Sensa Weight-loss System

The “On TV Today” section of the Shopping Channel’s home page lists some of the products they were selling today. One of today’s hot items was Sensa, a weight loss system that urges you to “Use your sense of taste and smell to help you lose weight”. I had to look.

The claims are that Sensa, with “patent-pending Tastant Technology”, makes your food smell and taste better so that your brain thinks it’s full. From the information on TSC’s pages:

“By enhancing flavor (sensory input), Sensa Tastants help to enable the brain-stomach connection and trigger the “feel full” signal. Essentially, Sensa works to assist you with your weight loss goals by eliminating the restrictions and drawbacks of dieting. With Sensa, you can eat all the foods that satisfy your senses. Because there are no food restrictions, you don’t have to deal with any intense food cravings or feelings of starvation.”

“When you first start on the Sensa program, the Tastants do all the work. Over time, you will begin to intuitively understand portion control and develop healthier eating habits, without having to give up any of your favorite foods.”

“You won’t feel jittery or anxious, there are no sugar, calories or MSG added, and less than 1mg of sodium.”

Riiight. According to the TSC site, the sprinkles in the shakers contain maltodextrin (a starch sweetener that is in some artificial sweeteners, including Splenda), tricalcium phosphate (an anti-caking agent?), silica (yummy indigestible powder, which presumably serves as filler), natural and artificial flavors (um, it isn’t supposed to have a flavour), FD&C Yellow 5 (why, if the product is white?), and carmine (a red food dye made from insects — not sure how that figures into white sprinkles either). The label also says it “contains Soy and milk ingredients”. Unless they’re hiding ingredients, one presumes that the maltodextrin is the Holy Grail, the ingredient that is supposed to lessen your appetite. Weird, that, especially since maltodextrin apparently frequently includes MSG.

It all sets my Spidey senses tingling. In general, I have problems with appetite suppressant products, not just because I don’t overeat when I’m hungry and not helped by having my appetite suppressed but because appetite suppressants, if they work for you, just become another crutch to lean on. They don’t teach you how to eat properly or how to take care of yourself well, and they don’t help you resolve the mental and emotional reasons for your obesity. Morbid obesity doesn’t happen just because people can’t control their hunger.

I went off in search of reviews. Most seem to be thinly-disguised ads for the product, which is something you can get from just visiting the Try Sensa site itself. But I did find one that was quite sensible:

  • Sensa, a.k.a. The Sprinkle Diet – 5 Reasons it Won’t Work — Review from the Fit Shack from June 19th, 2008. The #1 flaw they describe is exactly what I mentioned above and what I’ve said before, that eating when hungry isn’t what makes people obese. It’s interesting that they mention Splenda as being an unhealthy food additive, since (as I mentioned above) Splenda contains maltodextrin.

I also looked for some first-hand reports. The product is fairly new on the market so perhaps most people who are trying it out are still experimenting. Most first-hand reports I found consisted of people saying they were starting, but without giving later updates.

  • Sensa Weight-loss System — Rachel’s Canadian Beauty blog post from October 3, 2008, in which she describes her painful experiences with the product. According to the Wikipedia article on maltodextrin (linked to previously), “there have been recent reports of coeliac reaction to maltodextrin in the United States”, which might explain Rachel’s stomach problems while she was using the product.
  • Sensa: Get a whiff of this diet — The June 16, 2008, LA Times article is short, more of a sound bite than anything else but the comments from readers are worth reading.

It’s probably too early to tell just what the results of this weight loss product will be. I suspect it will be more of the same old, same old — works for a bit because of the placebo effect (most weight loss plans work in the beginning because people want them to and they also subconsciously start doing other healthy things as well), but then results in what every other product does, which is yoyoing.

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10 thoughts on “Sensa Weight-loss System

  1. Taryn

    Hi there,

    I conduct focus groups for Sensa and moderate our community forums. I have personally met all of the individuals highlighted in the success stories section of trysensa.com. I assure you that meeting these people in person and following their journeys gives you an incredible look into how effective this weight loss program can be.

