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Weight Loss Pills and Supplements: Do They Work?

12 Popular Weight Loss Pills and Supplements Reviewed

Ask your healthcare provider before taking any supplements or pills for weight loss. Ask your healthcare provider before taking any supplements or pills for weight loss.

A bodyweight over the healthy limit is associated with several health conditions, such as diabetes, heart diseases, and certain cancers. According to health experts, long-term weight loss can be safely attained by making healthy lifestyle changes like healthy eating patterns, limiting calorie intake, and doing regular physical activity. Many people, however, are not able to make these healthy lifestyle changes. Almost two-thirds of adults and one-third of adolescents are overweight or obese in the United States. Many of the overweight or obese individuals seek dietary supplements to lose weight. Around 10% of American men and 21% of American women have used a weight-loss supplement at some point in their lives.

Various weight loss supplements are available in the market in the form of tablets, capsules, powders, bars, and liquids. The knowledge over their efficacy is limited. Weight loss supplements, however, have the potential to cause physical harm. They can also interact with many medications. This may cause several side effects or a reduction in the effectiveness of the medication.

It is always prudent to ask your healthcare provider before taking any supplements or pills for weight loss. Some of the common weight loss supplements are reviewed below:

  • Garcinia cambogia (Hydroxycitric acid): It is a fruit-bearing tree native to Asia, Africa, and the Polynesian islands. The active ingredient in the fruit of this tree is hydroxycitric acid. It is claimed to inhibit fat production in the body and suppress food intake. Research suggests that it has little or no effect on body weight. It may produce side effects, such as headache, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, running/stuffy nose, mania, and liver damage.
  • African mango (Irvingia gabonensis): It is proposed that this product act by reducing fat-formation (adipogenesis) and decreasing the hunger regulating hormone (leptin) levels in the body. Research suggests that it can have a modest effect on weight and waist size. There are no safety concerns reported for doses up to 3,150 mg/day for 10 weeks. It can cause some side effects, such as headaches, difficulty sleeping, flatulence, and gas.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine from sources, such as guarana, kola nut, yerba maté green tea, can have a modest effect on body weight or decreased weight gain over time. There are significant safety concerns for doses higher than 400-500 mg/day for adults. Some of the side effects of caffeine include nervousness, vomiting, increases heart rate (tachycardia), and jitteriness.
  • Capsaicin and other capsaicinoids: They can increase energy expenditure and lipid oxidation. They may increase satiety and reduce caloric intake. They, however, do not affect body weight. Capsaicin and capsaicinoids may cause bowel distress, increased insulin levels, and decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) levels.
  • Carnitine: L-carnitine, commonly called as fat-burner, is a type of amino acid. It can cause a modest reduction in body weight. Recommended doses are up to 2 g/day for a year or 4 g/day for 56 days. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and a “fishy” body odor. Carnitine may increase Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) levels, which are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Chitosan: It is a type of carbohydrate commonly obtained from the outer hard skeleton of shellfishes, including crab, lobster, and shrimp. It has a minimal effect on body weight. It can cause allergic reactions like flatulence, bloating, constipation, indigestion, nausea, and heartburn.
  • Green coffee bean extract: It has been proposed that this reduces fat accumulation and modulates glucose metabolism. Studies suggest that it can have a modest effect on body weight. It can cause headaches and urinary tract infections (UTI).
  • Green tea and green tea extract: It is proposed that these products cause weight loss by increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation as well as reducing fat-production and fat absorption. Research shows that it can have a modest effect on body weight. Its side effects include constipation, abdominal discomfort, nausea, increased blood pressure, and liver damage.

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