Weight Loss and Supplements

June 1, 2015

By Linda Kees, RD, LD, CNSC

As most of us already know, weight loss is usually caused by a combination of reduced calories and increased exercise. Everyone is still waiting for the “magic pill” that will cause us to drop some pounds, but so far there is no such thing. However, there are some supplements that hold promise in helping with weight loss.


1. Green Tea contains caffeine and catechins which have been associated with “modest” reductions in BMI, weight and waist circumference. It should be consumed 1-3 times per day. Please note that green tea extract pills with GTC (green tea catechins) and commercially bottled green tea were not found to be effective, you must brew your own tea to be effective.

2. Garcinia Cambogia, also known as brindall berry is native to SE Asia. It’s purported active weight loss ingredient is called HCA (hydroxycitrate acid). HCA may stop creation of new fat cells and decrease appetite. Although study results are compelling, many more need to be done to make recommendations.

3. It’s no secret that Fiber helps to keep you feeling full. I recommend taking 25-30 grams of fiber every day from fruits, vegetables and grains. Many fiber containing foods also contain prebiotics, which contribute beneficial bacteria to your gut. Psyllium (aka Metamucil) has been studied as a weight loss aid, but so far the results are mixed. It seems to be most effective if taken about 20 minutes before a meal.

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids show a weak indication for weight loss. Animal studies show that fish oil may increase how fast you burn calories, increase fat burning, suppress appetite, decrease formation of new fat cells and increase lean muscle mass. Unfortunately, the research has not been repeated in humans yet. We do know that omega-3 fatty acids help to lower cholesterol and triglycerides and fight inflammation, which can be helpful for weight loss.

Not recommended:

1. Ginseng is an ancient remedy for a variety of conditions, but so far, the studies done show no benefit with weight loss.

2. Guar Gum is a type of fiber that can increase fullness and decrease appetite, however, it has not been correlated with weight loss. Stick with psyllium fiber instead.

3. Fenugreek has been shown to improve fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, but not weight loss.

4. Ephedra is a very effective weight loss supplement, but should NEVER be taken under any circumstance! An article in Journal of the American Medical Association showed that Ephedra increased psychiatric issues, gastrointestinal issues and heart palpitations by 200-400% and can be deadly. The FDA took it off the market in 2004 for obvious reasons.

Reference: Mullin, G. Supplements for Weight Loss: Hype or Help for Obesity? Part III. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 2015, 446-449. ASPEN publication. This article fully references each supplement.