Every day there seems to be a new herbal weight loss supplement on the market. Each one claims to be the second coming for those anxious to lose pounds. With so many herbal weight loss solutions on the market, why are so many people still still struggling with weight loss?
Because virtually all the herbal weight loss supplements and “medicines” on the market are garbage. A “wonder herb” (fruit, vegetable, oil, etc.) is discovered somewhere and a new product is born.
That “miracle” product comes with virtually zero scientific evidence that the formula works. Usually, there’s some folklore or innuendo associated with it. Like the Amazon tribe with no obesity, no diabetes, no cancer, etc. You know, the one that never stops moving, eats no processed food and isn’t addicted to phone and computer screens.
But somehow, it’s the miracle fruit that keeps the tribe lean and healthy. Yeah, about that.
Interestingly, every one of these herbal products seems to come with a “lab tested” diet plan. That diet plan has you eating like a concentration camp victim while you take the supplement. Getting the picture yet?
At this point, you’d have to either be a sucker for slick marketing or just have piles of cash that you’re just waiting to throw away (feel free to throw it over here) if you’re still thinking these bottles of nonsense are a good idea. But just in case you’re not convinced yet, science has come to the rescue again.
Dr. Nick Fuller and his band of merry bio-nerds at the University of Sydney realized that, with so many people around the world getting overweight and obese, there might be a sucker’s market for herbal weight loss supplements. Lots of folks are struggling to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
So Dr. Fuller’s team undertook a massive, global review of herbal medicines and products for weight loss. It’s the first one of it’s kind in 19 years.
What they found, in a nutshell, is that there is no evidence to support recommending any current herbal weight loss products. Sorry.
“The problem with supplements is that unlike pharmaceutical drugs, clinical evidence is not required before they are made available to the public in supermarkets or chemists,” said Dr Fuller from the University of Sydney’s Boden Collaboration for Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders based at its Charles Perkins Centre.
Their systematic review and meta-analysis is published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism. Their study looked at the latest and greatest international research into herbal weight loss products. They reviewed 54 controlled, randomized studies that compared the effects of herbal weight loss products to placebos for weight loss. The studies encompassed over 4,000 participants.
While the team did find some herbal products that stimulated statistically greater weight loss than the placebo, it wasn’t considered to be clinically significant, since it averaged less than 2.5kg. Some people spent a lot of money to lose about 5 pounds.
“This finding suggests there is insufficient evidence to recommend any of these herbal medicines for the treatment of weight loss. Furthermore, many studies had poor research methods or reporting and even though most supplements appear safe for short-term consumption, they are expensive and are not going to provide a weight loss that is clinically meaningful,” said Dr Fuller.
According to a recent US study, 16 percent of Americans trying to lose weight reported using a weight loss supplement. That breaks down to 12 percent of men and 19 percent of women.
These products, called herbal medicines or herbal supplements fairly interchangeably, are products that contain a plant, a combination of plants or similar compound as the active ingredient. Some common herbal supplement ingredients include garcinia cambogia, green tea, African mango, white kidney bean and Amazon goat snot.
Okay, I made that last one up. But with a slick marketing campaign, I bet a whole bunch of people would buy it! If the accompanying diet is strict enough, people will lose weight and thank me for the goat snot. But I digress.
The herbal weight loss supplement market is big and largely unregulated. Manufacturers, importers and distributors are not required to perform clinical testing for effectiveness, so their claims of efficacy are unsubstantiated and all too often anecdotal. Some are just fantasy.
The study authors note that in Australia, makers and sellers of these products must hold, but not necessarily share with the public, evidence that backs up their claims. The problem is that only about 20 percent of the new products that come out are audited to ensure they meet the requirement.
In some countries, the only requirement is that the supplement contains acceptable levels of non-medicinal substances, whatever that means.
“The growth in the industry and popularity of these products highlights the importance of conducting more robust studies on the effectiveness and safety of these supplements for weight loss,” said Dr Fuller.
The review excluded studies where the herbal medicine did not include the whole plant, was comprised of plant oils or combined with other dietary supplements such as fibres and proteins. This analysis will be reported in a future paper.
Are there products on the market that can assist with weight loss? Yes. They’re known as whole, real foods. Taking a good multi-vitamin will help with energy levels and distribution and there are some products that can pump up your energy to get in a better workout.
In the end, though, the hard truth is that you need to move your body, feed it with real food and maintain a caloric deficit if weight loss is your goal. All the fancy jungle fruit, plant extracts or even goat snot can substitute for that.
Keep the faith and keep after it!
Material Source – University of Sydney
Journal Reference – Alison Maunder, Erica Bessell, Romy Lauche, Jon Adams, Amanda Sainsbury, Nicholas R. Fuller. Effectiveness of herbal medicines for weight loss: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/dom.13973