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Weight loss supplements: Do they work?

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Weight loss supplements: Do they work?


Getting a quick weight loss fix is a temptation that some find hard to resist.  Given the reality of the uphill challenge to shed those pounds, it’s no wonder over the counter promises of rapid, safe and permanent weight loss attract buyers aplenty.  However, as with all things, if it’s too good to be true, chances are it really is.


What are weight loss supplements?

As the name implies these pills, capsules or whatever form they come as claim to help you lose weight in varying ways: Caffeine, for example, can increase your metabolism rate, others such as orlistat decrease or block fat absorption and lastly, some extracts including green tea are thought to act as appetite suppressants.


Some weight loss supplements are available as prescription drugs but majority of them can be bought over the counter, making them easy to acquire but dangerous to regulate. A good number of them are also considered ineffective and some are even banned by the FDA.


Why (or Why Shouldn’t I) Take Them?

The truth is that there is no quick and easy way out of being overweight–one that isn’t so risky and dangerous anyway.  Over the years, studies on weight loss supplement effectiveness are generally inconclusive and most have been associated with negative effects.  For instance, some supplements–notably those associated with increasing metabolism–are observed to cause spikes in heart rate and blood pressure that increases risk for heart attack and stroke.  Other supplements have also been associated with headaches, abdominal cramps, loose bowel movements and liver damage.  Also, studies have shown that metabolism boosting supplements aren’t any much help in burning fat if you’re not exercising.


Another danger is the ease of production and distribution of weight loss supplements.  Production of weight loss supplements aren’t as strictly monitored as most drugs.  So while the FDA can begin monitoring a supplement once it’s released to the market and ban it once proven dangerous, it can’t stop manufacturers until then.  So it is advisable for your safety that if you’re planning to try out a weight loss supplement, you have to understand how it works and whether it is safe to take.


Are There Weight Loss Supplements that Can Be Considered?

If you’re considering taking one, you should consult your doctor first, especially if you have high blood pressure or are under medication. Researching about a chosen supplement can also help you understand more about its claimed action and the associated side effects.  Below are the most common and safe supplements available in the market.


  • Green Tea Extract: One of the perceived effects of green tea is to boost metabolism, curb blood sugar levels and suppress appetite.  However, there isn’t enough evidence to support its efficacy as a dietary supplement.  Try drinking the real thing to get more health benefits instead.


  • Ephedra: A stimulant that, when combined with caffeine, has been associated with substantially fast weight loss.  The problem is that it was also associated with increased heart rate and skyrocketed risks of stroke and heart disease.  FDA has banned use of this ingredient in weight loss pills though other available herbal supplements such as country mallow, guarna and the hyped raspberry ketones can mimic ephedra’s dangerous effects.


  • Garcina Cambogia: Another highly popularized weight loss supplement, Garcian Cambogia has been shown to reduce fat production and suppress appetite.  Yet studies have also shown that it’s not as effective on the majority as it claims, with several subjects not losing weight at all.  At least there’s the fact that reputable Garcina Cambogia supplements are safe to try.


  • Orlistat (Xenical/Alli): Orlistat is available as a prescribed drug (Xenical) or as an over the counter supplement (Alli).  While it is proven to be effective as a fat eliminator (you literally defecate fatty stools), there’s a reason why Orlistat usage is monitored.  Orlistat causes uncontrollable bowel movement, oil spotting and rare cases of liver damage.


  • Guar Gum: Said to block fat absorption and can induce the feeling of fullness to decrease appetite but again there isn’t enough evidence to prove its effectiveness.  It can also cause bloating and abdominal pain in some users.  Other drugs having the same effect are psyllium and glucomannan.