A Skeptical Look at the
NutriMost Fat Loss System
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
In April 2017, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced that the marketers of the NutriMost Ultimate Fat Loss System had agreed to settle an FTC complaint that their program had been marketed deceptively . According to the FTC complaint:
- Since the fall of 2012, NutriMost, LLC; NutriMost Doctors, LLC; and their owner Raymond Wisniewski deceptively marketed the NutriMost weight-loss program to consumers.
- Sold at Wisniewski's eight locations in the Pittsburgh area and by franchisees and licensees nationwide, the NutriMost System was marketed as using a new technology that would allow users to safely lose substantial amounts of weight—typically 20 to 40 pounds or more in 40 days.
- On their websites, on Facebook, and in traditional radio and newspaper ads, the defendants claimed the NutriMost System did not involve a restrictive diet, caused permanent weight loss, and helped users burn between 2,000 and 7,000 calories of fat per day. Claiming that the system would "Turn OFF fat storage and Turn ON fat burning," the defendants charged consumers $1,895 for the program.
- The system was promoted, without appropriate support, as "having the technology to access nearly every factor of fat burning, fat storage and metabolism," using a scan to address the "body's top organ stressors, as well as find the best products to balance those . . . stressors." However, the defendants failed to say that to achieve the weight loss advertised, users would have to follow a restrictive diet, including a very low-calorie diet of about 500 calories a day. Only after they bought the system were consumers told of the extreme caloric restrictions.
- The defendants used endorsements and testimonials for the system without disclosing that the endorsers had material connections to the defendants or their franchisees.
- The defendants required buyers to sign a contract agreeing not to make any negative statements or comments about the NutriMost System; and, if they violated this requirement, they would have to pay the defendants $35,999.
- The defendants also allegedly provided program licensees and franchisees with the means to violate the FTC Act by giving them misleading and deceptive marketing materials, as well as the form contract containing the gag clause that prohibited negative reviews .
The court order settling the FTC's charges:
- Bars the defendants from making the deceptive claims alleged in the complaint or providing others, including franchisees, with the means of deceiving consumers
- Prohibits the defendants from making weight-loss and health claims unless they are not misleading and are supported with competent and reliable scientific evidence
- Bars the defendants from misrepresenting that users do not need to follow a restrictive diet
- Requires the defendants to disclose that their program includes a diet of less than 800 calories a day, if it does
- Requires defendants—if make any representation regarding the safety of a program that includes a diet of less than 800 calories a day–to also disclose that physician monitoring is required to minimize the potential for health risks
- Prohibits the defendants from using deceptive endorsements in their marketing materials and including non-disparagement clauses in their contracts
- Bars the defendants from providing others with the means of making deceptive statements regarding weight-loss products or programs
- Requires payment of $2 million to provide refunds to consumers defrauded by buying the system directly from the defendants (not from the clinics operated by others) .
NutriMost has greatly modified its program and business practices, but it may be instructive to look at the what happened before the FTC intervened.
The NutriMost Ultimate Fat Loss System was developed by Ray Wisniewski, D.C., a chiropractor who practices in Murrysville, Pennsylvania and travels around the country to market the system to other chiropractors. In January 2016, the program was available through more than 160 clinics, most of which were operated by chiropractors. For at least two years, the NutriMost Web site claimed that the Ultimate Fat Loss program was "designed to help keep your hormones in the very narrow Ultimate Fat Burning Zone" and that "The typical results are 25 to 45 pounds of fat loss in a mere 40 Days!"  The site also claimed that the program (a) "virtually melts away" fat, (b) targets difficult-to-lose fat areas, and (c) does not require exercise, strenuous dieting, or radical changes in life style . I am very skeptical of such claims.
For several years, the NutriMost System was centered around use of a ZYTO device. ZYTO systems use a hand cradle (pictured to the right) that relays low-voltage signals to and from a computer that runs proprietary software that recommends products. Their manufacturer, the ZYTO Corporation of Orem, Utah, states that the software "sends stimuli to the body using digital signatures that represent actual things" and interprets fluctuations in skin resistance that indicate "the body's degree of preference for the items being assessed."  I do not believe that skin resistance and the other data generated by the ZYTO have any practical health significance .
