We all know overweight and obesity is prevalent in the US. The CDC estimated that in 2011-2012 35% of people over 20 years of age were obese, and 68% were overweight or obese, and 18% of children and adolescents are obese too (1). These numbers may go up even over the past 2 years. Avoiding obesity decreases your risk of developing many chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. (Why is this important? Check it out: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6846) Before you think this is a-YOU HAVE TO LOSE WEIGHT!!!!!- type of post, it’s not. It’s hard to lose weight. Factors such as genetics, lifestyle, environment, habits, health, and socio-economic place all lead to what you eat and how active you are. So with all of these factors leading to someone’s weight, its really easy to get overwhelmed or frustrated when trying to lose weight, and just as easy to find some supplement or “quick fix” to cure us.
We are bombarded with all of theses “quick fixes” in pill form, juice form, etc that it is easy to hope that these fixes will fix our weight problem. This is particularly difficulty when people around you-whether they be family members or friends recommend that you try xy or z because it changed their life! Do they?
Back to Dr. Oz… No disrespect, but this is really exciting & important as Dr. Oz has been promoting a variety of supplements that have NO scientific backing, and if they report that they do, it’s often based on really small sample sizes, which can’t be used to extrapolate to being effective or safe for the whole general population, or for you.
So….. Should I say no to supplements?
- There are no government requirements for testing or review before weight loss supplements are brought to market. In addition, supplements may have drug-like effects that can interact with clients’ medications or present risks for individuals with certain medical conditions. (5)
- The risks outweigh benefits for supplement use: the reported adverse events from supplement use, combined with low effectiveness makes the risks outweigh the benefits of using them(as found from a systematic review of available dietary supplements) (5).
- Green tea extract for example has been caused to cause liver failure in a small population. Now this is not definitive for large populations, but if taking a supplement with no medical necessity has the possibility of causing liver failure (which can get to the point of being irreversible)- sounds like something I’d want to avoid, even without strong widespread evidence at this point.
- Weight-loss supplements containing metabolic stimulants (e.g., caffeine, ephedra, synephrine) are most likely to produce adverse side effects and should be avoided (3).
There is no strong research evidence indicating that a specific supplement will produce significant weight loss (>2 kg), especially in the long term. Some foods or supplements such as green tea, fiber, and calcium supplements or dairy products may complement a healthy lifestyle to produce small weight losses or prevent weight gain over time (3).
I also ran across this John Oliver segment, which really perfectly explains the whole thing better than I can. Its 15 minutes but really an entertaining and informative look into the lack of regulation, lack of scientific backup, and money pit that the dietary supplement industry is.
- Consumer updates from FDA on supplement recalls: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/default.htm
- Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) guide for identifying false weight loss claims: http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/0492-gut-check-reference-guide-media-spotting-false-weight-loss-claims
- FTC Consumer Information on Dietary Supplements: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0261-dietary-supplements
Have you used dietary supplements to promote weight loss? Any good or bad experiences?
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity and Overweight FastStats.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm. Accessed 7/8/14.
2. Green tea: PS, SB, DK, GP, BC. Green Tea Extract: a potential cause of acute liver failure.
World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Aug 21;19(31):5174-7.
3. Melinda M. Manore. Dietary Supplements for Improving Body Composition and Reducing Body Weight: Where is the evidence?
International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2012
4. National Institute of Health. http://nccam.nih.gov/news/2009/073009.htm.
Published in 2009. Accessed 7/8/14.
5. American Dietetic Association. Ethics Opinion: Weight Loss Products and Medications.
J Am Diet Assoc. 2008; 108(12):2109-2113