The Smart for Life program is not without its detractors. Almost every online review of the diet raises at least a few red flags, primarily based on the lack of scientific efficacy of the plan, the suspicion that it's more marketing hype than a legitimate diet program and the use of hCG injections.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) is a growth hormone that increases in women during pregnancy. The Smart for Life Medical Weight Loss program recommends dieters receive a "Smart Injection" of hCG to jump-start their weight loss, while providing a significant boost in energy (required, in part, due to the program's low 800-calorie intake).
However, hCG treatments remain a very controversial diet practice, primarily because the long-term health effects are unknown [source: Nichols]. Plus, hCG injections haven't been approved by the medical community. A December 2009 paper published by the American Society of Bariatric Physicians concluded they did not recommend hCG as a weight loss aid [source: Zelman].
While the program also provides medical consultations, this can be a double-edge sword, as it can give participants a false sense of security. The program claims that 25 percent of the population has a metabolic or hormonal condition that prevents them from losing weight, but offers little scientific proof to support those claims.
For some, the dependence on the cookies can get monotonous, and make it harder to stick with the diet. Recognizing this shortcoming, Smart for Life now offers not only a variety of products, but also several different cookie flavors -- including blueberry, oatmeal raisin and chocolate.
Other critics feel that the Smart for Life plan, and other cookie diets, could do a better job of encouraging participants to transition from the program to a normal diet that isn't dependent on proprietary foods.
Another criticism of the Smart for Life program is that there is little emphasis on exercise. While the plan provides participants with access to health representatives to develop exercise plans that allow them to maintain their ideal weight, the low daily caloric intake is hardly conducive to an active lifestyle. Many reviewers complain of an initial lack of energy, which some attribute to the lack of exercise.