A new study published in the journal Obesity has found that dietary supplements do not cause dramatic weight loss as they claim. In fact, it is rare for people taking these supplements to lose a significant amount of weight, research showed. Some of the most popular supplements claim to improve nutrition, increase energy, build muscle or burn fat. They are not intended to treat or cure diseases.
This is a popular supplement that contains chemicals found in a fatty acid called linoleic acid. It is claimed that it can help reduce body fat and help you stay full. The various B vitamins (and there are many of them) are said to help increase your metabolism and therefore could help you lose weight. In fact, some weight loss clinics apparently offer injections of vitamin B-12 to help you lose weight, speeding up your energy and metabolism, but according to the Mayo Clinic, unless you have a real B-12 deficiency, you're unlikely to get an energy infusion from these injections.
Weight loss supplements contain many ingredients such as herbs, fiber and minerals in different amounts and in many combinations. And when studies are done, they usually only involve a small number of people taking the supplement for only a few weeks or months. Studies have been conducted on a particular type of natural fiber complex, called litramine, which has been shown in supplements to potentially help overweight or obese people lose weight. But in many cases, adolescents or adults who do not have a medical need to lose weight abuse these products.
If you are thinking about taking a dietary supplement for weight loss, talk to your health care provider. Many dietary supplements are harmless, and some may even be effective in creating a feeling of fullness, burning fat, or boosting metabolism. Up to 50% of people who meet the criteria for an eating disorder use over-the-counter diet pills, herbal supplements, or prescription weight-loss medications, according to Eating Behaviors. When my patients ask me about weight loss supplements, I explain that there is no good substitute for portion control and exercise.
But making these lifestyle changes isn't easy, so you might be wondering if taking a dietary supplement that is promoted for weight loss might help. Because the FDA does not evaluate the safety of all weight loss products, there is no guarantee that every ingredient in every supplement is safe. However, supplements have negligible effects on the number of calories you burn or on the way you metabolize fat, and most don't have enough reliable scientific evidence to support them. Until data from such trials become more available, claims about dietary supplements and weight loss should be treated with caution.
The FDA has issued a warning to consumers not to buy supplements on its list of contaminated products; however, this agency cannot test every new product on the market. Dietary supplements have side effects and may interfere with the absorption of over-the-counter or prescription medicines. Dietary supplements are available in almost any form you can take orally, from pills and capsules to powders, liquids, and teas. This fact sheet describes what is known about the safety and effectiveness of many ingredients commonly used in dietary supplements for weight loss.