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  • Most herbal and dietary supplements don’t lead to weight loss, a review of existing studies has found.

  • Researchers looked into data for green tea extract, guar gum, and acupuncture, among many others.

  • Only 16 studies showed a difference in weight between participants taking supplements and a placebo.

  • Researchers found that the weight loss was less than 1 pound for some people, and not consistent for any of the supplements examined.

Weight loss supplements come in a variety of forms, including pills, gummies, powders, and liquids, like teas.

They often tout fast and easy weight loss with a promise that you can lose inches without having to rely solely on eating a balanced diet or exercising regularly.

And they’re extremely popular. The weight loss supplement industry was worth $6.5 billion in 2020.

But do these supplements actually work?

A new comprehensive study published in the journal ObesityTrusted Source on June 23 has found that dietary supplements do not result in dramatic weight loss as they claim.

In fact, it’s rare that people who take these supplements lose any weight, the research showed.

There’s been an ongoing debate about whether weight loss supplements work and whether they deliver on their promises.

In this study, researchers reviewed 315 existing clinical trials of weight loss supplements and alternative therapies as part of the study. They found most studies were biased.

Only 16 studies managed to demonstrate weight loss in participants, ranging from less than 1 pound up to 11 pounds. Weight loss was also not consistent among the study participants.

The researchers reviewed the following 12 ingredients:

  • calcium and vitamin D

  • chitosan

  • chocolate/cocoa

  • chromium

  • ephedra or caffeine

  • garcinia and/or hydroxycitrate

  • green tea

  • guar gum

  • conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

  • phaseolus

  • phenylpropylamine

  • pyruvate

Other non-supplement therapies that were studied included acupuncture and mind-body interventions like mindfulness and meditation.

“One of the major reasons we wanted to conduct this review was to determine the quality of the evidence to guide the membership [of The Obesity Society]. The results suggest that more high quality evidence is needed before firm recommendations should be made,” said corresponding author Dr. John Batsis, associate professor in the division of geriatric medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine and in the department of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Sharon Zarabi, RD, program director at Northwell Health’s Katz Institute for Women’s Health in New York City and Westchester, said the study outcome was not surprising “because obesity is a very complex disease and there will never be a magic pill to cure” it.

“Even if there was a supplement, ingredient, herb, tincture, etc., that would work, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Understanding the manufacturing practices, degree of active ingredients versus fillers, dose, quality, and efficacy, will be impossible to formulate,” she told Healthline.

Zarabi pointed out that changing your lifestyle is likely the only way to manage your weight.

“Taking a cocoa pill or ginseng supplement will never work if you don’t change your lifestyle because your body is always defending you from weight loss, and you have to be an active participant in healthy living to keep it off — even with surgical procedures (bariatric surgery),” she said.

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