Dietary supplements are marketed as health aids. They are consumed orally. The usual constituents include vitamins, minerals, fiber, caffeine, herbs, and other plants. Some of the most common supplements promise to help with nutrition, energy, muscle development, and fat loss. Supplements for the diet are not medications. They are not intended to prevent, treat, or cure illness.
In the U.S., more than two-thirds of adults and about a third of kids and teenagers are overweight or obese.
The percentage of overweight and obese Americans actively trying to lose weight is 45% and 67%, respectively. Health professionals believe the foundation for long-term weight loss is changing one’s lifestyle, which includes eating a balanced diet, consuming fewer calories, and exercising regularly. But because changing one’s diet and lifestyle can be difficult, many people resort to dietary supplements that are marketed as weight-loss aids in the expectation that these products will make it simpler for them to achieve their goals.
Dietary supplements: What are they?
Dietary supplements marketed to help people lose weight include many goods and can be found in various formats, including capsules, tablets, liquids, powders, and bars. The claims made by the manufacturers in their marketing of these products are that they boost metabolism and thermogenesis and decrease hunger, body fat, and weight absorption of macronutrients.
There are often more than 90 ingredients in certain weight-loss products, which can include dozens of ingredients. Botanicals, herbs, other parts of plants, dietary fiber, caffeine, and minerals are common components of these supplements.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded in its report on dietary supplements for weight loss that while little is known about whether they are useful, some supplements have been linked to the possibility of health harm. People should speak with their healthcare professionals to examine weight-loss supplements’ potential advantages and hazards.
People with medical issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes, liver, or heart disease, should pay particular attention to this. In contrast, a large national survey found that fewer than one-third of Americans who use dietary supplements for weight loss consult a healthcare provider about their use.
Typical Components in Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss
A wide range of components can be found in dietary supplements for weight loss. Unsurprisingly, there is a wide range in the quantity of scientific data accessible on these compounds. Instead of data from human clinical trials, in some cases, the only available evidence of these treatments’ alleged advantages comes from investigations on animals and in the lab. Other times, studies proving the efficacy of a particular component are tiny, short-lived, and of poor quality, limiting the results’ reliability. More research is usually required to comprehend a specific component’s safety and effectiveness completely.
🟢 Most weight-loss dietary supplements have numerous substances, making it challenging to separate the effects of each ingredient and forecast the effects of the combination, which complicates the interpretation of many study results.
🟢 Only one of the ingredients in a completed product may be supported by evidence, and when that ingredient is blended with additional substances, no supporting data may be available.
Additionally, the quantity and dosages of the active ingredients in weight-loss supplements differ greatly, and published research may not always provide a complete description of the chemical makeup of a certain supplement. Studies may also employ various and perhaps incorrect assessment approaches to determine the efficacy of a particular treatment. It may be challenging to compare the findings of one study with those of another due to all of these considerations.
The research on the safety and effectiveness of the most popular components of dietary supplements for weight loss has been summarized below concisely. There is a list of these substances, a discussion, and dosage details. However, as many products contain unique blends of components and some ingredients may not be standardized, the active compounds and their concentrations could not be similar between goods.
Let’s look at the many nutritional supplements that are covered below:
The eponymous botanical Citrus aurantium is also known as bitter orange. This plant produces fruit that contains protoalkaloids such as p-synephrine. The effects of epinephrine and norepinephrine can be imitated by synephrine alkaloids, which operate as alpha-adrenergic receptors. It is unclear, though, to what extent bitter orange and synephrine affect the circulatory and neurological systems comparable to those of epinephrine and norepinephrine
According to studies, bitter orange boosts lipolysis and energy expenditure while acting as a minor appetite suppressor. Bitter orange was used in place of ephedra in several products when the FDA forbade the use of ephedrine alkaloids in dietary supplements in 2004; as a result, bitter orange came to be known as an ephedra alternative. Synephrine differs pharmacologically from ephedrine despite sharing certain structural similarities with the latter.
Outcomes: Several modest human investigations have investigated the effectiveness of bitter oranges for weight loss. Because bitter orange is almost usually coupled with other components in weight-loss products, interpreting the findings of these trials might be challenging.
