'Himalayan ice hack' weight loss claims are unproven
Social media posts claim a supplement based on a "Himalayan ice hack" can lead to weight loss by modifying the body's metabolism. This is false; nutrition experts say there is no evidence supporting the assertions, and few clinical trials have researched the product's ingredients.
"I sank from 207 to a lean 135... And I'll never forget the look on my doctor's face when I walked into his office for my annual exam," says a May 18, 2023 Facebook post.
Other posts tout "a bizarre 5-second 'Himalayan ice hack' that can turbo-charge your metabolism by 450% or more."
Similar claims have circulated on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and LinkedIn. The posts link to a webpage for a supplement called Alpilean, which promises its "proprietary blend of six alpine ingredients" will trigger weight loss.
"By targeting your inner body temperature you will electrify your sleeping metabolism into full fat-burning, energy-boosting mode," the supplement's website says.
A blog post using a Harvard University logo promotes similar claims about the supplement. But a university spokesperson told AFP the page, which uses a .org domain instead of .edu, is not genuine.
"This is not connected to us and we have our trademark office looking into who created this site to take it down," the spokesperson said in a May 22 email.
Robert Shmerling, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School who appears on the webpage, told AFP he did not evaluate or endorse the product and that his name was used without his knowledge.
Nutrition experts say the claims lack scientific evidence, and a database from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows there have been few clinical trials examining the supplement's ingredients.
William Dietz, head of the Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at The George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health, said he saw no clinical basis for the assertions promoted online.
"To lose as much weight in such a short time as is claimed would require a huge increase in metabolic rate," Dietz told AFP in a May 19 email. "In addition, the bodies shown have been resculpted -- an unlikely consequence of weight loss. What happened to all the excess skin from the weight loss?"
Marion Nestle, a professor emerita of nutrition and public health at New York University, also said the claims are unfounded.
"I can't think of any physiological mechanism that would make this work for anything but a few minutes," Nestle said in a May 22 email. "The body does a really good job of maintaining (a) constant temperature."
The product is based on a controversial but unproven theory that cooling the body will speed up metabolism and lead to weight loss, said Dale Schoeller, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin.
"This is a hypothesis that has been debated for several decades," he said May 23 in an email. "Internal or core body temp and rate of metabolism are correlated, but the direction of the causality is not fully understood."
A database maintained by the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (archived here) shows there has been limited research on the effects of three ingredients in Alpilean: African mango, bitter orange and fucoxanthin. The same database contains no weight loss research on the other three ingredients in the supplement: ginger root, turmeric root and moringa leaf.
AFP has fact-checked other unproven weight loss claims here, here and here.