Dietary Supplements: Talk to Your Doctor First
Dietary supplements claim to help people lose weight and have more energy. But should they play a role in your weight-loss journey? Will they benefit your health – or could they actually do more harm than good?
A good person to ask is your doctor, of course. No one understands your health better than the person who regularly checks your blood sugar levels, your blood pressure and your weight.
You can also check new resources online, courtesy of the National Institutes of Health. The federal Office of Dietary Supplements has created two fact sheets on dietary supplements promoted for fitness and weight loss. The fact sheets explore the effectiveness and safety of many of supplement ingredients.
Millions of people nationwide turn to dietary supplements to help them lose weight. More than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or have obesity.
“Americans spend over $2 billion a year on dietary supplements promoted for weight loss, but there’s little evidence they actually work,” said Anne L. Thurn, Ph.D., director of the ODS Communications Program. “And people may not know that many manufacturers of weight-loss supplements don’t conduct studies in humans to find out whether their product works and is safe.”
The fact sheet Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss guides readers through the confusing options in the marketplace.
This fact sheet covers 24 ingredients found in weight loss products. Ingredients include: African mango, beta-glucans, chromium, garcinia, green tea, hoodia, and raspberry ketones. Chromium, for example, might help you lose a very small amount of weight and body fat, and is safe, but raspberry ketones haven’t been studied enough to know whether they’re safe or effective, according to a NIH news release. And while drinking green tea is safe, taking green-tea extract pills has been linked to liver damage in some people.
Another fact sheet, Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance, covers products that claim to improve strength or endurance, increase exercise efficiency, achieve a performance goal more quickly, and increase tolerance for more intense training.
“Dietary supplements marketed for exercise and athletic performance can’t take the place of a healthy diet, but some might have value for certain types of activity,” said Paul M. Coates, Ph.D., director of ODS. “Others don’t seem to work, and some might even be harmful.”
The fact sheet covers more than 20 ingredients found in fitness supplements. Ingredients include antioxidants, beetroot, tart cherry, branched-chain amino acids, caffeine, creatine, and protein. Creatine, for example, might help with short bursts of high-intensity activity like sprinting or weight lifting. However, it won’t help endurance efforts like distance running or swimming. And, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E don’t seem to improve any type of physical activity. Still, they’re needed in small amounts for overall health.
“We encourage people to talk with their healthcare providers to get advice about dietary supplements and to visit the ODS website to learn valuable information about these products,” Coates said.
People who want to learn about losing weight with bariatric surgery can attend a free seminar through Bon Secours Surgical Weight Loss Center.