Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Alison Wade.
A new Consumer Reports survey confirms what a lot of Runner’s World readers already know: If you’re looking to lose weight, your best bet is to focus on diet and exercise, and avoid attempting to shortcut the process by taking weight loss supplements.
The survey of almost 3,000 Americans found that nearly one in four people take weight loss supplements, the supplements aren’t particularly effective, and many people are misinformed about their risks.
“The barrage of advertising leads us to think there’s a magic way to melt away 10 pounds—even when we have no evidence that supplements work,” says Pieter Cohen, a physician at Harvard Medical School, told Consumer Reports.
The survey found that roughly 20 percent of the survey participants erroneously believed that the Food and Drug Administration guarantees the safety and effectiveness of weight loss supplements.
“The labels on weight loss supplements look like those on over-the-counter medications, and the supplement facts are organized like nutrition facts labels,” Cohen told Consumer Reports. “There’s no way for consumers to tell the difference.”
Roughly 25 percent of the survey participants believed weight loss supplements have fewer side effects than over-the-counter or prescription medications because they’re “natural.” In reality, side effects are common, with about half of survey participants who took supplements reporting at least one side effect.
In addition, a significant number of weight loss supplements on the market contain drugs that are banned by the FDA. In a recently-published study, Cohen examined 27 supplements that had been recalled by the FDA but were still available to the public. Two-third of the supplements purporting to promote weight loss still contained the banned substances.
The survey also found that most people who take weight loss supplements do not tell their primary care physicians, even though the supplements can interact with prescription medications.
Despite the potential risks, there’s little evidence that weight loss supplements are effective. One-third of the survey participants said they didn’t lose any weight. One-third said they lost some weight, and only nine percent of those surveyed said they lost all the weight they had hoped to and kept it off.
Perhaps most importantly, 85 percent of the people who said they lost any weight while taking a weight loss supplement were also following a diet or exercise program, which may have been the true cause of the weight loss.
“If you’ve spent money on something you think will help, you’ll probably pay more attention to what you’re eating,” Cohen told Consumer Reports. “Taking the pill acts as a reminder.”
If you’re looking to lose weight this year, focusing on a combination of exercise and a healthy diet is most likely to produce results. The links below contain additional information about where you can get started.