Weight loss is a complicated topic that has a halo of misinformation surrounding it. While experts all agree that eating nutritious foods, watching your caloric intake, and staying active are the most effective methods for long-term weight loss, it can be difficult to make these diet and lifestyle changes. As such, many people tend to look for alternatives in the hope that they can ramp up results without changing anything in the process.
One of these alternative methods lies in weight loss pills and supplements. These have gained notoriety as being a “quick fix” for losing weight and keeping the pounds off, and the marketing has worked–it’s estimated that Americans spend over $2 billion every year on weight loss supplements [1
But what exactly are weight loss supplements, are they safe, and what should you look for in a quality option? Let’s turn to science to see what it says about supplementation and any subsequent health implications–both on and off the scale.
What are weight loss supplements?
Weight loss supplements come in a variety of forms (such as capsules, tablets, liquids, powders, and bars), and may contain common ingredients like herbs, fiber, caffeine, and other compounds and minerals.
While manufacturers may boast that their product can increase your metabolism, block the absorption of carbs or fat, or curb your appetite, you should take these statements with a grain of salt. While there is little research to back up these claims, deceptive marketing tactics and clever wording can easily mislead consumers.
To help find the best quality products, look for science-backed supplements that are third-party tested, as this can help improve the safety and efficacy of products. You can do this by checking the bottle of the supplement you are considering. If you see a stamp of certification, you can be sure that the product has been third-party tested.
At Elo, we have a rigorous third-party process in place to ensure that we deliver safe and effective supplements of the highest quality. Learn more about this process here.
Weight loss supplements and diet pills can be accompanied by nasty side effects (like increased blood pressure, insomnia, elevated heart rate, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and dizziness), and can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and even death [2
They can also be expensive, interact with certain medications, and may not even work.
Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before taking weight loss pills or supplements, especially if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, or other medical conditions.
Natural supplements to aid with weight loss
While there are many options available on the market, how do you know which supplement is best for fat loss? And if you choose to supplement, what should you take to lose weight?
Here are some natural options found in Elo’s formulary that are backed by science and may help in your weight loss journey.
Alpha lipoic acid
(also known as lipoic acid, thioctic acid, or ALA) is a vitamin-like compound that helps turn glucose into energy. Preliminary studies suggest supplementing with ALA may potentially help with weight loss, but research is ongoing.
Emerging evidence shows that 800-1,800 mg/day of ALA may be modestly beneficial for weight loss in overweight and obese individuals [3
]. Additionally, other studies have found that ALA supplementation resulted in more weight loss than a placebo; however, the average weight loss difference was minimal, ranging from 1.5-5 pounds [4
While early research offers promising evidence, the study methods and dosing guidelines have varied significantly making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. More research is needed in this area to determine if ALA supplementation can produce significant weight loss benefits in overweight and obese individuals and to establish safe and effective dosing recommendations.
Studies have found that the catechins in green tea
(like EGCG) may have anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects, likely due to the effect on thermogenesis and increasing energy expenditure. Some research in mice has shown the EGCG from green tea may reduce obesity by increasing fat oxidation and decreasing energy absorption [6
]. More research is needed to determine whether these benefits can be reproduced in humans and to establish safe and effective dosing guidelines, if so.
is a bright yellow spice made from the root of the Curcuma longa plant that is native to Southeast Asia. It also contains curcumin, a naturally occurring compound that gives turmeric its bright yellow color and potent anti-inflammatory properties.
There are numerous health benefits associated with both turmeric and curcumin, but do they also contribute to weight loss?
Science says yes. Thanks to curcumin’s strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, research has found that people who had metabolic syndrome and took curcumin experienced a significant reduction in BMI, weight, waist circumference, and leptin [8
]. For instance, 70 mg of curcumin/day has been shown to reduce BMI and liver fat status in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, whereas taking 800 mg of nano-curcumin/day for 3 months by those with type 2 diabetes experienced reduced BMI, HbA1c, fasting glucose, and triglycerides levels [8
Studies also suggest that curcumin may suppress particular inflammatory markers that play a role in obesity [9
Berberine is a bioactive compound that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat various ailments.
It has also been shown to reduce blood sugar, lower cholesterol, improve heart health, and aid with weight loss.
Notable research has found that people who took 500 mg of berberine 3 times/day experienced a 5-pound weight loss compared to those who didn’t take it [10
]. Other studies show that taking 300 mg of berberine 3 times/day may be enough to reduce BMI levels, lose belly fat, and improve many health markers [11
5-HTP is a chemical that helps the body convert L-tryptophan to serotonin, and interestingly, research suggests that taking 5-HTP can support weight loss and help people maintain a healthy weight.
Studies have found that individuals who took a 5-HTP supplement were more likely to eat protein-rich foods compared to those who didn’t take the supplement. Since protein can help with satiety, researchers suggest that 5-HTP may help reduce cravings, decrease food intake, reduce BMI, and help with weight loss [12
Cinnamon may be a common staple in your pantry, but you may be surprised to know that it comes with a plethora of health benefits, such as blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, improved heart health, and weight management.
Since this spice has a high fiber content (1 tablespoon contains 4 g of fiber), studies suggest that it can help reduce food cravings, promote satiety, and even improve some characteristics of metabolic syndrome. In one study, people who took 3 g of cinnamon for 16 weeks had significant improvements in all aspects of metabolic syndrome, including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and obesity [14
Cinnamon may also enhance fat metabolism. One study found that exposure to cinnamon oil can induce thermogenesis since it increases the activity of several genes, enzymes, and proteins that are known to enhance fat metabolism [15
Weight loss FAQs
Want to learn more about healthy ways to lose weight? Check out some of these popular FAQs:
Weight loss pills and supplements have gained notoriety as being a “quick fix” for losing weight and keeping the pounds off.
However, weight loss supplements should be carefully researched before adding them to your routine. Because weight loss claims are not regulated, manufacturers can boast unsubstantiated benefits about their products and mislead consumers. Weight loss supplements can also be expensive, cause alarming side effects, and interact with certain medications.
If you choose to take a weight loss supplement, be sure that it is third-party tested and backed by science. Some natural supplement options include alpha lipoic acid, green tea, turmeric, berberine, 5-HTP, and cinnamon.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose or replace personalized medical care