Safety: There may be serious safety problems with products made with bitter orange. Chest pain, headache, anxiety, increased heart rate, musculoskeletal problems, ventricular fibrillation, ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction, and mortality are some of the side effects that have been reported. The bitter orange cannot be solely blamed for these negative effects because many products with similar effects also contain other herbal components. Some research suggests that synephrine and bitter orange, whether in the form of pure synephrine or bitter orange extract, increase blood pressure and heart rate, although other studies contradict this.
For instance, 15 healthy men and women who received a single dosage of 900 mg of a bitter orange extract standardized to 6% synephrine experienced a substantial rise in heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure for up to 5 hours versus a placebo. But in an 8-week scientific research involving 80 healthy, resistance-trained adult men, dietary supplements did not elevate resting heart rate, systolic blood pressure, or diastolic bp. Also, it was found that it did not cause any reported side effects at 4 and 8 weeks when compared to a placebo or the exact supplementary mix without synephrine.
The bones and teeth store calcium, an important mineral, which promotes both the structure and function of these tissues. Muscle movement, nerve transmission, intracellular communication, and the release of hormones all depend on calcium for proper operation. For kids and adults over four, the Recommended Dietary Allowance for calcium is between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams per day.
Higher calcium intakes have been linked in several studies to lower body weight or slower weight gain over the long term. There have been put forth two explanations. First, by lowering the generation of parathyroid hormone and the active form of vitamin D, increased calcium intake may lower calcium concentrations in fat cells. The resultant increase in fat breakdown and reduction in fat formation in these cells may be caused by decreased intracellular calcium levels. The second possibility is that dietary fat in modest amounts may bind to calcium from food or supplements in the digestive tract and stop being absorbed. Beyond what their calcium level alone would imply, dairy products may include other ingredients that have even more profound effects on body weight.
Outcomes: A 2014 randomized crossover research involving 15 healthy young men discovered that diets heavy in milk or cheese significantly enhanced fecal fat excretion compared to a control diet that included 500 mg of calcium per day. However, clinical investigations on how calcium affected body weight typically produced negative findings. Calcium supplementation over two years had no clinically meaningful effects on weight compared to a placebo.
Safety: The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has determined that the upper intake limit for calcium for adults over the age of 19 to 50 is 2,500 mg/day and for people between the ages 51 and above is 2,000 mg/day. High calcium intakes can make you constipated and may prevent you from absorbing iron and zinc, though this is not a proven impact. Kidney stones are more likely to form when calcium consumption is high from supplements rather than a diet.
A carotenoid found in brown seaweed and other algae is called fucoxanthin. Fucoxanthin may help people lose weight by raising their resting energy expenditure, fatty acid oxidation, and fat burning while decreasing adipocyte differentiation and lipid accumulation, according to the results of laboratory and animal studies.
Outcome: The potential effects of fucoxanthin on weight loss have only been the subject of one clinical trial. The nutritional supplement Xanthigen, which contains pomegranate seed oil and brown seaweed extract, was employed in this 16-week study. For a total daily dose of 2.4 mg fucoxanthin and 300 mg pomegranate-seed oil, 110 premenopausal women with obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were given either a placebo or Xanthigen three times a day before meals in one section of this trial. Participants consumed a restricted diet with a maximum of 1,800 kcal of total calories daily. By the end of the trial, those receiving Xanthigen had dropped noticeably more body weight than those getting a placebo. Additional study is required to comprehend the supplement’s possible impacts on body weight and, indeed, the function of fucoxanthin compared to the combo or pomegranate oil alone since this is the only clinical trial on a nutritional supplement incorporating fucoxanthin.
Safety: Fucoxanthin’s potential for harm to humans has not been fully examined. Even though none of the users of Xanthigen in the clinical trial mentioned above experienced any negative effects, more research is needed to determine the safety and potential side effects of fucoxanthin at varied intake levels.
Garcinia cambogia extract
A well-liked dietary supplement for weight loss is garcinia Cambogia, a fruit from the tropics called Malabar tamarind. High concentrations of hydroxy citric acid have been found in the fruit’s pulp and rind. This acid has been shown to block lipogenesis, boost hepatic glycogen synthesis, decrease food intake, and prevent weight gain.
