Published on September 8th, 2011 | by Jeannie Moulton2
What is Sensa?
Sensa “is a patent-pending clinically tested blend of crystals that you sprinkle on everything you eat.”
Sensa supposedly works with your sense of smell to stimulate the “satiety center” of your brain, telling you to stop eating; thus, you’ll take in fewer calories.
Well, here’s my analysis of Sensa…
What are these crystals? I like crystals; crystals are magic.
Sensa “contains Maltodextrin (Derived from Corn from the USA), Tricalcium Phosphate, Silica, Natural and Artificial Flavors.”
Nom. What? Where are the crystals?
Oh here they are. Maltodextrin is basically sugar, which I think does not help much in weight loss.
Tricalcium Phosphate is used as an anti-caking agent in powdered spices, and sometimes it is used as a calcium supplement. No weight loss magic here.
Silica. A-ha! This must be the magic ingredient. No wait, it is used in powdered foods, much like tricalcium phosphate to make them sprinkle nicely.
Natural and artificial flavors. Hmmm. Now let’s remember that ingredients are listed in the order of decreasing content, so a small percentage of Sensa is actually anything that could potentially contain any weight loss magic, since the other ingredients contain NO magic whatsoever. Let’s see…
“The exact combinations of the Sensa blends are proprietary and patent-pending. However, no flavors are derived from meat sources and there is no mushroom, nutmeg, cinnamon, fish or garlic. Some flavors may contain milk and soy derived ingredients.”
You can read here to see what the FDA allows to get called ‘natural and artifical flavors’. It’s so unexciting that I don’t want to even reproduce it here. Basically, I don’t see a magic weight loss ingredient.
I call BS.
But Jeannie, what about the science behind Sensa?
Does Sensa work? “In one of the largest clinical studies ever conducted on a non-prescription weight-loss product, 1,436 men and women lost an average of 30.5 pounds in 6 months without changing their existing diet or exercise program.”
Maybe the natural and artificial flavorings really do stimulate your satiety center, kind of like how foods with umami make you feel full and happy…or it could be bad science.
Dr. Alan Hirsch (the researcher for Sensa) seems to exist in real life, it’s just that I can’t find any of his papers relating to this research appearing in peer reviewed journals. Skeptical.
From the Sensa website, I found two papers that were cited in a poster supporting their research claims. Neither of these papers were about Sensa, just the effect of smell on weight loss circa 1995.
smellandtaste.org states there has been “published” research on this topic, but none of it appears to be peer reviewed (at least I can’t find it). PubMed and ISI Web of Knowledge show no trace of the one supposedly peer reviewed paper of his studying the effect of smells on weight loss I could even find a name for (Weight Reduction through the Inhalation of Odorants). If it’s not in those places, I don’t consider it proper research. Sorry. The other cited paper on the Sensa website does not even claim to have been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Wait! There is a sketchy scanned copy of the elusive paper here, coming from a non-journal website. Upon reading it, the study is suspect. Firstly, THERE IS NO CONTROL GROUP. Secondly, the conclusions drawn about how smells can help people lose weight are restricted to a very small group of people that participated in the study. The rest appear to not have lost weight.
Sigh. I hope that the numbers weren’t skewed or fudged, and I hope that this unpublished research claiming Sensa is so great at least used a control group (in this case meaning that some people participated in the study, but were given a placebo).
The ingredients in Sensa won’t harm you or your loved ones…but they probably won’t magically help anyone lose weight either. And the science…it’s probably bunk.
Quotes taken from the Sensa website
Facts about food borrowed from Wikipedia
Definition of natural and artificial flavor taken from the FDA