A 2021 study published in the International Journal of Obesity concludes: “there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend any of these dietary supplements for weight loss.”
The study analyzed data of randomized studies looking at herbal and dietary supplements on weight loss. Studies that compared those who took supplements with placebos showed that “although some supplements showed some marginal weight loss“, it did not result to any clinically significant results.
Health efficacy studies distinguish between statistical and clinical significance. Even though numerically, on paper, the results show that differences are not random (statistically significant), it doesn’t mean that findings translate to meaningful clinical results. Clinical significance refers to “the extent of change, whether the change makes a real difference to subject lives, how long the effects last, consumer acceptability, cost-effectiveness, and ease of implementation“.
In this case, clinical significance means a weight loss of at least 5.5 lbs.
Even though most supplements appear safe for short-term consumption, they are not going to provide weight loss that is clinically meaningful.BBC | Erica Bessell from the University of Sydney
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers supplements as food, not drugs. As a result, they are not as well regulated as prescription drugs. They do not require premarket reviews or approval by the FDA. Moreover, the responsibility of assessing safety, results, and labeling falls on manufactures. The FDA may step in if an ingredient or product has been proven to be unsafe.
Valued at $41 US billion, the global industry for herbal and dietary supplements continues to grow. Beyond weight-loss, promises can range from boosting immunity to curing aches and pains. In the US, the market is expected to reach $8.5 billion in 2025. China and India make up two of the world’s largest markets.
Riddled with scams and false promises, in some cases, these weight loss substances result in harmful consequences.
Always consult a medical professional for weight loss. Allocate your resources wisely. Be cautious of grand promises. When it comes to health, take the road that benefits your overall health. Know that this path might not be the shortest or easiest one.