Huge study finds most weight loss supplements are probably useless

Brittany A. Roston - May 10, 2021, 2:28pm CDT
Huge study finds most weight loss supplements are probably useless

If you’re aiming to lose weight, spending a small fortune on over-the-counter weight loss supplements and herbs probably won’t help you. That’s based on a new analysis of 121 randomized studies from the past 16 years, which found that there’s currently no evidence to justify the use of these products for weight loss purposes.

The findings come from two new studies that are slated for presentation at The European Congress on Obesity. The work involved a review of placebo-controlled randomized studies totaling nearly 10,000 adult participants, concluding that these herbal over-the-counter products simple are “not effective for weight loss.”

Unlike prescription medications, these over-the-counter products are often sold as supplements supposedly capable of aiding weight loss, but without any sort of evaluation to determine whether they’re effective. These can include supplements featuring things like green tea, tropical fruits, ephedra, Garcinia cambogia, yerba mate, white kidney bean, licorice root, and more.

Though some of the compounds and preparations resulted in statistically (but not clinically) significant weight loss, the overall body of research didn’t find evidence that these supplements are an effective way to lose weight — and, the researchers point out, some of these herbs may have long-term health considerations that haven’t been explored.

Ultimately, the study’s lead author Erica Bessell explained:

Herbal and dietary supplements might seem like a quick-fix solution to weight problems, but people need to be aware of how little we actually know about them. Very few high-quality studies have been done on some supplements with little data on long-term effectiveness. What’s more, many trials are small and poorly designed, and some don’t report on the composition of the supplements being investigated. The tremendous growth in the industry and popularity of these products underscores the urgency for conducting larger more rigorous studies to have reasonable assurance of their safety and effectiveness for weight loss.


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