ZYTO's hand cradle has FDA 510(k) clearance for the purpose of measuring galvanic skin response (the skin's resistance to the passage of electrical current).  However, the computer component of the ZYTO system that "interprets" the measurements is not cleared or approved for diagnosing anything, identifying "toxins," preparing medications, or providing data relevant to weight-reduction. Nor, as far as I can tell, have the claims made for it ever been supported by a scientific study published in a recognized journal . In May 2015, the FDA warned ZYTO Corporation that it was illegal to promote its ZYTO hand cradle for use in diagnosing a disease or condition or predicting biological responses to a wide range of virtual stimuli including drugs and nutritional supplements .
In promoting NutriMost, Wisniewski, who calls himself "the Weight Loss Answerman," claimed that excess weight is caused by the accumulation of "toxins" in body fat and that the ZYTO prepares and imprints "energetic resonant frequencies" into customized formulas that "tell your body's cells "how to more effectively detoxify." The recommendations were embodied in a colorful report given to the patient, which stated:
Utilizing the latest developments in cellular biocommunication technology we are able to "listen" to the body—to determine what supplements and the exact amount of each supplement that the body has a biological preference for which tremendously aids our decision making to attain the best results for long lasting and permanent targeted fat loss.
Here's how it works; Using the most advanced technology with the NRF (NutriMost Resonant Frequency) biocommunication technology, the computer sends a signal to the body in the form of a virtual stimulus, your body responds with very subtle changes in the electrical properties of your skin and the hand cradle measures these changes and sends that information back to the computer; it's like the computer's asking your body a question and your body's answering. . . .
Utilizing NRF Technology and the NutriMost Ultimate Fat Loss scan we now have the technology to assess the factors of fat burning, fat storage and fat metabolism. Including the organs involved, the hormones, neurotransmitters, vitamins, minerals, toxins, heavy metals, parasites, bacteria, viruses, mycoplasma, candida or biotoxins.
Our goal with this scan is to create a personalized and customized plan that will address your body's top organ stressors as well as finding the best products to balance those biological stressors. All weight gain involves imbalances within the body's organs and hormones. To have lasting and permanent weight loss we must correct these organ and hormonal imbalances. The NutriMost Ultimate Fat Loss Scan has been programmed to help give your body the nutritional tools that it needs to overcome these specific imbalances and to promote bringing the body into a very narrow hormonal range for optimum fat burning.
. . . . We expect to not only bring your body into the optimum fat burning zone but also balance and correct both the organ and hormonal stressors allowing us to go beyond weight loss and help you to actively create a lifetime of health .
These concepts are nonsensical. Obesity is not caused by toxins or infectious agents. Cells do not have "resonant frequencies." And ZYTO cannot "imprint" frequencies into products or "assess" anything related to obesity or body health. After the FDA warning letter was issued, I noticed that many of th eNujriMost clinic Web sites stopped mentioning the ZYTO by name but instead said that the program relied on "Comprehensive Electro-Impedance Resonant Frequency Technology" or "CERF Technology."
The Better Business Bureau of Pittsburgh gave NutriMost LLC an "F" rating based on "advertising issues" and the company's failure to respond to seven complaints. In January 2013, the BBB asked Wisniewski to substantiate a long list of claims on his Weight Loss Answer Man Web site, including the "25-45 pounds in 45 days" claim mentioned above. The BBB report notes that he did not reply . In July 2017, the main BBB site listed ablout 80 other NutriMost businesses under separate names. Of these, 14 had "F" ratings and several reports noted that the advertising claims violated of the BBB Code of Advertising, After the FTC settlement, Wiesniewski informed the BBB that he had revised his program and the BBB reviused its rating to A.
Wiesniewski has taught practice-building systems for many years. In 1992, in a chiropractic newspaper ad, he and a colleague stated that they each had been serving more than 1,200 patients per week and that chiropractors who attended their seminars would learn "how to get and process over 50 new patients in one day with just one doctor" and "how to make in the 7-digit range with 15% overhead."  From 2011 through 2014, he advertised an "Automatic Robotic New Patient Income Generating Machine" that was promised to "bring in New Patients and sell products over the Internet all on autopilot." The system, which cost $3,800, contained videos, power point presentations. a patient communication system, a media distribution system, an "explosive" practice-building course, a service that answerd patients' questions, the chiropractor's own store and Web site, and turnkey programs for diabetes, lupus, scleroderma, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, candida, biotoxins, lymes disease [sic], auto-immune conditions and weight loss 14].
