Chew on This

Are you taking an over-the-counter diet pill? It probably won’t help, study says

It both amazes and saddens me to continue to see commercials for over-the-counter weight loss preparations.

People are wasting money and having false hopes that something in a bottle will be the magic bullet. I have seen it all after 40 years of counseling people on nutrition. But I am still pleased when science backs up what common sense tells me.

A review article this month from Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism analyzed results from 54 randomized placebo-controlled trials of herbal medicines for weight loss. All together, these studies consisted of 4,331 participants.

The herbs studied were garcinia cambogio, camellia sinensis (green tea plant), phaseolus vulgaris (common bean plant) and ephedra sinica. You will find these ingredients on the labels of the most common weight loss pills. The reviewers considered a weight loss clinically significant if it was equal to or greater than 5.5 pounds.

The review found that although some herbal medicines showed a statistically significant effect on weight compared to placebo, the weight loss was not clinically relevant. It was not more than 5.5 pounds at the end of the study.

The researchers do add that some of the herbal medicines warrant further investigation in larger more rigorous studies to determine dosage and long-term safety. That probably will not happen because of lack of financial support.

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I was looking at supporting research for a “weight-loss pill” containing apple cider vinegar. The group taking the highest dose of apple cider vinegar lost four more pounds than the group taking the placebo at the end of 12 weeks. It was statistically significant but not clinically significant. And four weeks after the study ended, the apple cider vinegar group had regained all but .8 pounds of their initial weight.

The road to a healthy weight is paved with food not pills. And as I have written before, it does not matter if it is low or high carbohydrate, vegan or carnivore as long as it is loaded with vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains.

Save the pill money for great food.

Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian in private practice in Miami, Florida.

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