What Weight Loss Supplements Actually Work?

Published on January 19, 2015 by Dr. Colin O'Brien

Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the news regarding weight loss supplementation after a survey found that many consumers were misinformed regarding their effectiveness and safety. This has caused many to lose faith in all supplements for weight loss. But let’s not be so hasty.

In previous years, drnibber.com has outlined specific ingredients with a strong track record and scientific support for modest weight loss, while highlighting flaws in other less supported, yet highly marketed, products (See this article and this other article for more detailed information). It is unfair to paint all weight loss supplements with the same brush.

The take home messages from this consumer report should be the following:

1. Weight loss cannot simply be solved by a pill per day. They must always be used in the context of a healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise.
2. There is a wide variation in ingredient efficacy, brand quality and safety. Just as there is a wide variation in food quality and clothing quality, we cannot say that all supplements are good or that all are bad. Many reported side effects of weight loss supplements tend to be caused by nervous system stimulants like ephedrine and caffeine. But there are lots of safe and trusted ones, too.
3. Every individual’s reason for weight gain is unique. In some cases, the cause is too many calories in and not enough out (i.e. eating too much and not exercising enough). But in many cases, there are hormone imbalances or stress or nutrient deficiencies or chemical exposure, etc. (see here for more details). In these circumstances, weight loss is more likely when a targeted supplement is used for the specific imbalance.
4. Given the above points, it is highly recommended to speak with someone qualified to advise you about supplementation, as well as dietary and lifestyle changes. Be wary of a sales pitch because weight loss supplements are still a business.

So what does work? Here are some of the supplements that may be worth considering in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle:

- Green Tea Extract: increases your body’s metabolic rate
- Triphala: especially indicated for those with occasional constipation
- Green Coffee Bean Extract: decreases sugar absorption and also lowers blood pressure
- Ashwagandha: used to offset weight gain seen with high stress
- Whey Protein: shown to keep you full and helps preserve lean muscle tissue when dieting  

As aforementioned, be wary of supplements with high amounts of caffeine or ephedrine that are simply trying to stimulate your nervous system. Raspberry ketones are also commonly touted for weight loss but with very little science to back them up. These are the types of ingredients worth avoiding. Instead, start with the basics: remove processed foods, eat more vegetables, drink more water, get outside and get moving. Then add in a targeted supplement for your individual circumstance.

What have you found to make the biggest difference in your weight loss journey? Have you tried any of the products mentioned above? Share your experiences with us below!

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