Natural Weight Loss Supplements

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Have you considered trying natural weight loss supplements? There is no shortage of products that promise to melt fat or blast away pounds. So how do you find the best one?

The problem is that many guides to weight loss pills are produced by the very people who are selling the supplements. It's important to gather unbiased and current information about the diet pills you are considering taking so that you lose weight safely and effectively.

The Basics

There are different types of dietary supplements. Herbal or natural supplements for weight loss are those that come from plant sources and claim to help you lose weight. Sometimes they are also called botanicals or phytomedicines. These herbal supplements often have a label that says they are "100% Natural" and may have a healthy-sounding brand name. But simply because a product is natural doesn't mean it is safe. And merely because a supplement is "healthy" doesn't mean it is effective. 

Several recent studies conducted on dietary supplements found that consumers who buy herbal supplements may not get the product advertised on the label. Unfortunately this represents a trend that doesn't only happen with online vendors or shady back-alley dealers. Beginning with movement in the state of New York in 2015 to cite several large retailers for selling products that were not as advertised, and after conducting its own research, by April 2019 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration posted warning letters to four companies who produce homeopathic drug products, citing them for significant violations of good manufacturing practice. Chief among these was King Bio, of Asheville, North Carolina (Dr. King’s Natural Medicine(s), Natural Pet, People’s Best, SafeCare, Sprayology, Silver Star Brand, HelloLife, Beaumont Bio Med, and BioLyte Laboratories). Also receiving warning letters for products labeled as homeopathic yet presenting quality and misbranding violations were Red Mountain Incorporated, Oakland Park, Fla.; Tec Laboratories Incorporated, Albany, Ore.; and B. Jain Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd., Rajasthan, India (warning letter also specifying insect contamination during processing). Similar warning letters were issued in 2019 to Nutra Pharma Corp., Boca Raton, Fla (illegally marketing unapproved products labeled as homeopathic with claims to treat addiction and chronic pain) and Pure Source LLC, Doral, Fla., for distributing drugs made with contaminated raw materials.

Common Natural Weight Loss Supplement Ingredients 

If you choose to supplement your weight loss program with an herbal product, you'll probably find that popular products in stores and online contain one or more of these herbal ingredients.

Garcinia Cambogia

Because it is one of the most popular products on the market, many scientists have studied garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid). Unfortunately, the herbal supplement has been shown to have "little to no effect on weight loss," according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

Glucomannan

This natural fiber product comes from the konjac plant. While diet supplements that contain glucomannan (such as Lipozine) say it is effective for weight loss, a study published in the well-respected Journal of Obesity found that the herbal supplement did not promote weight loss. The National Institutes of Health also states that only limited evidence supports its effectiveness. The government source also states that people who take the supplement may experience adverse side effects such as loose stools, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal discomfort.

Chitosan

Chitosan actually comes from fish but is frequently identified as an herbal supplement to help people lose weight. People who are allergic to shellfish should not take this product. Even if you are not allergic, recent studies have not found it to be effective for weight loss. And while government sources report few side effects, you may experience limited flatulence, bloating, constipation, indigestion, nausea, and heartburn when taking the diet pill.

Bitter Orange

After ephedra was banned, some herbal supplement manufacturers started using bitter orange instead. Bitter orange may help you burn more calories, but researchers are not sure. Scientists have substantial concerns about the safety of the stimulant, especially when combined with other manufactured or natural weight loss supplements. Users of bitter orange have reported chest pain, anxiety, and increased blood pressure and heart rate. Government sources say that the pill may raise heart rate and metabolic rate, but there is not enough evidence to say that it will help you lose weight.

Green Tea Extract

This herbal supplement is found on almost every drugstore shelf and many vendors sell the pills online. Unfortunately, many of the research studies that investigated the extract's effectiveness have not been high quality. You are not likely to experience side effects if you drink green tea or take a green tea supplement. But the NIH suggests that green tea may only provide a modest weight loss benefit if any at all.

Raspberry Ketone

You'll see raspberry-related products in many herbal supplements for weight loss. There have been no high-quality studies to demonstrate it's effectiveness as a diet aid in humans. No serious side effects have been reported but this diet aid may harm your budget since there is little evidence to show that it actually helps you lose weight.

Forskolin 

Forskolin extract from the Coleus plant has not been studied enough to determine if it is effective for weight loss. One small study showed that it may be helpful for weight loss in men, but more evidence is needed to support its use as a weight-loss aid. Some medical experts believe the herbal supplement may present adverse side effects including low blood pressure and decreased heart rate.

Aegeline

While this product should no longer be available, you may still be able to find it online or in stores. Aegeline (included in OxyElite Pro) was removed from the market and banned by the FDA after several cases of death and severe liver injury were reported. The ingredient was included in popular fat burning supplements and bodybuilding products.   

The Bottom Line

Before you take any supplement, be sure to consult your health care provider to make sure the product is safe for you to use. Many products can be safe for some people but dangerous for others when combined with other medications or vitamins being taken, or a pre-existing health condition. Be absolutely sure you tell your doctor about all supplements, pills, and herbal products you take or plan to take.

You may also want to investigate if there have been recent scientific studies about the effectiveness of any product you are considering. It's best to get this information from an unbiased, reputable, and credible source. You can check the National Institutes of Health Dietary Supplement Label Database or the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheets. According to the NIH, most supplements have been found to be ineffective for weight loss. 

Some products have been shown in limited situations to have some weight loss benefit, but you're not likely to slim down if you rely on the supplement alone. You're more likely to see results if you focus on proven methods such as a calorie-controlled healthy diet and regular exercise. Then add a supplement only if its use is supported by your physician.

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  2. Barlas S. FDA considers more rigorous enforcement for homeopathic products over safety risks: New labeling is possible; Pre-market testing seems unlikely. Pharmacy and Therapeutics 2015;40(7):414–468.

  3. FDA. FDA warns homeopathic firms for putting patients at risk with significant violations of manufacturing quality standards. Updated April 1, 2019.

  4. Keithley JK, Swanson B, Mikolaitis SL, et al. Safety and efficacy of glucomannan for weight loss in overweight and moderately obese adults. J Obes. 2013;2013:610908. doi:10.1155/2013/610908

  5. FDA. FDA investigation summary: Acute hepatitis illnesses linked to certain OxyElite pro products. Updated November 3, 2016.

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