Do Weight Loss Supplements Really Work?

October 25, 2018 • By Sophia Smith

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For as long as we’ve known, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising and calorie counting has been the most effective method for weight loss. Now that we’re in the 21st century, alternative methods such as weight loss supplements, protein powders, and energy drinks are becoming increasingly popular. The question is, are these alternative methods effective or are they just a dead end?

To find what the best method for you is, seek advice from a medical professional, or research further on  for more tips and information on your weight loss journey.

Does popping a ‘Magic Pill’ really work?

We’ve all seen the advertisements on television, the ones that say “I lost 12 kilograms in 3 months”, they’re all really convincing, especially when justified by scientific evidence and before and after results. The reality is, these magic pills are designed to be paired with energy controlled diets and regular exercise. By taking these pills, we’re trying to avoid having to exercise and eat nutritionally in the first place, either way, it’s impossible to avoid doing the hard yards.

Family doctor and the founder of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute in Canada, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff stated “If weight loss came in a bottle, the world would be slim”, he also claims that he has yet to discover a good safe, long term herbal supplement that he can implement into his weight loss programs for his patients.

Health Canada in 2007 had issued at least 45 ‘risk communications’, in which included more than 170 weight loss supplements, involving the well-favored Hydroxycut in May 2009, in which had led to 23 cases of liver toxicity and one death in the U.S, this is yet another reason why to be cautious in relation to using these ‘magic pills’. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S still have yet to find out what ingredient or combination of ingredients caused this issue in 2007.

Scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network Dr. Arya Sharma concurs with the comment by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff that stimulants and laxatives are not a healthy, safe approach to long-term weight loss.

Most weight loss pills have a few ingredients in common stimulants such as caffeine, which can conclude in high blood pressure and heart palpitations. These pills typically contain a variety of vitamins and herbs as well. Usually, the ingredients in these weight loss supplements are individually tested before being included in the product but aren’t tested when they interact with one another, this can result in unknown side effects. Two products that were researched by Karina Bray had both contained Panax ginseng and bitter orange, both of which are not recommended to be taken together due to a higher risk of heart arrhythmias. (1)

Positives of these magic pills:

  • Satiable: Diet pills can assist with feeling satiable for longer periods of time, which means you’ll feel fuller for longer
  • Water Retention: Weight loss pills can also create a diuretic effect, meaning they may reduce the amount of water your body is holding
  • Prevention of developing new fat: this process is called lipogenesis, most of these dietary pills claim to have this effect, in which a few of the ingredients have earnt scientific backing, betaine being the top ingredient that has proven to of had this effect most commonly
  • Burning more calories as you sleep: Increasing your resting energy expenditure may also be a side effect from dietary pills, this means you may be burning fewer calories as you exercise and more as you sleep

So, what’s the verdict? There isn’t one, it’s more of a hit or miss. Although there are studies that show the downfall of these magic pills, there are quite a few success stories out there, as well as positive outcomes, but it really depends on the supplement, the ingredients, and if you’re exercising and eating healthy. Taking a dietary supplement is worth the shot. It’s still advised to see a medical expert before beginning a course of these supplements. Everybody is different, some pills may work for people, and some may not work for others, that’s why seeking help from a medical professional is recommended to find what’s best for you. (2)

Sophia Smith

She is a renowned nutritionist and freelance writer whose topics of interest include healthy living and healthy eating. She is passionate about introducing new and delicious healthy meals while balancing her time between cooking and going to the gym. Her mission is to change the life of as many people as she can and make them the best version of themselves.
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