Weight loss supplements and diet drugs

Should you take willow bark, or drink green tea, to help you lose weight? Here is an article summarizing the latest scientific thinking about food supplements and chemicals marketed as weight loss aids. You have to register (and may have to be a healthcare professional) at http://www.medscape.com/home before viewing the article titled “The Skinny on Weight Loss Supplements: Fact or Fantasy?” at http://www.medscape.com/viewprogram/12613_pnt.

This website has connections with the pharmaceutical industry, so may have a bias in favor of the benefits of drugs (which I do not share). The bottom line is that FDA approved Orlistat has minimal value as “an adjunct to a diet low in saturated fat.” All the other supplements mentioned (Bitter Orange, Chitosan, Chromium, Conjugated Linoleic Acid, Fiber, Green Tea, Guar Gum, Guarana, Hoodia, Hydroxycitric Acid, L-Carnitine, Natural Licorice, Usnic Acid, White Kidney Bean Extract, Willow Bark, Yohimbine) have minimal or no efficacy, and many can cause serious side effects. Of the group, White Kidney Bean Extract (a dietary “carb blocker” which delays or attenuates the absorption of starch and carbohydrates) had a small weight-loss effect in one study.

The article concludes: “Before recommending such products, clinicians should inform patients of potential risks as well as questionable benefits. Lifestyle modifications, such as caloric restriction and exercise, should always be the first-line treatment for obesity. However, clinicians should recognize the popularity of products currently on the market and the likelihood that their patients may be using them.”

My take: Always beware of quick and easy solutions to losing or maintaining weight. As yet, there are no really good weight-loss drugs or supplements, and all of them come with significant downsides (cost, side effects, unknown long-term effects, interaction with other drugs and supplements you may be taking). See my website www.wmfyl.com for excerpts from my book and also click on Frequently Asked Questions to see more of my approach to weight management.

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