Are natural weight loss supplements safe?
Weight loss supplements are among the most utilized and misunderstood products out on the market. Studies estimate that one in three overweight or obese American adults are using these products and with a tainted history, it is important to approach weight loss supplements with vigilance. News articles abound with information on problematic supplements, most recently additive β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA) an amphetamine-similar stimulant, being added in place of other products.
In a 5-part series, FoodTrients has highlighted some weight loss products currently on the market, discussing the science behind them, any health warnings associated with them and analyzing benefits and negatives. Analyzing the ingredients and their efficacy can help consumers learn how to investigate any product and evaluate it to see if it might be a good fit for your goals.
The good news is that are some good resources available when assessing products. The Center for Science in the Public Interest offers excellent advice on products as does the Consumer’s Union and Consumer Lab. Natural Medicine’s Database is a wonderful site where you can evaluate natural products and assess drug/nutrient interactions. Subscribing to these groups can give you better access to information that can help protect you while making the right decisions for your needs. Third party certification is one of the best bets when evaluating the quality of a product; seeking this type of testing from prominent organizations such as NSF International, United States Pharmacopeia (USP) , Informed-Choice, ConsumerLab, and Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG) can help protect consumers regarding quality of any given product.
Consumers should have the tools to diligently assess that they are not taking supplements that could have negatively affects. None of the products FoodTrients has analyzed contains amphetamine, BMPEA, or other ingredients linked to immediate medical dangers.
Many weight loss products are not indicated with medical conditions such as blood sugar problems or diabetes, high blood pressure or any other cardiovascular-related condition, and can sometimes interfere with sleep as many of these supplements are stimulants. When evaluating the suitability of any product for yourself, it is important to work with your doctor to ensure safety for drug interactions and other considerations. If the doctor is unable to guide you on supplements, ask if you can get a referral to a dietitian or naturopath who may be better able to analyze the products. Importantly, do not take advice from someone without medical training or someone who has a financial interest in selling you a product. Be wary of testimonials or if you are unable to find out exactly what is in a product and where it was manufactured.
There is some research on weight loss supplements that shows they can help a person lose more weight than with diet and exercise alone, but the results generally show very small changes, between 1-3 additional pounds. Reliance on supplements or medications for weight loss may not be an answer for most people for the long term. Emphasis should instead be placed on making long-lasting, healthy lifestyle changes. That being said, there are some good quality products out there that could be beneficial to some people. We hope that you find the series informative and helpful on your journey for health.
Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, CSO, LDN, is a health writer and owner of Champagne Nutrition specializing in integrative health and whole food-based nutrition. She serves as Immediate Past President for the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chair-Elect of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group and is a Media Representative for the Illinois Academy. Read Ginger’s blog, Champagne Nutrition, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Chair-Elect, Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.