Fitness and weight loss awareness have increased exponentially in recent years. Almost two-thirds of adults are trying to lose weight. When adopting lifestyle modifications, such as having a healthy diet and regular exercise, failed to yield desired results, individuals have turned to dietary supplements or pills for weight loss. The use of weight loss supplements has been a debate for several years now. There is no clear evidence to support whether dietary supplements play a role in losing weight.
Some claim that dietary supplements increase the body’s metabolism, decrease appetite, decrease fat absorption and increase fat burning. However, supplements have negligible effects on the number of calories you burn or the way you metabolize fat, and most do not have enough trustworthy scientific proof to back them up.
The makers of dietary supplements rarely conduct human studies to determine whether their product works and is safe. And, when studies are conducted, they typically involve only a limited number of people taking supplements for a few weeks or months at a time. Larger groups of people must be examined for extended periods to determine whether a weight loss product can safely help people.
What are the different types of dietary supplements?
Many substances, such as herbs, fiber, and minerals, are found in weight-loss supplements in various amounts and combinations. Some products, which come in capsules, tablets, liquids, and powders, include dozens of components.
There is a long list of dietary supplements that include:
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- It may reduce fat deposits in the body because it increases the breakdown of fat and causes cell death, inhibiting the storage of fat with tissues.
- CLA is a natural product found in beef and dairy products.
- There is limited evidence that supports its usage.
- CLA is usually well-tolerated, but it may cause nausea, diarrhea, loose stools, and gas, which are symptoms of an upset stomach.
- Green tea extract
- Caffeine in this product can help you burn more calories at rest, but there isn't enough credible scientific data to back up its weight-loss claims.
- The evidence supporting the effectiveness of green tea extract for weight loss is mixed.
- When consumed as a beverage, green tea is well tolerated.
- However, there is a large list of potential negative effects involving the cardiovascular, endocrine, neurological, and gastrointestinal systems like with any supplement.
- Protein supplement
- Protein taken as powder or bars do not cause any direct weight loss, but it can increase satiety, which is beneficial when trying to lose weight.
- Eating smaller and more frequent meals with protein sources satisfies hunger.
- Studies showed that weight loss is attained when protein supplementation is paired with a low caloric diet, but not by taking only protein without diet modification.
- Increased flatulence, bloating of the abdomen or loose stools are the common side effects of protein supplements.
- It was believed that chitosan prevents the absorption of fat in the intestines.
- Recent studies showed that weight loss with chitosan was seen only when it was paired with a low caloric diet and showed no significant weight loss when taken alone.
- Chitosan is well tolerated orally at safe doses, increased abdominal discomfort, bloating and diarrhea are its potential side effects.
- Glucomannan is a dietary fiber made from the roots of the konjac plant.
- This contains a high amount of soluble fiber and promotes satiety.
- Cholesterol in the diet combines with fiber and is excreted out.
- Though glucomannan is tolerated well orally, it may cause gastrointestinal (GI) complications, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, esophageal, and GI block.
- Garcinia cambogia extract
- Garcinia cambogia extract inhibits the enzyme essential for fat formation (lipogenesis).
- Animal research showed that it may increase serotonin levels in the brain, which suppresses hunger.
- It causes gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, diarrhea, and headache.
- Bitter orange (synephrine)
- Synephrine is a popular weight loss pill and is related to ephedrine.
- It reduces appetite and increases fat burning.
- Though synephrine and ephedrine showed significant short-term weight loss, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration removed them from the market because of their serious side effects.
- Ephedrine and synephrine have serious side effects related to the heart, and they are addictive.
How are dietary supplements governed?
Dietary supplements do not need to be reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Furthermore, producers are not required to show the FDA that their products are safe or effective before selling them. When the FDA discovers a hazardous dietary supplement, it has the option of removing it from the market or requesting that the supplement maker recall it.
Dietary supplements have side effects and may interfere with over-the-counter or prescription medicine absorption. It is, therefore, essential to consult a medical professional before starting these supplements.
National Academy of Sciences. Do Not Fall for Weight Loss "Tricks." https://www.nationalacademies.org/based-on-science/most-vitamins-and-supplements-do-not-help-with-weight-loss
Boucher JL, Shafer KJ, Chaffin JA. Weight Loss, Diets, and Supplements: Does Anything Work? Diabetes Spectrum Aug 2001, 14 (3) 169-175. https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/14/3/169
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chromiumChromium (trivalent chromium, chromium 3) is an essential trace metal required by the body and may be taken as a dietary supplement by people with chromium deficiency. Common side effects of chromium include headache, irritability, sleep disturbances, insomnia, mood changes, movement (motor) dysfunction, perceptual dysfunction, cognitive dysfunction, destruction of red cells (hemolysis), low red cell count (anemia), and low platelet count (thrombocytopenia). Consult with your doctor if you are anemic, pregnant, or breastfeeding.
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pantothenic acidPantothenic acid is vitamin B5, an essential nutrient, which is taken as a supplement to compensate for deficiency. Common side effects of pantothenic acid include headache, weakness/lack of energy (asthenia), muscle pain (myalgia), joint pain (arthralgia), dizziness, flulike illness, sore throat, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), onset of diabetes mellitus, and others. Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
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