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Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS -- It's a popular weight loss clinic where people say they lose a lot of weight, quickly, with no cravings, hunger or exercise.

So what's behind the testimonials?

When Bonny Walton, 49, hit her 40s, she could not lose weight. Then she went to the Bouari clinic.

'I did 45 pounds in about three and a half months. But I went from a size 18 to a size 8, which is exciting,' said Walton of Abita Springs.

She and other clients say they are not hungry, don't have cravings, and have a lot of energy. Bonny liked Bouari so much, this stay-at-home mom became a consultant.

Before any Louisiana clinics opened, Wendy DiFulco lost 22 pounds doing the program long distance from Las Vegas. She was so impressed, she bought in to the franchise and opened, in Metairie, the first of five Louisiana clinics. The others are in Houma, Prairieville, Harvey and Covington.

'Our female clients lose an average of a half a pound a day. Our male clients lose an average of a pound a day, but they are losing the weight they want to lose. They are losing fat and they are losing in the problem areas,' said DiFulco, who owns the Metairie clinic.

'I've done it myself. I'm a big believer in that it's helped me. It's helped a lot of members of my family. In fact, all of us here at the clinic, have all done the program with great success,' said Daniel Nettles, the owner of the Bouari clinic on the Westbank.

Owners say the program is easy. You don't count calories and just eat the approved nutrient-dense, healthful foods of lean meats, fish, seafood, and non-starchy or low glycemic vegetables and fruits, getting rid of processed foods.

One client described it as shopping only on the outside aisles of the grocery store. The plan calls for you to eat the right proportions in three meals and two snacks a day. There are proprietary supplements from the clinic and support counseling.

LSU Health Sciences Center weight loss researcher Dr. Melinda Sothern said what's positive about this program is there's support, it's individualized, and the food is healthful. But there is a concern.

'I never thought you could lose weight without working out, but this is one of those programs that you don't have to work out,' said a male client in a Bouari commercial.

'Over the long term, it definitely is the only component of a weight loss program that is shown to help keep the weight off. Consistently over time, studies show that those individuals who keep their weight off at one year, five years, 10 years, are the individuals who adopt exercise after the weight loss program is over,' explained Dr. Sothern, who is in the LSU School of Public Health and is an expert in exercise and obesity.

Losing weight too rapidly causes muscle to be lost.

'The energy expenditure of your body is directly related to how much muscle mass you have. So the less muscle mass you have, the lower your energy expenditure. The lower your day to day energy expenditure, the fewer calories you can eat with out gaining weight,' explained Dr. Southern.

She says the scientific research is clear that individuals who follow very low calorie diets lose both fat and muscle weight, and when initially starting a very low calorie diet lose a great deal of fluid weight. She says weight lifting or strength training can protect against a loss of muscle mass.

While Bouari has no scans on clients' body composition before and after weight loss, the clinic claims it targets fat loss with its supplements and that clients, on their own, start to get more physically active when they are lighter because they feel so much better.

'Bouari is a lifestyle change. They will learn to prepare foods in a manner that they never did before,' explained DiFulco, who said clients learn to love the whole foods such as tomatoes rather than canned paste that could have sugar or other added calories.

Part of the program are those proprietary supplements. Bouari gave us the ingredient list but not the specific formulations. We had an expert comb the medical scientific literature for each ingredient.

Some are proven effective for weight loss.

Some are safe but don't have weight loss evidence.

And a couple could have side effects, especially for some with medical conditions.

So the independent medical experts and the Bouari owners always recommend that you check with your doctor before you start this or any program.

The cost of the program which includes products, manual, follow up visits every 7 days, phone and walk-in support and maintenance:

30 days $359
60 days $469
To continue after: $120-$185 per month

Research doctor's information from the published scientific literature:

Overall the majority of the ingredients in these products are not shown to promote weight loss in the scientific literature. They include ingredients with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that in most cases pose no problem and have no side effects and may have other health benefits. However, in some cases the ingredients have the potential for side effects, especially if combined with other drugs.

Advantage spray does contain calcium carbonate, which is shown in numerous studies to promote weight loss, improve metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. It also contains Secale (rye; cereal grain) and there are several studies indicating that rye cereal grain improves insulin response, metabolic syndrome even in the absence of weight loss, and one study indicated it may improve appetite regulation. Also Advantage spray contains fucus vesiculosus (marine alga rich in iodine), which possesses high anti-oxidant capacity due to polyphenol content and is high in fiber. Topical application of the fucus vesiculosus extract promotes collagen, improved skin elasticity, anti-aging; when used with other agents (furcellaria lumbricalis, retinoic, conjugated linoleaic acid) improves lypolysis and reduces cellulite. But, fucus vesiculosus supplementation it has the potential for side effects due to high iodine content and drug interactions are a concern and it may cause hyperthyroidism.