Outcomes: Research on rodents has shown that Garcinia cambogia lowers appetite and prevents weight gain. However, there is conflicting information regarding the effectiveness of Garcinia cambogia or HCA for weight loss in people, and any possible effects seem to be minimal. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 89 mildly overweight women were given Garcinia cambogia or a sugar pill and instructed to consume 1,200 calories per day for 12 weeks. Compared to women who received a placebo, those who received Garcinia cambogia significantly lost more weight. Garcinia cambogia, however, did not affect hunger, and the study found no proof that the supplement changed how sated you felt. In a different 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 135 overweight men and women were given either Garcinia cambogia or a high-fiber, low-energy diet. Both groups’ participants lost weight; however, there were no statistically significant variations in weight reduction between the groups. In terms of reducing body fat, HCA had no impact. So far, there is no clear information regarding how Garcinia cambogia affects body weight. The authors of a 2013 analysis came to a similar result, emphasizing that larger and longer-term clinical trials are still needed to determine whether Garcinia cambogia is useful for treating obesity.
Safety: Headaches, nausea, symptoms of the upper respiratory tract, and digestive problems are among the moderate side effects of Garcinia cambogia and HCA that have been documented. The serotonergic action of HCA may have contributed to three occurrences of mania, which have been linked to dietary supplements containing Garcinia cambogia. The symptoms were grandiosity, impatience, pressured speech, and a reduced desire for sleep. Additionally, ten incidences of liver damage in users of Garcinia cambogia-containing products have been documented, one of which resulted in death and two of which required liver transplants.
Green Coffee Bean Extract
Coffee plant seeds or beans are green before being roasted. Green coffee beans have a higher concentration of chlorogenic acid than roasted beans. Green coffee extract decreases fat storage in mice and people by controlling adipogenesis, perhaps as a result of the chlorogenic acid component in the substance. Additionally, green coffee extract influences how quickly glucose is metabolized, possibly via lowering intestinal glucose absorption. Although there are decaffeinated varieties of coffee that can be consumed, green coffee beans still contain caffeine.
Outcomes: Green coffee bean extract dramatically decreased body weight gain and fat accumulation in mice when combined with a high-fat diet. Only a few methodologically subpar scientific investigations have looked at how green coffee beans affect weight loss in people. In three trials, overweight patients received 180 or 200 mg of green coffee extract daily for four to twelve weeks. Onakpoya and colleagues did a meta-analysis of these trials. The researchers concluded that green coffee extract has a moderate but substantial effect on body weight. Still, they also emphasized that the methodological quality of the trials included in the meta-analysis was low.
Safety: Green coffee extract’s safety hasn’t been thoroughly investigated, although it seems well tolerated. Urinary tract infections and headaches are among the reported negative effects. Caffeine, naturally contained in green coffee beans, is a stimulant and can have negative consequences depending on the quantity and whether it is mixed with other stimulants. In addition to disrupting sleep, caffeine can make you feel anxious, jittery, and unsteady. At 15 mg/kg, caffeine can be hazardous and cause tachycardia, seizures, cerebral edema, vomiting, nausea, and other symptoms. According to research, doses greater than 150 mg/kg can be lethal. These negative effects can be amplified when caffeine is combined with other stimulants like ephedrine and bitter orange.
A soluble dietary fiber called guar gum is made from the seeds of the Cyamopsis tetragonolobus, an Indian cluster bean. Guar gum aids in binding and thickening a variety of food products, including gluten-free baked goods, and is found in various dietary supplements. Like glucomannan, guar gum is said to aid in weight loss by bulking up the digestive tract, delaying stomach emptying, enhancing feelings of satiety, and, ostensibly, reducing hunger and food intake.
Outcomes: According to a review of guar gum’s impact on appetite management, a dose of 2–5 g boosts fullness and lessens the need for between-meal snacks. Guar gum does not seem to speed up the process of losing weight. Pittler and associates assessed the effectiveness of guar gum for body weight loss in 203 adults in a discourse of 20 experimental, dual, placebo-controlled trials that statistically aggregated data from 11 trials in 2001. Hyperlipidemic, type 1 or type 2 diabetic, hypercholesterolemic, menopausal women, and healthy volunteers were involved in the trial. A few participants received dietary guidance, while the majority of participants continued eating as usual. Compared to the placebo, guar gum had no discernible impact on weight loss. According to the authors, guar gum is ineffective at helping people lose weight.
