measuring tape next to assortment of pills

Can weight loss supplements help you lose weight?

Ask Dr. Google, and the search results will try to sell you a magic pill, supplement, or cocktail of products. After all, the weight-supplement industry is worth an estimated $60 billion in the United States alone. (1)

If you’ve just pulled out your credit card looking for a quick fat-loss fix wondering if this diet, pill or product will help you lose weight, here’s the simple answer.

It probably won’t. There’s no magic pill, weight-loss supplement or potion that can make excess pounds melt away.

But it’s a big issue for a lot of people. An estimated 74 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. (2)

The Quick-Fix Fat-Loss Failure

If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose weight, you might think taking a diet pill or supplement is all you need.

A lot of people do. In the U.S., an estimated 34 percent of adults have tried some type of weight loss supplement. Americans spend about $2.1 billion a year on weight-loss supplements in the form of tablets, capsules, softgels, and drinks. (3)

Most are made with ingredients that could improve metabolism or suppress appetite like:

  • Green tea extract
  • Chitosan
  • Guar gum
  • Conjugated linoleic acid
  • Caffeine

However, a recent study found that diet and weight-loss supplements typically fail to help people lose weight. (4)

Researchers looked at 315 weight-loss studies that put different supplements to the test. They found that most did not result in weight loss. And only a few tipped the scale in the right direction by just a few pounds or less.

Type-2 Diabetes Drugs Used for Weight Loss

Even with new weight loss medications originally used to manage type-2 diabetes showing some promise, the risk for negative side effects is high.

One recent study found that people using these weight-loss drugs have an increased risk for: (5)

  • Stomach paralysis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Allergic reactions
  • Increase heart rate
  • Suicidal thoughts

6 Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Weight Loss

Long-term weight loss and maintenance doesn’t come in pill or powder form. It’s a lifelong process. If you want to lose weight, skip the diet supplements, save your money, and adopt these 6 lifestyle habits to lose weight and keep it off:

  1. Eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fish. Avoid or limit sugary drinks, snacks, desserts, and candy high in calories.
  2. Be active. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days.
  3. Drink more water instead of soda, juice, energy drinks, or other sugary beverages.
  4. Practice portion control by counting calories, keeping a food journal, and being mindful of your food choices.
  5. Get your Zzzs. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Why? Lack of sleep alters levels of hormones (ghrelin and leptin) linked to hunger and cravings. And if you stay up late, you’ll have more time for snacking.
  6. Don’t give up. If you miss a workout or overeat, it’s not that big of a deal. Don’t use that as an excuse to overeat or skip workouts. Instead, just get back on track and keep going.

If you need extra help to lose weight:

  • Talk to your doctor
  • Join a weight-loss group for support
  • Ask your wellness coordinator for help, or…
  • Work with a trainer and dietitian

Getting help to develop a diet and exercise plan will help you tip the scale in the right direction and improve your overall health.

References

  1. Cadwallader, A., e tal. (2022). Which features of dietary supplemen industry, product trends, and regulations deserve physicians’ attention? AMA Journal of Ethics, 24(5):E410-418. From: https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/which-features-dietary-supplement-industry-product-trends-and-regulation-deserve-physicians/2022-05
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Obesity and overweight. From: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm
  3. National Institutes of Health. (2023). Dietary supplements for weight loss. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. From: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WeightLoss-HealthProfessional/
  4. Batsis, J., et al. (2021). A systematic review of dietary supplements and alternative therapies for weight loss. Obesity, 29(7): 1102-1113. From: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.23110
  5. Sodhi, M., et al. (2023). Risk of gastrointestinal adverse events associated with glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists for weight loss. JAMA Network. From: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2810542

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