Before the FTC settlement, more than 60 people contacted me about their experience with a NutriMost practitioner. They reported that the program cost about $2,000 and included:
The sales process typically began with a radio ad, a newspaper ad (see example to the right), or a lecture that invited people to undergo a free or low-priced evaluation. Although many of the ads referred to the "technology" of the ZYTO scan, the device was not mentioned and the initial consultation was centered around being weighed on a scale said to determine the person's percentage of body fat and "metabolic age." In reports I have seen, the "metabolic age" number was much higher than the person's actual age. Several people tole me that they very frightened when told that their metabolism was "like that of a 90-year-old." The ZYTO scan did not take place until after the full (nonrefundable) program is purchased. Most people who contacted me reported that during the sales process, they were not told that the calorie content of the diet was extremely low.
Practitioners typically offered a "discount" to patients who paid the full amount in advance and signed a contract which said that no refunds would be given. Some contracts I have seen included provisions intended to protect the clinic owners from complaints. They said (paraphrased):
I doubt that most people who signed such contracts understood what they were signing.
The NutriMost manual claimed that men typically lose between 35 to 45 or more pounds in 40 days, while women tend to lose 27 to 32, that the system "ALWAYS works," and that loss of 20 pounds is guaranteed. However, the "guarantee" was not a refund. The only thing available to those who fail was another 40-day cycle of the program—provided that they had kept all of their appointments, kept a diary, "followed the system and did not cheat and could show that." The NutriMost contract stated that those who stopped the program in less than 40 days because they felt ill or because it didn't work for them would not be eligible for a refund. However, several people have told me that their money was refunded after they threatened to complain to the chiropractor's licensing board, their state attorney general, and/or the Better Business Bureau and, if necessary, to file a lawsuit. To get a refund, some clinics required patients to sign a "release of claims and non-disparagement agreement" that prohibited them from discussing their experience unless compelled to do so by a subpoena, regulation, or court order. The agreements I have seen include a 2015 copyright notice from NutriMost Doctor's LLC. In 2016, many NutriMost sites reworded the guarantee this way:
Although results may vary, those who follow the program typically have a very high success rate. NutriMost guarantees at least 20 pounds of weight loss by the end of your entire program. If you do not lose at least 20 pounds, you will have your program extended until the total weight loss reaches 20 pounds, with all associated costs paid by your NutriMost office. If within 90 days, you have not reached at least 20 pounds of weight loss while on the program, your NutriMost office will refund any amount from the cost of the program which you as the client deem to be fair up to the entire cost of the program.
It isn't clear whether people who were unable to follow the program (for health reasons, for example) would be eligible for a refund.
If no immediate refund is offered to people who believe they were misled, it may still be practical to file suit under your state's unfair and deceptive acts and practices law , many of which enable plaintiffs to collect triple damages (or a substantial penalty) plus attorney fees.
The "Top 7 Vertebral Stressors" portion of the ZYTO scan reports that I have seen contained this paragraph:
Vertebral bio-markers that are showing stress in your body and quite likely sedating nerves. Our goal is to obtain optimal health, optimal fat loss and to reduce the stress of your body so that your innate healing ability can function at its best while reaching peak performance and fat loss. These vertebral stressors are most often associated with sedated nerves. Although the nutrients and formulas recommended will greatly support healing and correcting these vertebral biostressors, the problem is that no amount of nutrition can overcome a sedated nerve. These sedated nerves (subluxation) would need to be verified with a Parathermal Scan and advanced bio-structural corrective xrays and then a specific corrective Chiropractic regimen be undergone to correct any sedated nerves to restore optimal health and innate healing.
This type of message could be used to induce patients to have their spine examined and undergo a lengthy course of unnecessary spinal manipulation. However, none of the people who described their experience to me were invited to do this.
