Do weight loss supplements work? No, says researcher

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Slimming supplements won't help the overweight or obese, a researcher has found
Slimming supplements won't help the overweight or obese, a researcher has found

Related tags Weight loss Obesity

Slimming supplements are an ineffective weight loss method, a researcher has found after scanning the literature in the area.

Writing in the December 2010 issue of Nutrition Bulletin, ​Helena Gibson-Moore's mini meta analysis concluded there was insufficient evidence backing the efficacy of weight loss supplements, and therefore should not be recommended by health professionals to the overweight and obese.

She concluded lifestyle, dietary and pharmaceutical interventions were more likely to yield positive results.

Considering the wealth of evidenced-based advice and guidance available to treat overweight and obesity, dietary supplements for weight loss are unlikely to be used in the clinical setting in the near future,”​ she wrote, noting, “a lack of robust evidence”​ supporting their efficacy.

“Health professionals need to be aware of the potential safety concerns associated with their use and also advise individuals that most supplements are costly and may result in frustration and disappointment when expectations are not successfully met in the long-term.

“People who use weight-loss supplements may be highly motivated to lose weight and therefore health-care professionals should try and utilise this motivation to encourage evidence-based weight-loss approaches and the use of proven, safe, and effective treatments when embarking on weight-loss attempts.”

Nutrition Bulletin ​is funded by the British Nutrition Foundation, a group which counts large food manufacturers, pharma players, ingredient suppliers and retailers among its membership, including GlaxoSmithKline, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, McDonald’s, Heinz, Yakult and Danisco.

Let the NHCR be the judge of that (slimming claims)

Responding to the findings, supplements group the UK Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), pointed to the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR), under which a series of weight management claims are under adjudication and due for publication at the end of the year.

CRN agrees that lifestyle and behavioural interventions are the main approaches for successful, long term weight maintenance and weight loss,”​ said chairman Ric Hobby, noting the research was focused on calorie input and expenditure.

All functional health claims, including those related to beneficial effects on body weight, sense of hunger or satiety are currently being assessed scientifically by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

“A list of authorised claims will form the basis of all permitted health claims on foods and food supplement products in Europe. CRN support all regulatory developments which protect consumers’ health and interests, including the removal of false and misleading claims, and which ensure the safety and efficacy of food supplements.”

Some study details

Gibson-Moore referenced an as yet unpublished study, a summary of which was presented last summer at the 11th International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm, Sweden, which found no statistical difference in weight loss between a range of weight loss supplements and placebo among 179 overweight or obese people.

The supplements included L-carnitine, guarana seed powder, bean extract, konjac extract, polyglucosamine, cabbage powder, fibre pills, sodium alginate formulations and selected plant extracts. All were purchased at German pharmacies, with subjects receiving one of them or placebo for eight weeks.

Those on the supplements recorded weight loss of between 1-2 kilograms, while the placebo group averaged 1.2kg weight loss.

Gibson-Moore noted that when the report was publicised in the summer, the British press had responded with headlines such as ‘Weight loss supplements do not work, say experts’ (MailOnline​); ‘Food supplements “make no difference for slimmers” (The DailyTelegraph ​2010) and ‘Diet pills “do a fat lot of good”’ (The Sun ​2010).

EFSA recently published a positive opinion linking konjac mannan (glucomannan)'s ability to support weight loss, “in the context of an energy-restricted diet”.

That opinion can be found here​.


Nutrition Bulletin

December 2010, Volume 35, Issue 4, ​pages 300–303

Do weight loss supplements work?’

Author: Helena Gibson-Moore

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coffee for thought

Posted by Steve,

I disagree, I used a new slimming green coffee in order to assist me to reach my weight goal and it worked just fine! And it was easy.

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Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?

Posted by Mitch Skop,

We heartily disagree with Helena Gibson-Moore’s mini meta analysis on weight loss supplements reported in your article, “Do Weight Loss Supplements Work? No, Says Researcher.” Her conclusion that “there is insufficient evidence backing the efficacy of weight loss supplements,” would seem to go well beyond the scope of a mini analysis, and we would have to conclude her analysis was so “mini” that it ignores a host of studies on weight control ingredients that have been conducted in the last few years.
A variety of positive studies have also been conducted on ingredients, such as CLA, green tea, and most recently konjac mannan as mentioned in your article receiving a positive opinion published by EFSA. Some ingredients have also won structure/function claims in the US:

• May reduce the enzymatic digestion of dietary starches.
• May aid in weight control when used in conjunction with a sensible diet and exercise.

In her criticism of supplement science Ms Gibson-Moore offers a weight loss study of ingredients that is, itself, unpublished, and questionable in its implementations and conclusions.

In addition she questions the safety of supplements while not pointing out any specifics, and ignores the often serious side-effects of weight loss drugs. To dismiss an entire segment of the nutrition industry as being ineffective is irresponsible at a time when obesity has become a global problem, and particularly in light of the fact that three new weight loss drugs have been rejected by the FDA.

We feel consumers should have all available tools to fight the serious and growing problem of being overweight and obese. There is no single magic bullet (drug or supplement), and successful weight management must include dietary and lifestyle changes. Dietary supplements are part and parcel of the overall goal of developing and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits for the long term.

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Posted by e,

Most selected food supplement nutrition works only for a short time, when it is taken as a single item. A slimming programme is developed for each individual with the products available, so the more products there are the better, to feed individual needs.
Some patients can and do mentally override whatever is given.

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