    Certainly it would be fantastic if everyone could just stop eating when they have had enough food to meet their daily nutritional needs, but after years of overindulgence some people need a little bit of help to get in touch with their feelings of hunger and satiety and thus learn how to exercise portion control. And I’m sure you’d agree that learning how to adjust your portion sizes, and feel comfortable on less food, is really the healthiest way to enjoy lasting weight loss since it doesn’t rely on limiting specific food groups, counting calories, or excessive cardio sessions. For this reason Sensa is positioned as a long term weight loss program. It is not a quick fix, or a fad diet.

    I thought it might prove useful to read some more recent and positive reviews of Sensa.

    http://evaluatingsensa.blogspot.com/2008/12/does-sensa-really-work.html

    http://www.busydadblog.com/entries/in-other-news-vol-5.html

    http://www.amamasrant.com/mamacookssponsoredposts/2008/11/sensa-weight-lo.html

    I also thought you might appreciate some further explanation on the ingredients.

    Sensa utilizes a corn-based maltodextrin. Corn-based maltodextrins are safe for patients with celiac disease since they do not contain proteins from wheat, barley, oats or rye. Maltodextrins are not known to contain MSG.

    Silica is a mineral substance commonly ingested as a dietary supplement. It is added to Sensa formulas to improve powder flow characteristics.

    Tricalcium Phosphate is a anti-caking agent that allows the powders to be easily sprinkled from the shaker.

    The soy and milk ingredients are components of some of the natural flavors and are highlighted on labels to notify those individuals who may be allergic, or follow a vegan lifestyle.

    The unique combination of natural and artificial flavors in Sensa are what influences your satiety center to feel full faster.

    I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion. If used correctly Sensa is a tool that can help real people reach their goals and learn how to consume food with moderation.

    Best,
    Taryn

  2. Una

    I have been using Sensa for a little under a week and while I want to give it a chance, I have to say, I feel more hungry within a short period of time after using it. I am on a weight loss program of my own and being somewhat successful I thought this might help me even more. Yes, I know there is no silver bullet. Anyway, I am not sure if I’m convinced there is going to be any benefit to using this expensive product.

  3. dp3956

    This message is for Una, I am on my first week as well and I have to say, I am hungrier too. I am going to stick to it for 30 days, if I dont lose at least 5 lbs and I am on a “healthy” diet too, back it will go. I thought I was doing something wrong, but I see I am not the only one that feels hungrier, maybe that will go away.

  4. Rob Barclay

    I know this is an old post but could you let me know how you got on with this I have been trying to find some genuine feedback for sensa

  5. Irene

    Just started Sensa a couple days ago – and yes, it seems to make me want to eat more also. I think if we are sprinkling sensa on each individual forkful, which is the way I’m doing it, takes time between bites instead of just shovelling it in and it makes you think. But, I had broken the popcorn/potato chip cravings and SENSA made me want them again. I think it’s the salty flavor which must be a trigger. I went back on Nutri-System and was doing okay as as others mentioned, I was hoping SENSA would help that program but I think I’m eating more. Only the scale will tell. Will shortly join the Mall walking group locally (it’s winter here) so need to get that exercise in. I’ll continue SENSA since they say it takes at least a month, I’ll try since I bought the stuff. Too much SENSA gives the food a sharp bitter taste – or to me it does.

    1. I realize this was really just an attempt at a link drop, but I wanted to approve the comment (sans link) because, well, it’s a pet peeve of mine. Everything “should be easy to achieve” if only you just do “something”. Gosh, no one would be ill if they just took care of themselves, and no one would be poor if they just went out there and worked hard, and no one would be depressed if they just thought happy thoughts. It’s a patronizing over-simplification of complex concepts for which there is no single cause and no single solution.

  6. Nelly

    Well, it’s not good for vegans! If it has carmine then vegans won’t want it. As stated above, carmine is red food dye from insects. Crushed up insects. Also, I would like to know the source of the tricalcium phosphate. Is it from animal bones or any other animal product? Is it from shells? The way Taryn uses the word vegan above makes it seem like vegans would want this product. Well, nope.

    1. It’s weird that they’d highlight the “milk ingredients” in case vegans might be concerned but don’t think about the carmine or other ingredients that might not be suitable for a vegan lifestyle. (Mind you, “vegan” gets thrown around a lot these days by people who don’t really understand what it means, just as “vegetarian” has become so vague a word in usage that it can cover a huge range of animal-based food products.)

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