In 2016, I noticed that more than 60 NutriMost Web sites had content that is identical except for the details about the individual clinic. Most have also had "before and after" pictures the same six individuals who were said to have lost from 27 to 47 pounds on the program. I assume from this that the licensing arrangements included a pre-designed site that can be individually customized and that the six people were not clients of the clinics that displayed their testimonials. Searching with Google I found that at least 40 of these clinics contained this statement:
Although Dr. Ray has been traditionally trained a s a Doctor of Chiropractic, he presents and offers NutriMost services as member only services under his Pastoral Medicine License # L29076049. Dr. Ray is a Christian who believes that God created this body with an amazing healing power and that there is nothing outside the body, that is as powerful as the power that God put inside the body. Pastoral Medicine is the Professional Blend of Scriptural Health Wisdom and Understanding along with Leading Edge Science. The NutriMost services are pastoral health services and should not be confused with state regulated services.
I do not believe that "licenses" issued by the Pastoral Medical Association (PMA) confer any legal right to practice a health profession . I also believe that any service offered by licensed health professionals should be subject to regulation by their licensing boards, but only a few boards have addressed this issue. Some have ruled that PMA "licensing" does not convey the right to practice a licensed profession, but others have decided that if PMA-related activities are carried out as a separate business, they will not intervene. Some boards are considering complaints but have not yet ruled. Regardless of what the boards decide, I believe that state attorneys general have jurisdiction under state consumer protection laws.
Curiously, at least 15 of the chiropractors who have operated NutriMost clinics have been subjected to regulatory action at some point in their career and least four are no longer licensed as chiropractors .
In December 2016, the NutriMost Web site stated that more than 125,000 clients had used the program during the previous three years. I also noticed that the site and nearly all of the franchisee sites no longer mentioned the ZYTO or its technology. Since that time, NutriMost has removed ZYTO testing from its program, stopped using "no-refund" contracts, toned down its weight-loss claims, and raised the caloric level of its recommended diet. Around the time of the FTC settlement, a nutrimost official told me that Wiesniewski had become skeptical of ZYTO's claims and had asked the clinic operators to stop using them, and that he has stopped referring to his PMA "license."
Three companies in New York and New Jersey have used NutriMost's name and/or sales materials:
- A chain of clinics in the New York City metropolitan area is making claims that are nearly identical to those of NutriMost. The proprietors appear to use a ZYTO device in the same way but also tests hair ans saliva samples as part of its evaluation. Its Web site calls the system "Nuvo Fat Loss." The proprietor is Arthur Tourovets, D.C.
- In 2014, Howard Werfel, D.C., a New Jersey chiropractor who had licensed the NutriMost system for his office, began offering a similar program through outlets in several states under the name "40 Day Reset." NutriMost LLC responded with a lawsuit accusing Werfel of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and several other wrongs. ZYTO Technologies was also named as a defendant . An attachment to the complaint indicates that NutriMost's licensing fee was an initial $24,999 (with a 10% discount for full advance payment) plus a monthly licensing fee of $599 .
- In December 2015, NutriMost LLC sued Healthy Living Nutrition, Inc., for using NutriMost's basic video and some of its promotional words on the Web site cantlosediet.com .
Since 2014, Ray Omid, D.C. of Jericho, New York, had been is offering the "LightenUp Ultimate Fat Loss System" with claims and methods that sound nearly identical to those that NutriMost used in 2015.
Other Legal Actions
In 2015, Nutri/Systems, IPHC Inc., filed an opposition to trademark registration of the word NutriMost, asserting that uise of the word "nutri" in association with goods or services closely related to those of Nutri/System could cause confision resulting in damage to Nutri/System. The opposition was withdrawn when NutriMost modified the description of the services associated with its proposed mark .
In 2016, NutriMost sued three Idaho chiropractors and their associated clinics for breach of contract after they stopped paying fees called for in their franchise agrements .
NutriMost itself was by Patrick St. Germain, D.C., who purchased what he believed to be the exclusive right to market in portions of Florida. The suit charges that Wisniewski and NutriMost Doctors LLC improperly enabled another chiropractor to open clinics in the same region . The purchase agreement included licensing fees of $50,000 up front for the first four clinics, $15,997 for each of four more offices when opened, and $5,000 per month plus 3% of the monthly sales related to weight loss at all but one of St. Germain's facilities . For at least two years, he has done business as Burn Fat Orlando with no mention of either NutriMost or Zyto on his clinic Web site.
