydrates, vegetables, and healthy oils “can be really satisfying and very good for your body and for your weight.”
According to the Flat Tummy Lollipops website, each candy is 35 calories and contains cane sugar, brown rice syrup, and “natural” flavoring (cane sugar, for its part, is not considered a healthy alternative to high fructose corn syrup). The appetite suppressant lollipop’s “active ingredient,” Satiereal, is described by Flat Tummy as “a clinically proven safe active ingredient extracted from natural plants.”
Satireal is a patented extract of saffron, owned by the French biotech company Inoreal. Its website claims that Satiereal “under two clinical studies carried out in double blind against placebo, its capacity to manage appetite (-84 percent) and reduce compulsive snacking (-78 percent).” Experts, however, are not convinced by the available evidence. Mary-Jon Ludy, Ph.D., a food and nutrition associate professor at Bowling Green State University, tells Inverse that it “is unlikely to be a miracle cure.” Drew Hays, R.D., a nutritional sciences professor at the University of Texas at Austin, emailed Inverse:
“There may be some medications that suppress appetite, but none that have been shown to be effective are available over the counter. I suspect that if it [the lollipops] has worked, it is likely due to a placebo effect. A general rule is that if the product seems too good to be true, it probably is, and furthermore, I would never put merit to any health claims made by Kim Kardashian. Weight loss takes diligent planning, commitment, and discipline.”
Satireal is an extract of saffron stigma, which are the long crimson plant-bits that are part of the flower Crocus sativus. In a 2010 Nutrition Research study sponsored by Inoreal, scientists from the French pharmaceutical company Biomedical and Global Clinical Solutions found that 60 “mildly overweight women” experienced “significantly greater body weight loss” after taking the extract for eight weeks, as compared to a placebo. A 2018 study in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, however, showed that patients who took a pill containing 178 milligrams of Satireal together with 100 miligrams of the flavonoid naringin and vitamin D3 every day for 28 days “did not have any detectable beneficial effects on body-weight management.” The science on Satireal, at this point, is lacking — as are guidelines on how to use it safely.
“The question is how much saffron is in this product,” Blake asserts. “And could people over consume it past the point of what’s recommended? Especially because they’re lollipops. That is always a question that needs to be asked.”
The product’s potential to be abused is of particular concern to Blake, especially because the science proving the safety of the product doesn’t appear to be concrete. Flat Tummy Co. recommends, in extremely casual language, snacking on “a max of two lollipops a day” saying “they’re designed to be taken right when you get hit with those mid-morning or late afternoon cravings!”
There’s also the question of what the long-term health effects could be — a question that for now, there’s no data on. What there is data on, however, are the benefits of eating healthy and well — a concept that’s not going to pay Kardashian West for an ad.