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6 Things To Know About Dietary Supplements Marketed for Weight Loss

Although it’s easy to be tempted by the “quick fix” claims of dietary supplements marketed for weight loss, most of these products haven’t been proven safe or effective. If you’re thinking about taking a dietary supplement to help you lose weight, here are some things you should know.

  1. Ask yourself if a product sounds too good to be true. Be cautious if the claims for the product seem exaggerated or unrealistic and use phrases like “quick and effective” or “totally safe.” Be skeptical about information from personal “testimonials” about the product’s benefits. Keep in mind that testimonials, anecdotes, unsupported claims, and opinions are not the same as objective, evidence-based information.

  2. Be aware of the possibility of tainted products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found weight loss products sold as dietary supplements that contain hidden prescription drugs or other illegal ingredients. These tainted products can cause serious harm.

  3. The science doesn’t support the use of acai berry, bitter orange, or green tea supplements for weight loss. None of these supplements has been shown to produce meaningful weight loss in scientific studies.

  4. The safety of many weight loss supplements is uncertain. Many dietary supplements marketed for weight loss, including those sold as “fat burners” or appetite suppressants, have not been tested for safety.

  5. The ingredients that replaced ephedra may not be harmless. In 2004, the FDA banned the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra in the United States because of serious health risks. Other ingredients are now used instead, but some of them have side effects similar to those of ephedra. In addition, some supplements contain large amounts of caffeine or caffeine-containing herbs such as guarana, which may cause increased heart rate and abnormal heart rhythms.

  6. Talk with your health care provider. If you’re considering a supplement marketed for weight loss, discuss it with your health care provider. Your provider can also help you choose an effective weight loss program. If your provider doesn’t bring up healthy eating, physical activity, and weight control during your regular checkup, you can start the conversation.