Sensa® crystals, called tastants, supposedly promote satiety and lead to weight loss. Sensa sprinkles are made of maltodextrin, tricalcium phosphate (tribasic), carmine, soy, milk, silica, and natural and artificial flavors. They enhance the aroma of food. The crystals come in the following flavors:
- Cheddar cheese
- Ranch dressing
- Banana strawberry
Sensa was developed by Dr Alan Hirsch, a licensed neurologist and psychiatrist, who had spent much of his career studying smell and taste. He is the founder and neurologic director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. He is a faculty member in the Dept of Medicine at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, and assistant professor in the Dept of Neurology and Dept of Psychiatry at Rush Presbyterian St Luke’s Medical Center.
How Sensa works
The manufacturers refer to Sensa as causing “sensory-specific satiety.” One article broke the process down as follows:
- The aromas from the combination of crystals and food go to your nose and tongue, triggering nerve receptors.
- These nerve receptors send signals to the center of the brain to stimulate olfactory response.
- The brain signals the “fullness” nerves of the brain.
- These signals are then sent to the pituitary gland.
- The pituitary gland releases hormones that tell a person to stop eating.
Nutritional content of Sensa crystals
Sensa crystals are calorie free, sugar free, sodium free, and gluten free. They do not contain monosodium glutamate (MSG). Some do contain soy and milk. The makers of Sensa will not specify what the natural and artificial flavorings in the crystals are. They simply state that, “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.”
Sensa crystals and weight loss
No validated studies are completed to prove that Sensa crystals work for weight loss, and peer-reviewed journals have not published any research.
The makers of Sensa gave 1436 participants, who weighed an average of 208 pounds (lb) and with a body mass index (BMI) of 34, Sensa for 6 months. The company claimed that the average participant lost 30 lb in these 6 months. According to the Sensa Web site, an independent research company found that 83 participants lost an average of 27.5 lb while using Sensa, compared to a 0.5-lb gain in the control group after 6 weeks.
Calcium phosphate can cause nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, constipation, dry mouth, increased thirst, and increased urination. Anyone with a history of kidney stones or a parathyroid gland disorder should not use Sensa. All of the ingredients used in Sensa are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The Sensa system
The Sensa system lasts for 6 months. Each month, you receive a different blend of Sensa crystals. You are supposed to use Sensa crystals on everything that you eat, including hard candy, according to the product Web site. You should resprinkle leftovers and add the crystals to already cooked food. Sensa crystals are for use only on solid foods and not on items such as soup or smoothies.
According to the product Web site, Sensa does not change the taste of food, although some people have noticed a “subtle enhancement of flavor.” Interestingly, the makers of Sensa warn that you should discard any remaining product left at the end of the month because, “your body can become accustomed to the tastants and will not be as effective if you use them longer than 30 days.” On day 31, apparently, the magic stops working.
The negatives of using Sensa crystals for weight loss
As previously mentioned, no solid research exists to prove any relationship between Sensa and weight loss.
Recommendations for diet or fitness are not provided while using Sensa. People who have bought Sensa can join a member community and receive advice, weight-loss tools, logs and journals, workout routines, recipes, and healthy living and wellness tips. However, Sensa advertising revolves around the fact that you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight—no “stimulants, fat blockers, diuretics, pills, drugs, food restrictions, calorie counting, weigh-ins or meetings, skipping meals or fasting, prepackaged meals, drastic lifestyle changes, intense cravings, jittery side effects, dangerous yo-yo effects, or mood swings” involved.
According to experts, the ingredients in Sensa are not unique.
The monthly cost is $59. A 6-month kit is $235. Nutritional supplements are available for $50.
References and recommended readings
CBS Broadcasting Inc. Doctor: ‘sprinkle diet’ helps with weight-loss. Available at: http://cbs13.com/health/sprinkle.diet.sensa.2.750146.html. Accessed July 7, 2010.
Drugs.com. Calcium phosphate, tribasic. Available at: http://www.drugs.com/mtm/calcium-phosphate-tribasic.html. Accessed July 7, 2010.
Endreszi L. A sprinkle a day takes the pounds away? Available at: http://www.healthnews.com/nutrition-diet/weight-loss/a-sprinkle-a-day-takes-pounds-away-3654.html. Accessed July 7, 2010.
Sensa® Weight Loss System. Sprinkle me skinny Sensa®! Available at: http://www.trysensa.com/. Accessed July 7, 2010.
ThinReport.com. Sensa. Available at: http://www.thinreport.com/sensa.html. Accessed July 7, 2010.
WebMD. The sprinkle diet: feeling full faster. Available at: http://www.trysensa.com/sensa-webmd-article.htm. Accessed July 7, 2010.
Zelman KM. The truth about Sensa: can ‘The Sprinkle Diet’ really help you lose weight? Available at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/truth-about-sensa. Accessed July 7, 2010.
Review Date 8/10