It is the new year and most people make resolutions. Usually, one of these is to lose weight. For some, the answer to weight loss is a supplement. Is it really that easy? Are weight loss supplements really worth it?
What Are Weight Loss Supplements
Weight loss supplements come from a variety of natural and synthetic sources in a variety of forms including pills, powders, and teas. They usually claim to help you lose weight or inches off your waist just by taking their product.
But do they even work? For many weight loss supplements, the science is not clear or does not exist at all. For others, there is evidence to support their use.
A recent study review that was published in July 2022 reviewed 315 previous studies and found that most were biased and poorly conducted with only 16 studies demonstrating weight loss in participants. That said, most traditional methods of losing weight have not been successful either. Simply look at our country; America is about 50% (or more) overweight or obese.
Not A Miracle Pill
Weight loss supplements should not be looked at as miracle pills. If you see a weight loss supplement being advertised as one, you may wish to stay clear of it. Many weight loss supplement companies are not trustworthy and lie about the ingredients in their products. The biggest concern is when a product is actually another product, but disguised. This has happened with regard to the (illegal) products phen-phen and such being put into ‘supplements’.
Not all weight loss supplements are the same. You should only purchase supplements from reputable companies. While the FDA doesn't formally regulate dietary supplements in the same way as highly monetized pharmaceuticals, the FDA does have established guidelines for dietary supplements.
The current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) established in 2007 requires each batch product to be tested for identity, purity, strength, and composition. Some ingredients have been around forever and are considered to be ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS).
How To Properly Use Weight Loss Supplements
Almost every reputable weight loss supplement will inform the buyer that their weight loss supplement is not a miracle pill and works best when taken with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Weight loss supplements should be thought of as a supplementary addition to your current weight loss efforts to help accelerate results. Just know that eating less, eating higher quality foods, avoiding processed foods and then exercising is almost a guaranteed way to lose weight.
Dr. Meredith Warner is a huge proponent of the Mediterranean Diet, which includes whole grains, fruits, veggies, seafood, beans, nuts, and healthy fats. (However, she considers this ‘diet’ to be more of a philosophy or lifestyle than a strict regimented list of foods to consume, or not to consume.)
A good place to start exercising is 15-30 minutes of zone 1 or 2 cardio a day and build up as your body gets used to working out regularly. Adding a day or two of strength work is ultimately the goal.
Do not feel like you need to jump wholeheartedly into diet and exercise. Start where you are comfortable and build up your confidence as you go along. Taking small steps and achieving tiny milestones is a very successful method of change.
Science-Backed Weight Loss Supplements
Dr. Meredith Warner only recommends weight loss supplements backed by scientific research and studies.
Berberine, a natural supplement, has been shown to help improve weight loss by improving metabolism. It is known to lower blood glucose, reduce appetite, and yet increase energy levels. It is not a miracle pill. If you take berberine while continuing to eat an unhealthy diet and remain sedentary you will see little to no success in your weight loss goals.
A 12-week study found that participants were able to lose about 3.6% of their body fat and about 5 pounds when taking 500mg 3 times per day. To put this in perspective, most pharmaceuticals or surgeries are considered a great success if 5% weight loss is achieved over months of use.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is another one of Dr. Meredith Warner’s favorite weight loss supplements. It performs in a similar way that berberine does to facilitate weight loss. It engages the metabolic system to process blood glucose while reducing appetite and increasing energy levels. ALA has the added benefit of being a very potent antioxidant.
Studies have shown that ALA helps people lose an average of 1.52 pounds more than a placebo over the course of 14 weeks.