I came across some research on weight loss supplements recently and thought it would make an interesting post for those of you who have either tried weight loss supplements or are thinking about using them. As I mentioned in my post last week How to spot a diet scam, I have had first hand experience with weight loss supplements because I used to work in a health food shop. The owners very generously allowed us to buy our supplements at just above wholesale prices, so I ended up trying quite a few. None of them worked, not a single one. I tried ones that blocked fat absorption, ones that blocked carbohydrate absorption and ones that were supposed to suppress your appetite. Most of the weight loss supplements that I tried 20 years ago no longer exist, but every year a whole new range of magical supplements from the fruit of the rainforests is introduced.
The truth about weight loss supplements
After reviewing the evidence on hundreds of weight loss supplements, Linda Manore, a professor of nutrition and exercise sciences at the Oregan State University, concluded that none of them lived up to the claims that they made. She concluded that none of the supplements contained the “Magic Pill” formula, and the only way for people to lose weight was through the normal channels: changing the diet and moderate exercise.
It annoys me when I see all the weight loss supplements hype in the full page ads in our state newspaper every Sunday and the photos of the svelte bodies that used to be dozens of pounds overweight. What the adverts don’t mention is that the people who were successful were more than likely on a calorie restricted diet. Well doh, of course the supplements are going to “work”.
Four categories of weight loss supplements
Manore discovered that weight loss supplements fall into four categories:
- Stimulants such as caffeine that increase your metabolism
- Products such as chitosan that are supposed to block fat absorption and which is supposed to block carbohydrate absorption
- Products containing conjugated linoleic acid claiming to help you lose fat and change the composition of your body and
- Appetite suppressants such as soluble fibres
There were no properly run clinical trials to test any of these products and if there were any weight loss victories, these were most likely achieved through the low calorie diet. As well as being ineffective, the weight loss supplements also had some very unpleasant side effects such as gas, bloating and some serious cardiovascular effects.
So next time that you are browsing the weight loss supplements in your health food shop or chemist, resist, because you are only going to be parted from your hard earned money and will have nothing to show for it.
As a dietician and researcher, Linda came to the conclusion that you do have to make some lifestyle changes to lose weight. You need to cut out the junk food and drinks, eat healthily, do some moderate exercise and ditch the weight loss supplements.
Melinda M. Manore. Dietary Supplements for Improving Body Composition and Reducing Body Weight: Where is the evidence? International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2012
What weight loss supplements have you used?