Review shows minimal, high-quality evidence that dietary supplements cause weight loss


SILVER SPRING, Maryland – Although Americans spend billions on them, published research shows a lack of strong evidence that dietary supplements and alternative therapies help adults lose weight, according to a new study published in Obesity, the flagship journal of The Obesity Society (TOS).

There are hundreds of weight loss supplements like green tea extract, chitosan, guar gum, and conjugated linoleic acid, and an estimated 34% of Americans trying to lose weight have used one.

For the study, the researchers performed a comprehensive review of 315 existing clinical trials of weight loss supplements and therapies, and most studies found that the supplements did not produce weight loss in users.

“Our results are important to clinicians, researchers and industry because they suggest the need for rigorous evaluation of weight loss products,” said corresponding author John Batsis, MD, associate professor in the Division. of Geriatric Medicine from the University of North Carolina. (UNC) School of Medicine and the Department of Nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “Only then can we generate data that will allow clinicians to provide more confident feedback and advice to our patients.”

The assessment should also be collaborative, as the supplement industry and academics work together to design high-quality clinical trials for weight loss supplements, Batsis added.

The authors of the article explain that patients often have difficulty losing or maintaining weight, either due to the ineffectiveness of existing therapies approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) or a lack of access. healthcare professionals who provide treatment for obesity.

Even though the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health advanced the science of dietary supplements by evaluating information, stimulating and supporting research, TOS members decided it was important to evaluate and perform a qualitative synthesis of non-FDA therapies to provide evidence-based scientific information to guide its members.

Researchers performed a systematic review of the literature using the preferred reporting elements guidelines for systematic reviews and meta-analyzes to assess the effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative therapies for loss of blood. weight in participants aged 18 and over. Medline (Pubmed), Cochrane Library, Web of Science, CINAHL and Embase (Ovid) were searched.

Researchers focused on 315 peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials and analyzed them for risk of bias. The results classified 52 studies as being at low risk of bias and sufficient to support their effectiveness. Of these, 16 studies demonstrated significant before / after weight differences between groups compared to placebos. In these methodologically separate studies, weight loss varied widely from 0.3 to 4.93 kg.

From a perspective written by members of the TOS clinical committee led by Srividya Kidambi, MD, MS, Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee who also co-authored the article, members recommend that clinicians consider the lack of evidence of dietary supplements and therapies not approved by the FDA and guide their patients to proven approaches to weight management. “Public and private entities should provide adequate resources for the management of obesity. We call on regulatory authorities to critically examine the dietary supplement industry, including their role in promoting misleading claims and marketing of products that could harm patients, ”the authors write in the paper.


Other authors of the study include John Apolzan, Steven Heymsfield, and Abishek Stanley of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University System, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Pamela Bagley, Heather Blunt and Ryan Shean of Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH; Vidita Divan of Stormont Vail Health in Topeka, Kan .; Sonia Gill of the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, Sacramento, California; Angela Golden of the NP Obesity Treatment Clinic, Flagstaff, Arizona; Shalini Gundumraj of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; Scott Kahan of the National Center for Weight and Wellness, George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, DC; Katherine Kopatsis of George Washington University, Washington, DC; Ava Port, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Nutrition, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; Elizabeth Parks, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and The Healthy Weight Program, Perelman Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Clifford Reilly of Robert Larner, MD College of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington; Domenica Rubino of the Washington Center for Weight Management and Research, Arlington, Va .; Katherine Saunders and Beverly Tchang, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Weill Cornell Medicine, Comprehensive Weight Control Center in New York, NY; Luai Tabaza of Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Shivani Gundumraj of the School of Osteopathic Medicine at AT Still University, Mesa, Arizona.

The paper, titled “A Systematic Review of Dietary Supplements and Alternative Therapies for Weight Loss,” will be published in the July 2021 print issue. Perspective titled “Dietary Supplements and Alternative Therapies for Obesity: A Perspective from the Obesity Society Clinical Committee” will accompany the paper.

Batsis research reported in this publication was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (K23AG051681). He also reports a stake in SynchroHealth LLC, a remote monitoring startup. The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official opinions of the National Institutes of Health. Apolzan received funding from a food company to study the subjects of this manuscript. There was no funding from the Obesity Society for the development of the work of this manuscript. Golden reports a consultation with Novo Nordisk and Unjury. Heymsfield reports Medifast’s personal expenses. Rubino reports consulting and speaking fees for Novo Nordisk and AstraZeneca. Saunders has a relationship with Intellihealth Inc. Kidambi is the medical director of the TOPS Center for Metabolic Health at the Medical College of Wisconsin, which is supported by TOPS, Inc.

The Obesity Society (TOS) is the leading organization of scientists and health professionals dedicated to understanding and reversing the obesity epidemic and its detrimental effects on health, economy and society. society. Combining the perspectives of researchers, clinicians, policy makers and patients, TOS promotes innovative research, education and evidence-based clinical care to improve the health and well-being of all obese people. For more information visit http: // www.obesity.organization.


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