Jillian Michaels Sued for False Advertising

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
February 14, 2010

Christie Christensen of Lake Elsinore, California has filed a class-action lawsuit against Jillian Michaels and two companies that market her products [1]. Michaels is one of the stars of NBC-TV’s reality show, “The Biggest Loser,” which tracks how morbidly obese people lose weight under her guidance. Christensen’s suit states that she purchased “Jillian Michaels Maximum Strength Calorie Control” because Michaels had endorsed it.

Calorie Control is a proprietary blend of herbal powders and extracts plus a few other ingredients. Three of the extracts provide caffeine. It is marketed by Thincare International and Basic Research, LL. The suit document notes that the package Christensen bought bore this statement:

We all know if you want to lose weight, you need to reduce your caloric intake. It sounds simple, but the truth is, if it were easy, most of us wouldn’t be overweight. This is where Jillian Michaels Maximum Strength Calorie Control™ comes in: It’s a unique scientifically developed formulation that helps restrict your caloric intake automatically. In other words, when you take this compound 15 minutes before main meals, you want to eat fewer calories. But the best part is, you don’t FEEL like you’re eating fewer calories. So essentially you’re on a calorie-restricted diet without knowing it. You take 2 capsules before meals. you automatically reduce your caloric intake, and you lose weight . . .


Christensen maintains that although she took the product as directed, her appetite did not decrease, her caloric intake was not automatically restricted, and she did not lose any weight. She is seeking class-action status that includes all people in California who bought the product within the four years before the suit was filed. The suit seeks unspecified damages that are not expected to exceed $5 million. The suit document states:

Defendant Jillian Michaels developed a reputation as a credible fitness instructor by emphasizing that weight loss requires hard work and discipline: indeed, she is fond of saying that long term weight loss requires “blood, sweat, and tears.” Regrettably, however, she has decided to squander her fame by lending her name to a worthless dietary supplement called “Jillian Michaels Maximum Strength Calorie Control.” Contrary to everything that Ms. Michaels has ever instructed, she and the companies peddling this product suggest it makes weight-loss effortless, falsely claiming: “Take Two Capsules Before Main Meals And You Lose Weight. That’s It.”

Ms. Michaels knows better—taking two pills before eating does not miraculously cause weight loss. Plaintiff brings this lawsuit to enjoin these ongoing deceptions [1].

In addition to Calorie Control, Michaels’s supplement line includes Maximum Strength Fat Burner, Triple Process Total Body Detox & Cleanse Plus Probiotic Replenishment, and QuickStart Rapid Weight Loss System, which combines Fat Burner and Calorie Control at an introductory price. The products have been sold at GNC, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid, Target and many chain grocery stores [2].

Basic Research has an extensive history of legal involvements.

  • In 2005, the FDA warned Basic Research to stop making claims for StriVectin-SD, StriVectin-SD Eye Cream, Dermalin-APg, Mamralin-ARa, and TestroGel [3].
  • In 2006, the FTC ordered it to pay $3 million on behalf of six companies and three principals. The Commission’s order settled FTC charges that their deceptive weight-loss claims violated federal law, and it prohibited them from making unsubstantiated health or weight-loss claims and misrepresenting the results of scientific studies. The violations included claims that Relacore reduces “stress-induced” abdominal fat and that Akävar 20/50 lets users “eat all you want and still lose weight.” [4]
  • In 2009, the FTC charged three companies and two individuals with violating the 2006 order by making false advertising claims for Relacore and Akävar [5]
  • Basic Research is also facing a class-action suit related to the false claims made about Akävar [6].

In addition, the company and/or its subsidiaries have been embroiled in about 40 other suits, some as plaintiff and some as defendant.

  1. Class action complaint. Christie Christensen vs. Julian Michaels, Thincare International, and Basic Research, LLC. Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, Central District. Case No. BC431560, filed Feb 9, 2010.
  2. Weight loss marketing with Jillian Michaels & QuickStart Rapid Weight Loss Systems. Press release, August 2009.
  3. Collins BB. Warning letter to Basic Research CEO Dennis Gay. January 20, 2005.
  4. Major weight-loss marketers pay $3 million: FTC charged they could not back up claims for six weight-loss products for adults and kids. FTC news release, May 11, 2006.
  5. FTC charges marketers with making baseless weight-loss claims despite order to stop. FTC news release, Nov 2, 2009.
  6. Class action complaint. Miller et al. vs Basic Research LLC et al. U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. Civil case No. 2:07-cv-00871-TS, filed Nov 9, 2007.

This article was posted on February 14, 2010.