Are weight loss supplements just a fantasy?

Are weight loss supplements just a fantasy?

If life was only that easy. Take a pill and lose dozens of pounds without doing anything. And feel free to keep eating double cheeseburgers several times a week.

We have all seen the infomercials touting the miracles of supplements that will make you the poster child for incredible weight loss. Well, if you believe that you are not alone according to a recent study.

A new Consumer Reports survey found that nearly 20 percent of those surveyed believe supplements are safe and effective and that the Federal Drug Administration guarantees it.

“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 Dr. Pieter Cohen, a physician at Harvard Medical School, in a Consumer Reports news release.

“The labels on weight loss supplements look like those on over-the-counter medications, and the supplement facts are organized like nutrition facts labels. There’s no way for consumers to tell the difference.”

More than two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With those figures, there is a market for these supplements.

Obesity or being overweight may increase the risk of many health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Health experts say that a quick fix simply won’t fix much.

“You have to remember you didn’t gain the weight overnight and you can’t expect to lose the weight overnight,” says Dotty Berzy, senior clinical dietitian for Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “Losing weight dramatically like just eating fruits or going on an extreme diet might help you lose weight in the short term, but you will gain it back because it will be too hard to maintain.”

Another easy tip is simply getting enough sleep.

“Your need energy so when you are tired, the body interprets that as needing energy and people tend to eat more to get that energy. Plus staying up late makes you hungry which also makes you eat more,” adds Berzy.

Most dietary supplements marketed for rapid weight loss, such as acai and hoodia, don’t keep weight off in the long term. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra, which was marketed for weight loss, because of serious health risks, such as cardiovascular complications and even risk of death.

About half of the people polled in the survey who tried the weight loss supplement said they developed at least one symptom such as rapid heart rate, jitteriness, diarrhea or dry mouth. There was even a potential for kidney or liver problems connected to the supplements. Also a third of the people didn’t even lose weight.

So if losing weight is one of your New Year’s Resolutions, health experts say you should be resolute about losing weight the right way.

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  1. There’s no substitute for sustained healthy eating and exercise. They require time and a strong commitment, but the results are worth it.

  2. Michael Heidkamp January 8, 2015 at 11:19 am · Reply

    I won’t go as far to say that every weight loss supplement is ineffective, but they are not a substitute for healthy eating and exercise. In fact most of the disclaimers for these products say “works best when combine with healthy eating and exercise”. There are a lot of different factors that play a role in weight loss in addition to eating and exercise. These factors include sleep, hydration, accountability and each person’s individual medical situation. For more information contact the Advocate Weight Management Department.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.