Are Weight Loss Supplements Effective?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • There have been several times a member of the HealthCentral community has asked about the safety of taking a weight loss supplement (diet pill) when they have high blood pressure or take blood pressure medication.


    My answer doesn't vary:

    "I do not recommend diet pills - whether you have high blood pressure or not.

    Many weight loss supplements contain "undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients", frequently in levels exceeding FDA recommendations. These ingredients include drugs not approved in the U.S. These substances impact blood pressure and anti-seizure medications, diuretics, along with drugs linked to suicide, depression, and cancer."

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    Not only can weight loss supplements lead to negative health consequences, they don't typically work.


    A study out of Oregon State University reviewed the evidence surrounding the effectiveness of weight loss supplements. The conclusion - they don't work.


    Researcher Melinda Manore, professor of nutrition and exercise sciences at OSU and member of the Science Board for the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, reviewed evidence linked to hundreds of weight loss supplements. She divided the supplements into four categories:


    1. Products that block the absorption of fat or carbohydrates, such as chitosan
    2. Stimulants, such as caffeine and ephedra to boost metabolism
    3. Products that claim to change body composition, such as conjugated linoleic acid
    4. Appetite suppressant, such as soluble fiber


    She found that no research evidence exists linking a single weight loss product to significant weight loss. Most resulted in weight loss of less than two pounds when compared to a placebo, while the majority had no randomized clinical trials examining effectiveness. Manore also found many of the weight loss supplements to have detrimental health benefits (see my list above).


    According to the study findings there are a few products that can claim modest weight loss results of 3-4 pounds, such as green tea, fiber, and low-fat dairy supplements. Do note that in a majority of the research these products are tested with individuals on a reduced calorie diet. What is the product that resulted in the modest weight loss or the reduced calorie intake?


    This study can be found online in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.


    The weight loss supplement industry is worth $2.4 billion dollars in the United States. However, the bottom line is there is NOT a magic pill for weight loss. It requires a well-balanced healthy diet combined with exercise if you want long term results. . . without compromising your health.


    Many times a diet that will promote lower blood pressure also results in weight loss. You can access the ecourse "7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure" at

Published On: March 20, 2012