Most slimmers want to lose weight for two reasons: to look better and to be healthier. The second of these two reasons has given chemists’ shops an excellent reason for stocking slimming products. There can be few pharmacies today which do not contain a shelf or two well stocked with preparations designed to help people lose weight.

In view of the fact that doctors seem to spend a large amount of time encouraging patients to diet it seems right to include here an assessment of some of the products available over the counter without a doctor’s prescription.

Appetite reducers

Those slimming products which are described as appetite reducers and which are available without a prescription frequently consist of nothing more mysterious than roughage. They contain non-digestible, bulky, harmless materials that give the slimmer a feeling of fullness. Bran, for example, is filling but non-fattening and should take the edge off anyone’s appetite. Bran tablets are an integral part of the Simbix 14 Day Bran Plan. Scott’s Diabisc biscuits for slimming also contain bran.

Methylcellulosc is another popular non-fattening filler designed to spoil the slimmer’s appetite. It is available in the following products:

Bisks, Celevac, Methylcellulose Discs, Pastils 808, Slim Disks, Slim Disks for Men, Slim-Maid Tablets, 10 Day Slimmer Treatment, Test Sixty and Trihextin G Weight Reducing Plan. Other products which contain bulk-filling substances such as carrageenan, guar gum, gelatin and agar are Prefil and Simbix.

There is no doubt that these products can help. But they are expensive and you can probably get similar results by sticking to a high-residue diet (that is a diet which includes plenty of roughage). Apples, celery, raw carrots, salads, plenty of vegetables, coarse breakfast cereals and coarse breads are all useful. By adapting your diet the weight change can be made permanent rather than temporary.

Some products which contain ‘bulking’ agents also contain added vitamins and minerals. If the diet is reasonably well balanced extra vitamins are totally unnecessary.

Finally, remember that all these products are likely to have a laxative effect .

Meal replacements

This is the largest group of slimming foods and includes such products as ‘meals in a glass’ which are designed to be ‘nutritious, well balanced and flexible’. Many contain extra added vitamins and minerals.

Products which fall into this category include Carnation Slender, Nntriplan, Simbix Meal-in-a-Glass, Slim Gard and the Unicliffe High Protein Diet. These all need to be used together with a calorie-controlled diet.

Artificial sweeteners

There are a good many substances which taste sweet and have a low calorie value. Some of them are 6000 times as sweet as calorie rich sugar. Unfortunately, some of the sweetest substances happen to be poisonous. There are, however, a number of widely available artificial sweeteners.

Saccharin (300 times as sweet as sugar and discovered 100 years ago) is available as Bisks Sweetener, Hermesetas Solution and Hermesetas Tablets, Mini-Sax, Saccharin tablets BPC, Saxin Solution, Saxin tablets, Sucron Mini-Tumps, Supasac, Sweetex Lianid and Sweetex Pellets. Saccharin does have a rather bitter taste and for those who find this unacceptable there are products such as Sucron which contain a mixture of saccharin and sugar. The calorie saving is not as great but acceptability may be higher. In addition, low-calorie drinks (such as those described as containing one calorie a can) are usually sweetened with saccharin.

The value of artificial sweeteners can be judged from the fact that by cutting 100 g of sugar out of a daily diet 400 calories can be saved. A heavy tea drinker can therefore save 3500 calories a week (equivalent to one pound of fat a week) simply by replacing sugar in tea by a sweetener.

There are regular scares about the safety of sweeteners. Cyclamates, for example, have now been taken off the market. There have been reports that saccharin can cause cancer in rats but to date there is no evidence that it can cause cancer in humans. Saccharin has been used so widely and studied so carefully that it seems unlikely that any new and particularly threatening evidence is likely to appear in the future.

Low-calorie foods

Some slimming foods are in fact nothing of the sort – they are ordinary foods that are packaged for the slimmer. In this category are those slimming meals which contain the number of calories printed on the tin or packet. These foods are handy for the slimmer who hasn’t the time to count her calories herself. The disadvantage with them is that by having her thinking done for her the slimmer is never likely to learn to plan her diet on her own.

Many slimming breads, crispbreads and biscuits can be included in this category. Thinly-sliced loaves or crispbread biscuits do not themselves contain any magical slimming solution – they contain less calories than an ordinary slice of bread and the number of calories is precisely defined. Some of these products contain the almost inevitable extra added vitamins and minerals.

The slimming toffee

The theory behind Ayds (which contain liquid glucose and a variety of vitamins and minerals) is that by raising your blood sugar before a meal you won’t want to eat as much as usual. The part of your brain that tells you that you are hungry will have been tricked. This method may well work as long as your stomach does not have a mind of its own.

Miscellaneous slimming aids

Herbal remedies are often described with a great deal of enthusiasm. For example, the Celaton Slenda Herbal Food Supplement is described as the ‘new natural way to a slender youthful healthy body’. It contains extract of fucus, powdered butterbur, aloes, dried yeast, powdered mate, powdered uva ursi, powdered senna leaf, powdered juniper berries, powdered cascara, powdered gentian, powdered fucus, powdered rhubarb, powdered boldo leaves, magnesium citrate and sodium citrate. Most of these ingredients have a laxative action.

There are several products which include substances which have a diuretic or laxative action. Among these are Obeselles which contain among other things frangula (a purgative), cascara (a purgative) and phenolphthalein (a purgative); Golden Health Slimmers Aid No. 36 which contains, among other things, boldo (a diuretic), dandelion root (a laxative) and broom (a diuretic); and Potter’s Boldo Aid to Slimming Tablets which contain, among other things, boldo (a diuretic), cascara (a purgative) and dandelion root (a laxative).

It is true that a temporary weight loss may ensue but I do not recommend such products. The British Code of Advertising Practice states that diuretics or laxative slimming products are not acceptable because their effectiveness has not yet been substantiated.

Some companies sell creams and soaps which are said to wash fat out of the body. There is no truth at all in these claims. I can see no reason at all to recommend the use of kelp, cider vinegar or lecithin for slimming and I know of no scientific evidence that any of these products work although a lot of people say they do.

Machinery, etc.

There are a great many pieces of equipment on sale designed to help slimmers lose weight.

To begin with there are the exercising gadgets – rowing machines, exercise bars, cycling machines and devices such as Slimmer-X and Body toner. I don’t recommend any of these items for two reasons.

Firstly, it is fairly difficult to lose weight simply by exercising. You need to do a great deal of exercise in order to lose weight and although firmer, stronger muscles may help keep layers of fat under control dieting is still the most important factor. Secondly, you don’t need to buy expensive items of equipment (or even cheap ones) in order to exercise. Walking does not cost anything.

Finally, there are the electrical machines which tone up muscles while you sit watching TV. Sundertone and Fignretriw are in this category. I don’t think anyone claims that these products result in actual weight loss without a diet being followed. They may help by stimulating better muscle control.


Don’t waste your money buying slimming pills, replacement meals, meals in a glass or a biscuit, or special slimming foods. The only really effective and permanent way to lose weight is to eat wisely. Use low-calorie spreads, low-calorie drinks and artificial sweeteners, and eat a high-residue, low-calorie diet that is satisfying without being fattening. Buy a calorie list to give you an idea of which foods to avoid.