We talked a few days ago about why we fall for magic bullets and wishful thinking. Unfortunately, weight loss supplements are one of these magic bullets that promise fantastic results but rarely deliver.
Nearly all weight loss supplements do not work. They will not allow you to eat whatever you want or avoid exercise. They will not magically make the weight disappear.
Even the few that do work only help a tiny bit. They may help some lose a scant number of extra pounds a month, but only when combined with a good diet and exercise.
Even the prescription medications, such as Alli, phentermine, and naltrexone-bupropion, won't make the weight simply drop off.
Before you go spending your money on the next fad for weight loss, let's look at the couple that do have scientific proof they help and how much they will help (all of the studies below are in the master review).
The top one on our list is the one that gives you the most benefit. It's also the only one proven to work that you don't have to take anything internally.
It's unclear why acupuncture works to help weight loss. However, in several studies, people who undertook acupuncture lost more weight than people who did nothing other than food changes and exercise.
Researchers suspect acupuncture helped people recover from their workout faster, felt better about their bodies, and help lead to healthier life choices that increase their weight loss. Traditional Chinese medicine tells us that acupuncture helps distribute the chi in the body to increase metabolism and more efficiently use the participants' food.
Whatever the case, acupuncture works.
This linear polysaccharide derives from the outer shell of crustaceans. More often than not, it's used to decrease bleeding for wound dressings because of the way it binds lipids together. This may help reduce that absorption in the digestive system.
The majority of studies done show significant weight loss. Although the weight loss was only 2.3 kg over six weeks, or approximately 5.7 pounds, it was still a consistent weight loss within the group.
Ephedra or Caffeine
Ephedrine often gets used in conjunction with caffeine, which can enhance metabolism. In half of the studies, the participants experienced higher weight loss than the control group. However, many of the participants were younger and more consistently exercised than all the groups. Many weight loss supplements add either of these for the energy boost and weight loss benefit.
Garcinia and/or Hydroxycitrate
A plant native to India and Southeast Asia, Garcinia contains hydroxycitric acid, which can reduce your appetite by preventing the enzyme that helps us store fats. About a third of all studies show the participants taking this supplement lost additional weight compared to the control group.
This is not a chemical or additive used for many nootropics or weight loss drinks. It's probably not going to be something you find commonly in the stores.
These may help, but maybe not:
In a review of all the studies on chromium, only a few showed actual weight loss. However, just as many studies showed no significant difference in the control group versus the group taking chromium.
For people with type 2 diabetes and depression, chromium can be an indispensable supplement to help control blood sugars and stabilize hormones. However, it shouldn't be relied on to help you lose weight.
Green tea extract showed in some studies to help increase weight loss. However, in most studies, the weight loss was less than 5 lb over three months. Most of the research does not lend this as statistically significant to call it a weight loss supplement.
However, doctors are quick to agree that recovery time after a workout, inflammation, and fatigue can all be reduced with drinking two to three cups of green tea per day. In addition, as a valuable source of antioxidants, green tea can benefit your health, your ability to work out, and your appetite, even if it does not directly impact your weight loss.
Mind-body (tactics like mindfulness, stress management, hypnosis, meditation, and massage)
This category is a little bit challenging because it covers so much behavioral modification. Using the mind-body connection, 22 official studies covered a variety of disciplines. The lengths of time were significant, ranging from 4 weeks to 18 months, the widest range of any studies.
Only a third of all of these studies showed participants lost more weight compared to a control group, however. So, while we can say using mindfulness, hypnosis, meditation, and other mind-body connections to aid weight loss, it's not going to do it for you by itself.
This is extracted from the white kidney bean and thought to inhibit alpha-amylase and the absorption of carbohydrates. Although they were not many studies on this, half reported significant weight loss on the other half did not. This one may work, but the results are inconclusive. However, you're probably not going to find this in many stores, as it's quite unusual.
Phenylpropylamine is similar to amphetamine and ephedrine in that it may act as an appetite suppressant. The one truly good study did not show any significant change in weight loss, but smaller studies did. This chemical might work subclinically, especially when combined with other methods.
Of all of these different types of supplements that could help weight loss, please note that all studies were done with participants already eating healthier and exercising. The addition of the supplements did increase weight loss, but none of them created miraculous weight changes.
And most of the studies, the weight loss was only an additional one to two pounds per week.
If you decide to give some of these a try, be sure to check out any side effects. Many of them interact poorly with some medications, particularly medications for depression or anxiety.