Safety: Most of guar gum’s reported side effects are gastrointestinal, including cramps, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and elevated bowel frequency. It has a history of causing small-bowel blockage when taken dehydrated. Nevertheless, the guar gum product mentioned in these studies is no longer on the market. Pittler and colleagues concluded in their meta-analysis that the hazards of ingesting guar gum outweigh its advantages, given the negative consequences connected with its use.
There are a few foods that contain fat-soluble vitamin D, including fatty fish, cheese, egg yolks, and milk that has been fortified with the vitamin. It can also be found in many nutritional supplements, and when people’s skin is exposed to sunshine, their bodies naturally produce it. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bone growth and remodeling because it facilitates calcium absorption in the digestive system.
According to observational research, people who are overweight or obese commonly have low or insufficient levels of circulating vitamin D. Higher body weights are also linked to decreased vitamin D status. Even though obesity does not impact the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D, subcutaneous fat sequesters more of the vitamin and alters how it is released into the bloodstream. However, given the link between vitamin D and obesity, it is worth considering if elevating vitamin D levels could lead to a decrease in body weight.
Outcomes: Although there is a link between low vitamin D levels and obesity, there is no evidence to link the two. People who lost weight had a considerably larger increase in serum vitamin D concentrations than those who maintained their weight, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis of 15 weight-loss intervention trials that employed calorie restriction or exercise but not necessarily vitamin D supplementation or other treatments. According to the authors, weight loss may have released vitamin D stored in skeletal muscle and body fat, which may have been the source of this discovery. A meta-analysis of 12 vitamin D supplementation studies found that adding vitamin D without calorie restriction had no difference in body weight or fat mass from the placebo. The study indicates that increasing vitamin D intake or using vitamin D supplements does not aid in weight loss.
Safety: It is safe for adults to consume between 600 and 800 IU of vitamin D daily from food sources and dietary supplements. Anorexia, loss of weight, polyuria, and cardiac rhythms can all be brought on by vitamin D intoxication. Additionally, it may increase blood calcium levels, calcifying tissues like arteries and veins. For adults and kids nine years old and older, the upper level for vitamin D is 4,000 IU/day.
In the organism, the process of glycolysis results in the three-carbon molecule known as Pyruvate. As a nutritional supplement, Pyruvate is also offered, typically in the form of calcium pyruvate. Pyruvate may increase lipolysis and increase energy expenditure, which would improve exercise performance and decrease body weight and body fat.
Outcomes: Very few research have looked at the outcomes of pyruvate supplementation in people. Some of these studies support the idea that Pyruvate reduces body weight and fat, whereas others do not. Twenty-six overweight men and women participated in a dual, placebo-controlled trial where they received 6 g of Pyruvate per day or a placebo for six weeks. All individuals underwent 45–60 minutes of high-intensity interval training three times per week and got guidance on maintaining a 2,000 kcal/day diet. Another small study of 14 obese women (BMI 28-53) discovered that a liquid low-energy diet containing 30 g/day of Pyruvate was more effective at promoting weight loss and fat loss than a similar diet containing glucose over 21 days. In a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of 6 randomized controlled trials involving 203 participants, the authors found that 5-30 g of Pyruvate taken for 3–6 weeks decreased body weight by an average of 0.72 kg and body fat by an average of 0.54 kg when compared to placebo. According to the authors, the methodological quality of all trials is subpar, prohibiting them from reaching certain conclusions.
Safety: Pyruvate hasn’t undergone a thorough investigation of its safety. Pyruvate has no major side effects when administered at doses up to 30 g/day for as long as six weeks, although it does induce gas, discomfort, diarrhea, and rumbling noise in intestines as a result of gas. Additionally, Pyruvate may lower HDL levels while raising LDL levels. More research is required to fully comprehend this substance’s safety and any potential negative effects.