Of more concern is that Advantage spray contains lycopodine pharmacological bioactive component, which blocks cellular synthesis and used to treat prostate cancer. It has not been shown to promote weight loss and the potential for side effects is sever, e.g. liver damage (hepatotoxicity and hepatitis.) Advantage spray also contains Thyroidinum, which is thyroid extract made from the thyroid glands of animals (pig, sheep or cow) and in only one randomized study there were no benefits to weight loss.

Four of the ingredients in the supplement, Edge, are minerals and extracts that have not been shown to promote weight loss (Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Chromium and Chocamine) but may have other health benefits. However, Edge also contains calcium, which is numerous studies in humans shows beneficial weight loss, reduced insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. It also contains caffeine, which in numerous studies when combined with other ingredients, e.g. ephedrine, green tea, etc. promotes weight loss. And the supplement, Edge, includes green Tea Leaf Extract, which in numerous studies promotes weight loss and improved metabolic syndrome.

The supplement, Edge, also contains Green Bean Coffee Extract. There were no studies in Green Bean Coffee Extract, but numerous studies in green coffee extract (no bean) showed improved weight status and blood pressure.

However, of concern is that the supplement Edge contains Phenylethylamine HCl. There was no specific research on this specific substance. However, there were hundreds of studies that included its derivatives indicating a potential for severe side effects.

See below for more specific information:

Ingredients with no weight loss results but with the potential for side effects:

1. Phenylethylamine HCl no specific research found; studies including its derivatives indicate a potential for severe side effects.

Advantage Spray

Ingredients shown to have no effect on weight loss:

1. abrotanum (Artemisia abrotanum); extracts are essential oils (flavonols and terpenes used in cooking, cosmetics, as nasal spray for allergic rhinitis
2. Anacard no research found
3. Baryta mur no research found
4. Hellebor nig no research found
5. Ignatia 1 study in humans; 9 in animals; used for anxiety related symptoms and oral lesions
6. Magnesia phos- no research found
7. Silicea in a pilot study improved gastrointestinal disorder symptoms
8. Thymus serpyllum wild thyme (herb)
9. Solidago virgaurea golden rod garden flower; anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, diuretic, antispasmodic, analgesic; used for urinary tract infections with no side effects

Ingredients shown to promote weight loss:

1. Calcium carbonate numerous studies in humans showing benefit to weight loss, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome
2. Secale (rye; cereal grain) several studies indicating improved insulin response, metabolic syndrome even in the absence of weight loss, may improve appetite regulation

Ingredients that have the potential for side effects and no benefit to weight loss:

1. Lycopodine pharmacological bioactive component, blocks cellular synthesis; used to treat prostate cancer. Side effects: liver damage (hepatotoxicity and hepatitis)
2. Thyroidinum thyroid extract made from the thyroid glands of animals (pig, sheep or cow); only one randomized study - showed no benefits to weight loss; one study in cats (4 cases) helped only one cat
3. Fucus vesiculosus (marine alga rich in iodine) possesses high anti-oxidant capacity due to polyphenol content and high in fiber; Side Effects: Due to high iodine content drug interactions are a concern; may cause hyperthyroidism topical application of the extract promotes collagen, improved skin elasticity, anti-aging; when used with other agents (furcellaria lumbricalis, retinoic, conjugated linoleaic acid) improves lypolysis and reduces cellulite

Methylcobalamin B-12
vitamin supplement

Edge

Ingredients shown to have no effect on weight loss:

1. Vitamin B6 vitamin supplement
2. Magnesium mineral supplement
3. Chromium mineral supplement
4. Chocamine cocoa extract no research found

Ingredients shown to promote weight loss:

1. Calcium mineral supplement; numerous studies in humans showing benefit to weight loss, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome
2. Caffeine numerous studies when caffeine is combined with other ingredients, e.g. ephedrine, green tea, etc.
3. Green Tea Leaf Extract Numerous studies indicating weight loss and improvements in metabolic syndrome
4. Green Bean Coffee Extract no studies in Green Bean Coffee Extract but numerous studies in green coffee extract show improved weight status and blood pressure

Ingredients with no weight loss results but with the potential for side effects:

1. Phenylethylamine HCl no specific research found; studies including its derivatives indicate a potential for severe side effects.

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