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Weight Loss Spam Entices Young Adults

Weight Loss Spam Entices Young AdultsA new study finds young adults who believe they may have a weight problem are more likely to receive, read, and respond to spam e-mail for weight loss products.

The products often lack a scientific basis and at times can be very dangerous to health.

“Physicians should consider discussing with patients the potential risks of opening and/or purchasing weight loss products from spam e-mails,” conclude study authors Joshua Fogel, Ph.D., of Brooklyn College and Sam Shlivko, B.S., of New York Law School.

Researchers surveyed 200 New York college students about their experience with spam e-mail related to weight loss topics. About one-third of the students said they had a weight problem; responses were then compared for participants with and without weight problems.

Eighty-eight percent of students with weight problems said they had received weight loss spam over the past year, compared to 73 percent of those without weight problems. Students with weight problems were also more likely to open weight loss spam e-mails: 42 versus 18 percent.

About 19 percent of the students with weight problems said they had bought a weight loss product from spam—as did five percent of those without weight problems.

Students with weight problems had lower self-esteem and higher perceived stress, although only the psychological factor of higher perceived stress directly affected their responses to purchasing weight loss spam.

After adjustment for other factors, students with weight problems were about three times more likely to receive and open weight loss spam and to buy the products pitched.

Health Professionals Should Discuss Risks of Responding to Spam

Spam has become a ubiquitous problem, with health and pharmaceutical topics accounting for up to one-third of all spam e-mails. Weight problems are a major concern of young people.

This study suggests college students who believe they have a weight problem are more likely to receive, open, and respond to e-mail solicitations for weight loss products.

This is of concern because the quality of products pitched by spam email range in quality from “harmless to potentially dangerous nonprescription products,” according to the authors.

They also note that some spam advertises products are meant to be sold by prescription only.

The findings also raise concern that young adults with weight problems are “apparently not seeking or not satisfied with evidence-based treatments available from physicians… or other health care providers.”

Previous studies have found that most patients using nonprescription weight loss products do not discuss these supplements with their doctors. Health care professionals should talk to patients about the potential risks of opening or purchasing products from spam e-mail, Fogel and Shlivko suggest.

“They should emphasize to their patients the importance of working together with a health care professional in coordinating care when considering the use of weight loss products.”

The study is found in the January issue of Southern Medical Journal, the official journal of the Southern Medical Association.

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Weight Loss Spam Entices Young Adults

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Weight Loss Spam Entices Young Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 6 Jan 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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