The human microbiota plays numerous roles in maintaining human health, which outnumbers human cells by up to 10 times. Most of the human body’s bacteria live in the colon, even though they are everywhere. Gut bacteria significantly influence feeding nutrients and energy from food. According to studies done on mice, the gut microbiota affects how much energy is used from the meal, how much is stored inside the host, and how much is expended. It is unknown if these consequences also apply to people.
Probiotics may offer a means of achieving this, as changing the gut flora has been suggested as a strategy to cure or prevent obesity in people. Both food products and dietary supplements include probiotics, including several yogurts.
Outcomes: A lot of the research on probiotics and their impact on gut microbiota and obesity has been conducted on mice, and the findings are encouraging. For instance, the probiotic treatment prevented obese mice fed a high-fat diet from gaining weight or accumulating fat.
Clinical investigations evaluating the effect of probiotics on obesity-related outcomes have yielded mixed results in humans, nevertheless. For instance, in one 12-week clinical research, 210 healthy persons between the ages of 35 and 60 with significant visceral fat were randomly assigned to ingest 200 grams of fermented milk each day that contained 107 colony-forming units of Lactobacillus gasseri per gram of milk. The visceral adipose area, BMI, waist circumference and hip size, and body fat mass significantly decreased in those who were given 107 CFU/g milk of Lactobacillus gasseri against the control group.
Safety: Many probiotic strains come from animals with a long history of being used safely in food or from bacteria that naturally inhabit healthy gastrointestinal tracts. These factors make it unlikely that popular probiotic species like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium will harm anyone. Probiotic side effects often involve self-limited gastrointestinal symptoms, including gas, and are considered minimal. Probiotics have been associated in a few instances with bacteremia, fungemia, or infections that cause serious sickness, usually in patients who are already very ill or have impaired immune systems. According to the World Gastroenterology Organization, probiotic usage should be limited to strains and applications with a track record of being effective for people with an impaired immune response or other severe medical disorders.
Weight loss claim interpretation
It might come as a shock to you to realize that producers of nutritional supplements infrequently conduct scientific trials. The fact that there isn’t much scientific proof that weight-loss pills are effective is partly due to this.
✔️For instance, raspberry ketone is promoted as a weight-loss supplement with scientific backing.
✔️ A single clinical trial backs up this assertion. Seventy adults who were obese participated in the trial.
✔️ All of them were made to follow a stringent diet and workout regimen.
✔️ They were then given a choice between a placebo or a dietary supplement combining raspberry ketone, caffeine, tangerine juice, ginger, and garlic root extract.
All 45 participants in the trial were successful in losing weight. It was discovered that the supplement group lost an average of 4.2 pounds.
In addition, the placebo group lost an average of 0.9 pounds.
Although the results are intriguing, they cannot be accurately generalized to real-world circumstances because the trial was tiny and only lasted eight weeks. Another crucial point is that a trial this brief can miss negative effects that emerge only after prolonged use. Furthermore, a supplement with different components was employed in the research. Therefore, it is impossible to determine which component caused the weight decrease.
In a perfect world, these preliminary findings would be verified in a much larger study with hundreds of participants and meticulous side effect monitoring. An informed choice about the product’s safety and efficacy would be possible thanks to the results of such a trial. Claims about nutritional supplements and weight management should be taken with a grain of salt until more readily accessible trial data is available.
Selecting an Intelligent Weight Loss Strategy
This briefing demonstrates that insufficient and unconvincing data support the use of dietary supplements to lower body weight and promote weight reduction and that these products can be expensive. The ideal weight loss and maintenance strategy is to follow a sensible plan that includes a nutritious diet, calorie restriction, and moderate physical exercise while supervised by a healthcare professional.
Physicians may also recommend bariatric surgery or prescription drugs approved by the FDA as supplementary therapy for some people with high BMIs who also have other health risks. Adapting your lifestyle to lose weight may also increase your mood and energy levels and reduce your chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.
Dietary needs should be satisfied largely through food, according to the federal government’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, because food offers a variety of nutrients and other elements that are beneficial to health. When it is impossible to achieve nutrient requirements without the help of fortified foods and dietary supplements, they can be helpful in some situations.