America's Energy Doctor
People are naturally drawn to the idea of weight loss supplements, especially after repeated exposure to marketing from the industry. Popping a pill and quickly shedding those excess pounds seems great! Definitely better than all the hard work and effort involved in eating well and exercising more.
But no matter what the advertising says, weight loss supplements aren’t magical solutions to being overweight. They don’t miraculously burn belly fat or supercharge your metabolism or anything like that. Most weight loss supplement claims are exaggerated and supported by little or no scientific evidence.
Whether or not you should try a weight loss supplement is a personal decision that should be made in consultation with your doctor. Remember, just because a substance is natural, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. One particular risk is that many supplements can inhibit, enhance, or otherwise interact with other supplements or medications. Also, as was famously seen with ephedra, supplements can have devastating and even deadly side effects.
Weight Loss Supplements Aren’t a Substitute for Eating Well and Exercise
This is the most important point. No weight loss supplement will get you to a healthy weight and keep you there if you aren’t eating right and getting enough physical activity. Some supplements may offer small benefits as part of a larger weight loss plan, but they are not a weight loss plan on their own.
Eating snesible quantities of nutritious whole foods and getting plenty of exercise is how you lose weight and keep it off. And this isn’t about dieting; it’s about adopting permanent healthy lifestyle changes. If you diet temporarily and then return to your old, unhealthier habits, you regain the weight you lost and undo the positive health strides you made.
Healthy food and exercise is essential to being energized, feeling good, and preventing disease. These are the keys to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and to staying healthy in the long run. Certain supplements may help, but they can’t do for you what healthy eating and physical activity can.
Weight Loss Supplements Aren’t Regulated Like Drugs
Over-the-counter and prescription medications are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Manufacturers must have findings from clinical trials to back up the claims they make about their products.
Dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. While manufacturers are still responsible for making truthful claims and ensuring the safety of their products, there’s not the same level of oversight and standards of proof as for medications.
Also, many weight loss supplements market themselves as “clinically proven.” But it’s important to note that many manufacturers rely on just a single trial, and these often involve statistically insignificant sample groups, show very minimal weight loss, or otherwise wouldn’t be considered well-designed studies.
Weight Loss Supplements to Discuss with Your Doctor
If you’d like to try a weight loss supplement as part of your weight loss plan, there are some that may be of benefit. Results vary among individuals, and again, not all natural dietary supplements are safe for all people. Ask your doctor before beginning any regimen.
Here are some weight loss supplements that do have some evidence—though it’s usually not all that strong—showing they may contribute minimally to weight loss. Keep in mind, though, that most also have conflicting data showing that they’re not effective. Research any you want to take, including their side effects.
- Beta Glucan
- Bitter orange (note: there are concerns about possible health risks associated with bitter orange, including increased blood pressure and heart rate)
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- Green coffee extract
- Green tea extract
- Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA)
- White kidney bean
Don’t Believe in Magic!
Just to stress the point—no weight loss supplement is a magic cure for being overweight. Given how popular they are, if they actually worked even half as well as they say they do, obesity and being overweight wouldn’t be at epidemic levels in the country.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Smart eating and exercise are the keys to reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight.