Monday, May 15, 2017

Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?

The supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and there are many weight loss supplements to choose from.  However, most weight loss supplements don’t stack up for long term, successful weight loss.

Sometimes researchers find a promising new compound that supplement companies jump onto as the new wonder fat loss pill.  However, before falling for any fat loss claims, it is important to look carefully at the research and results.

Here are some popular fat loss supplements and some of the research behind the fat loss claims.

Fiber Supplements

One of fiber’s many health benefits is that it delays gastric emptying.  It can help you feel fuller longer which can help regulate appetite through the day.  High fiber diets are usually encouraged for weight loss because of this.

Fiber supplements may help with weight loss.  According to a 2011 article from International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, when a fiber supplement was given to overweight Chinese men, they lost significantly more weight and had less hunger compared to a control group.
A 2010 study using a fiber supplement concluded this supplement also significantly improved insulin resistance in overweight Chinese men compared to the placebo group.

A word of caution with fiber supplements: don’t overdo it.  You can get too much fiber which could cause cramping, diarrhea or an intestinal block.  Also, remember to increase your fluid intake whenever you increase fiber intake, whether from supplements or food.

Women under 50 years should aim for about 25 gm of fiber per day, and men under 50 years should aim for about 38 gm of fiber per day.

Will taking a fiber supplement help you lose weight?  Maybe, but so could eating a fiber rich diet.
Natural sources of fiber include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts/seeds.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is a type of fat found in small amounts in dairy and grass fed beef.  Some recent research studies have shown that CLA given as a supplement can help mice shed fat.  Does this mean it does the same in humans?  Studies with CLA and humans have mixed results, and the exact mechanism for how CLA works is not clearly understood.
According to a 2012 review article in European Journal of Nutrition, researchers concluded that CLA as a supplement in humans did not have significant, meaningful effect on weight loss.  Some studies have indicated weight loss with CLA with high doses, around 3gm per day.  However, not all studies have shown a benefit with CLA.  If you take a weight loss supplement with CLA in it, it does not mean you will automatically lose weight.
Sometimes supplements will have CLA listed in the ingredients, but the amount is so small it will not have a noticeable effect.  Some people may have adverse effects from CLA supplement like diarrhea or constipation.

Green Tea

Green tea is a popular weight loss aid and can be found as an ingredient in weight loss supplements.  Green tea contains caffeine and catechins, both which may have a stimulating effect on metabolism.  Green tea as a supplement will usually have higher amounts of caffeine and catechins in it compared to drinking prepared green tea.
A meta-analysis review from TM Jurgens et al. in 2012 concluded that green tea supplements did not significantly impact weight loss efforts compared to those who did not take green tea weight loss supplements.
Researchers reviewed weight loss studies using green tea supplements and lasting at least 12 weeks in duration. 

Green Coffee Extract

Green coffee extract has recently gained popularity for being the new “it” weight loss supplement.  According to a 2012 research article from Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity, green coffee extract had a significant impact on lowering body weight, body mass index and percent body fat in obese subjects.
However, the dose of the green coffee extract ranged from 700-1050 mg of green coffee extract, and previous studies used a dose around 200 mg of green coffee extract.  Previous studies with green coffee extract have not shown as drastic weight loss, probably because of the discrepancy in dosage.
Subjects in this study were taking either a placebo, low dose or high dose of green coffee extract supplement for 6 weeks.  Then there was a 2 week washout period, followed by a repeat of either a placebo or dose of green coffee extract.  Subjects were randomized to the order of supplements and was a double blind controlled study.
More research needs to be done for varying dosages of green coffee extract and longevity of weight loss results.  Supplement companies may claim to use green coffee extract, but may only use a small dose or a different product than ones used in research studies.


Take caution whenever taking supplements, and research how much is needed for a weight loss effect.  Talk to a medical professional before taking a supplement, especially if you are on any medication.