The ice hack diet is going viral. Dieticians are unimpressed.

As great as social media can be for connecting with loved ones and staying informed, it can also have the downside of promoting unfounded products and ideas both quickly and widely. This may be the case with the “ice hack” diet that’s gone viral online. After several prominent influencers began sharing claims about a mysterious supplement that’s purported to help people lose weight without having to exercise or make changes to their diet, doctors and dieticians were understandably skeptical.

Experts say science doesn’t back the ice hack diet up and that the supplement at the heart of the diet is both unregulated and unproven. “As with some other supplements, this is a buyer-beware cautionary tale,” says Kate Zeratsky, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

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What is the ice hack diet?

The ice hack diet is based on the idea that people with a low inner body temperature can better metabolize fat. Those who follow the ice hack diet drink a glass of ice water before bed, purportedly to lower their body temperature, and then take a weight-loss supplement called Alpilean. The supplement consists of six substances, two of which have some known and safe health benefits (though not connected to weight loss), but there’s little data or research on the safety and efficacy of the other four substances.

A 30-day bottled supply of the supplement costs $59, plus $9.95 for shipping and handling. The company offers per-bottle discounts for buying three or more bottles at a time.

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How does the ice hack diet work?

“The diet works off the premise of the role of body temperature and the energy it takes to maintain core body temperature, which is part of our baseline metabolism,” explains Zeratsky. Within the diet’s philosophy, such body temperature regulation is said to occur by eating ice or drinking very cold water and by taking the supplement. Each of the substances in the supplement supposedly targets one’s inner body temperature, the company says. The six substances within the supplement, according to the Alpilean website, are golden algae, dika nut, drumstick tree leaf, bigarade orange, ginger and turmeric.

Despite the company’s claims, supportive research is scant, where it exists at all.

Zeratsky says there is no reliable data on golden algae nor drumstick tree leaf, and that research behind the dika nut is minimal. “The dika nut may have a laxative and blood glucose-lowering effect,” she says, “but people taking diabetes medications or those planning or recovering from surgery are cautioned not to take it as it may cause low blood glucose levels.” She says the bigarade orange substance in the supplement appears to be another name for bitter orange, which has been warned against because it has “become a replacement for the now-banned ephedra in supplements.” The only two substances in Alpilean that Zeratsky says are known to be safe as supplements are ginger and turmeric − though she says the data on turmeric’s purported weight loss benefits “do not appear to be clinically significant,” and her research shows “no mention of effectiveness” of ginger’s purported effects on cooling one’s body temperature.

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Does the ice hack diet really make you lose weight?

While some influencers on social media have claimed to lose weight on the diet, the experts say nothing in the diet is proven to help someone drop pounds and that the diet has some red flags. “The quality, purity, accuracy of dosing and potential contaminants are a concern due to this being an unregulated product,” explains Zeratsky.

Jen Messer, a nutrition consultant and registered dietitian at Jen Messer Nutrition, understands the reasoning behind drinking very cold water or chewing up ice in an attempt to boost one’s metabolism, but says “there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the ice diet is effective for weight loss.” The theory is that “the body burns calories by using energy to warm up and/or melt the ice to reach body temperature while also providing some level of satiety,” she explains, but adds that numerous studies have explored such effects with unconvincing results. “While some studies suggest there is no significant impact (on one’s metabolism from swallowing cold water or ice),” she says, “others indicate that any effect is so minor that it is almost negligible.”

Messer also cautions against chewing ice as it may cause tooth troubles. Instead of subscribing to the ice hack diet, she recommends “maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and focusing on overall lifestyle habits. These are more effective ways to manage and optimize metabolism.”

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