Do Supplements in Diets for Weight Loss Really Work?

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works with the National Center for Health Statistics Data (NCHS) each year to conduct the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which provides us with data on the prevalence of obesity in the United States. For the years 2013-2014, it is noted that more than 2 in 3 adults (70.2 percent) were considered to be overweight or have obesity. Numbers since then have been on the rise.

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With such high prevalence of obesity, over half of us report being on a diet. The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) states that the majority of those who report being on a diet – 68 percent – take dietary supplements and that this percentage has remained consistent over the past five years. Consumer surveys conducted by the CRN show that most supplement users aged 18-34 – 66 percent – anticipate their supplement use will increase over the next five years. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, Americans spend over $25 billion per year on more than 50,000 products containing vitamins and minerals, herbs and botanicals, and other ingredients such as glucosamine, fish oils, and probiotics. Should Americans be using these supplements for weight loss? Do they really help us lose weight and are they safe to use?


Dietary supplements are available in a variety of different forms from pills, capsules, and gel tablets, to powders, extracts, and liquids. There are hundreds of herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs that don’t require a prescription from a healthcare provider. Most Americans believe that what they find on the shelves of their local convenience store or pharmacy is trustworthy, effective, and safe to use. The scary truth is that many over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Without FDA regulation, a lot of what we know about the drug or supplement is unknown including facts on its effectiveness, measurements of the active ingredient(s), and if any harmful substances are used or included. In fact, recent FDA investigations have found that nearly 70 kinds of diet pills were spiked, laced, and flooded with dangerous drugs. The only drugs that promise FDA regulation are prescription medications, drugs prescribed by a physician. There are over a dozen different prescription weight loss drugs on the pharmaceutical market and even though they are FDA regulated, doctors are still leery to prescribe them. This is because failure to follow a physician’s exact instructions or taking too much of a weight loss prescription medication has been proven to lead to sleep problems, palpitations, an increased heart rate, stroke, and even heart attacks. Because of this risk, physicians will only prescribe weight loss medications to those who have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 or those who have a BMI of 27 and a comorbidity such as hypertension,

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