Should You Use Weight Loss Supplements?

Are you looking to lose weight quickly? You’re not alone – in fact, over two-thirds of adults in the United States suffer from overweight or obesity. While eating healthy and exercising are critical for weight loss, for some these tactics aren’t enough.

When diet and exercise fail, many Americans turn to dieting pills. There are three different types of diet pills on the market today: prescription weight loss pills, over-the-counter diet pills, and herbal dieting supplements. Unlike prescription and over-the-counter weight loss pills, weight loss supplements are not considered medications and are not monitored for safety or effectiveness by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It can be tempting to try these supplements, but unfortunately, they may still come with side effects and are not effective.

In this article we are going to delve into the details of weight loss supplements. We will help you to better understand exactly what weight loss supplements are, their pros and cons, and more effective alternatives to help you lose weight and keep it off.

What are Dieting Supplements and How Do They Work?

Weight loss supplements may contain numerous ingredients that the manufacturers claim help boost weight loss in a variety of ways. The idea is that the individual ingredients in the dieting supplements will lead to weight loss thanks to how these ingredients work in the body.

Common ingredients found in dieting supplements may include caffeine, fiber, herbs, small molecules, and minerals. Some claim to work by increasing your metabolism or suppressing your appetite. Others claim to work by thermogenesis, or increasing how much heat your body produces so that you burn more calories.

While there is a lot of scientific literature on how specific plant compounds can help you lose weight, there is usually little to no research supporting the benefits of specific dieting supplements.

Pros of Dieting Supplements

Here are some of the benefits that company testimonials have reported with dieting supplements:
• Easy to purchase (doesn’t require a prescription)
• Fast weight loss
• Decreased appetite
• Improved energy and mood

It’s important to note that reported benefits may not be accurate, due to some reporters’ financial relationship with product developers, and also the placebo effect. For example, Chitosan is a sugar that comes from shellfish shells. Supporters say it blocks your body from absorbing fat and cholesterol. But third-party reviewers disagree. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that chitosan doesn’t actually cause weight loss.

On the other hand, 7-keto-DHEA, which occurs naturally in your body, may possibly boost your metabolism. A few initial studies have suggested that 7-keto-DHEA supplements may assist with weight loss. Because initial studies are often sponsored by supplement vendors, though, more comprehensive studies are needed to determine if these supplements can facilitate weight loss.

Cons of Dieting Supplements

There are numerous risks associated with weight loss supplements. Some of these dangers include:
• Interactions with medications
• Unsafe and/or unregulated ingredients or too much of an ingredient
• Unknown effectiveness
• Temporary results
• Ingredients not included on label

The biggest problem with dieting supplements is that you do not always know what you are getting. Because the FDA regulates weight loss supplements as foods rather than medications, the manufacturers do not have to prove their safety or efficacy at all.

Some of the ingredients found in these products may interfere with certain medications or be unsafe if you have specific health conditions. One common example here is caffeine. Many dieting supplements contain unsafe levels of caffeine, which can be dangerous for you as a consumer.

Other common side effects of weight loss supplements include:
• Insomnia
• Irritability
• Nausea
• Fatigue
• Diarrhea

Even if you do lose weight with a dieting pill, these pills are not meant to be taken indefinitely. If you’ve struggled with regaining weight in the past, you might experience the same yo-yo effect when you stop taking dieting supplements.

If you do decide to try dieting supplements, be sure to speak with your doctor and research the specific supplement that you purchase.

Do Dieting Supplements Work?


Because of the lack of FDA regulation of herbal supplements, some products work and some do not. For the majority of weight loss supplements on the market, there’s an absence of research regarding long-term efficacy.

For example, a raspberry ketone supplement is marketed as “clinically proven” to cause weight loss, even though no long-term human clinical studies have been completed. This specific supplement has just one clinical trial to support its claim. In the trial, forty five adults suffering from obesity completed 8 weeks of taking either the multi-ingredient supplement or a placebo, while also following a diet and exercise program.

The results were modest. Those in the supplement group lost an average of 4.2 pounds verses 0.9 pounds for those in the placebo group. And with no long-term study, consumers are in the dark about long-term side effects and whether or not they’ll regain the weight in a few months.

In fact, in 2002 the U.S. Government of Accountability Office stated that “little is known about whether weight loss supplements are effective, but some supplements have been associated with the potential for physical harm.”

What this means for you is that weight loss supplements may work, but in most cases there’s not enough data to know for sure. Additionally, without the proper human clinical trials, there isn’t a lot of information about long-term side effects.

Types of Weight Loss Supplements

Dieting supplements come in numerous forms, including capsules and tablets, liquids, bars, teas, and powders. Not every weight loss supplement is created equal, and it is important to know the possible benefits and dangers of the dieting supplements on the market.

Click here for a list of some of the most common dieting supplements, along with a breakdown of research and side effects associated with each.

A More Effective Way to Lose Weight

For many people suffering from obesity, diet and exercise alone aren’t enough. If you’re struggling to lose weight, or if you lose weight only to regain it all the minute you stop dieting, then your battle with your weight can feel hopeless. But there is a solution: bariatric surgery offers powerful long-term weight loss.

Bariatric surgery is designed to help you lose weight and keep it off. Our patients generally lose 100 pounds or even more, and then stay at their new weight*. If you’re struggling with obesity, don’t wait; schedule an appointment with our friendly staff today.

*It’s important to note that results vary person to person and are not guaranteed

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This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: January 6th, 2023

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*Please note that individual results can vary and are not guaranteed.