The Bottom Line
Diets that are very low in calories are not much different from total starvation and are dangerous. The FTC has determined that the claim that a product "safely enables consumers to lose more than 3 pounds a week for more than 4 weeks" cannot be true because that rate of loss can result in gallstones and other health complications . Limiting calories to 500 to 800 per day can cause people to lose about 3 pounds of fat per week if they can actuallydo it, but NutriMost claimed that more than twice this rate was possible.
It is clear that the ZYTO device, the weight-loss formulas, the dietary strategies, and the NutriMost Ultimate Fat Loss System as a whole could not work as advertised before the FTC stepped in. In 2017, NutriMost redesigned its approach along more standard lines, raised the caloric content of its diet program, abandoned use of the ZYTO device, advised clinic operators to stop using abusive contracts, and promised the FTC that any future weight loss and health claims would be supported with competent and reliable scientific evidence. A NutriMost official told me that the company plans to conduct an appropriate study of its revised program, but I do not know the details of this program or the proposed study. Whether NutriMost can demonstrate that its program is effective and worth its high cost remains to be seen.
If you have used the NutriMost program and would like to share your experience with me, please e-mail me a brief summary of what happened, and your phone number.
- Marketers of 'NutriMost Ultimate Fat Loss System' settle FTC charges. FTC news release, April 21, 2017.
- Complaint for permanent injunction and other equitable relief. FTC v NutriMost LLC et al. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Case No. 2:17-cv-00509-NBF, filed April 20, 2017.
- Stipulated final judgment and order for permanent injunction and other equitable relief. FTC v NutriMost LLC et al. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Case No. 2:17-cv-00509-NBF, filed April 20, 2017.
- ZYTO scan. NutriMost Web site, accessed April 8, 2015.
- NutriMost Ultimate Fat Loss System video, NutriMost Web site, accessed April 8, 2015. (This video was removed from most NutriMost sites early in 2016.)
- 16 commonly asked questions about ZYTO technology. ZYTO Corp. Web site, accessed May 24, 2009.
- Barrett S. ZYTO scanning: Another test to avoid. Device Watch, March 29, 2015.
- ZYTO hand cradle. FDA 510(k) Summary. K11308, Aug 30, 2011.
- On September 30, 2016, a PubMed search for articles with ZYTO in the title found no articles.
- Mitchell LM. Warning letter to Vaughn R. Cook, May 8, 2015.
- ZYTO scan reports provided to me by several patients.
- BBB Business Review: NutriMost LLC. BBB Web site, accessed March 29, 2015
- Wisniewski R, Insinna T. Ad in Dynamic Chiropractic 10(17):15, 1992.
- Wisniewski R. "This is the Automatic, Robotic New Patient & Income Generating Machine!" EZ Practice Growth Web site, archived Jan 14, 2014.
- Carter CL. A 50-State Report on Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices Statutes. National Center for Consumer Law, Feb 2009.
- Barrett S. Some notes on the Pastoral Medical Association and other "private membership associations." Credential Watch, May 18, 2016.
- Barrett S. Licensing board actions against chiropractors who operate NutriMost clinics. Chirobase, July 4, 2017..
- Complaint. NutriMost LLC vs Dr. Howard Werfel, t/d/b/a 40 Day Reset, and others. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Case No. 2:15-cv-00531, filed April 24, 2015.
- NutriMost EZ practice agreement between Werfel and NutriMost, May 2015.
- Complaint. NutriMost LLC against Healthy Living Nutrition and Pat Hall. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Case No. 15-cv-10035, filed Dec 24, 2015.
- Notice of opposition. NUTRI/SYSTEM IPHC, Inc. v. NutriMost LLC. In the United States Patent and Trademark Office before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Filed May 18, 2015.
- Amended complaint. Nutrimost Doctors, LLC v. Zane Sterling, D.C. and others. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Civil Action No.: 2:16-cv-00479-MRH, filed October 28, 2016.
- Complaint. St. Germain v. Wisniewski, NutriMost LLC, and NutriMost Doctors, LLC. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, filed Sept 30, 2015.
- NutriMost/ EZ Practice growth, practice management agreement between Patrick St. Germain and NutriMost LLC, Oct 26, 2013.
- Gut check: A reference guide for media on spotting false weight loss claims. FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, Jan 14, 2014.
This article was revised on July 4, 2017.