12 Popular Weight Loss Pills and Supplements Reviewed
There are many different weight loss solutions out there.
This includes all sorts of pills, drugs and natural supplements.
These are claimed to help you lose weight, or at least make it easier to lose weight combined with other methods.
They tend to work via one or more of these mechanisms:
- Reduce appetite, making you feel more full so that you eat fewer calories
- Reduce absorption of nutrients like fat, making you take in fewer calories
- Increase fat burning, making you burn more calories
Here are the 12 most popular weight loss pills and supplements, reviewed by science.
Garcinia cambogia became popular worldwide after being featured on the Dr. Oz show in 2012.
It is a small, green fruit, shaped like a pumpkin.
The skin of the fruit contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA). This is the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia extract, which is marketed as a diet pill.
Effectiveness: One study with 130 people compared garcinia against a dummy pill. There was no difference in weight or body fat percentage between groups (3).
A 2011 review that looked at 12 studies on garcinia cambogia found that, on average, it caused weight loss of about 2 pounds (0.88 kg) over several weeks (4).
Side effects: There are no reports of serious side effects, but some reports of mild digestive problems.
BOTTOM LINE:Even though garcinia cambogia may cause modest weight loss, the effects are so small that they probably won’t even be noticeable.
Hydroxycut has been around for more than a decade, and is currently one of the most popular weight loss supplements in the world.
There are several different types, but the most common one is simply called "Hydroxycut."
How it works: It contains several ingredients that are claimed to help with weight loss, including caffeine and a few plant extracts.
Effectiveness: One study showed that it caused 21 lbs (9.5 kg) of weight loss over a 3 month period (5).
Side effects: If you are caffeine sensitive, you may experience anxiety, jitteriness, tremors, nausea, diarrhea and irritability.
BOTTOM LINE:Unfortunately, there is only one study on this supplement and no data on long-term effectiveness. More research is needed.
Caffeine is a well known metabolism booster, and is often added to commercial weight loss supplements.
Side effects: In some people, high amounts of caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia, jitteriness, irritability, nausea, diarrhea and other symptoms. Caffeine is also addictive and can reduce the quality of your sleep.
There really is no need to take a supplement or a pill with caffeine in it. The best sources are quality coffee and green tea, which also have antioxidants and other health benefits.
BOTTOM LINE:Caffeine can boost metabolism and enhance fat burning in the short term. However, a tolerance to the effects may develop quickly.
Orlistat is a pharmaceutical drug, sold over-the-counter under the name Alli, and under prescription as Xenical.
How it works: This weight loss pill works by inhibiting the breakdown of fat in the gut, making you take in fewer calories from fat.
Effectiveness: According to a big review of 11 studies, orlistat can increase weight loss by 6 pounds (2.7 kg) compared to a dummy pill (
Side effects: This drug has many digestive side effects, including loose, oily stools, flatulence, frequent bowel movements that are hard to control, and others. It may also contribute to deficiency in fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K.
It is usually recommended to follow a low-fat diet while taking orlistat, in order to minimize side effects.
BOTTOM LINE:Orlistat, also known as Alli or Xenical, can reduce the amount of fat you absorb from the diet and help you lose weight. It has many side effects, some of which are highly unpleasant.
Raspberry ketone is a substance found in raspberries, which is responsible for their distinct smell.
A synthetic version of raspberry ketones is sold as a weight loss supplement.
How it works: In isolated fat cells from rats, raspberry ketones increase breakdown of fat and increase levels of a hormone called adiponectin, believed to be related to weight loss (
Effectiveness: There is not a single study on raspberry ketones in humans, but one rat study using massive doses showed that they reduced weight gain (
Side effects: They may cause your burps to smell like raspberries.
BOTTOM LINE:There is no evidence that raspberry ketones cause weight loss in humans, and the rat studies showing it to work used massive doses.
Green coffee beans are simply normal coffee beans that haven't been roasted.
They contain two substances believed to help with weight loss, caffeine and chlorogenic acid.
How it works: Caffeine can increase fat burning, and chlorogenic acid can slow the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut.
A review of 3 studies found that the supplement made people lose 5.4 more pounds (2.5 kg) than placebo, a dummy pill (
Other benefits: Green coffee bean extract may help lower blood sugar levels, and reduce blood pressure. It is also high in antioxidants (
Side effects: It can cause the same side effects as caffeine. The chlorogenic acid in it may also cause diarrhea, and some people may be allergic to green coffee beans (
BOTTOM LINE:Green coffee bean extract may cause modest weight loss, but keep in mind that many of the studies were industry sponsored.
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Glucomannan is a type of fiber found in the roots of the elephant yam, also called konjac.
How it works: Glucomannan absorbs water and becomes gel-like. It "sits" in your gut and promotes a feeling of fullness, helping you eat fewer calories (27).
Effectiveness: Three human studies showed that glucomannan, combined with a healthy diet, can help people lose 8-10 pounds (3.6-4.5 kg) of weight in 5 weeks (
Other benefits: Glucomannan is a fiber that can feed the friendly bacteria in the intestine. It can also lower blood sugar, blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and is very effective against constipation (
Side effects: It can cause bloating, flatulence and soft stools, and can interfere with some oral medications if taken at the same time.
It is important to take glucomannan about a half an hour before meals, with a glass of water. If you would like to try it, Amazon has a good selection available.
You can find an objective review of glucomannan in this article.
BOTTOM LINE:Studies consistently show that the fiber glucomannan, when combined with a healthy diet, can help people lose weight. It also leads to improvements in various health markers.
Meratrim is a relative newcomer on the diet pill market.
It is a combination of two plant extracts that may change the metabolism of fat cells.
How it works: It is claimed to make it harder for fat cells to multiply, decrease the amount of fat that they pick up from the bloodstream, and help them burn stored fat.
Effectiveness: So far, only one study has been done on Meratrim. A total of 100 obese people were placed on a strict 2000 calorie diet, with either Meratrim or a dummy pill (32).
After 8 weeks, the Meratrim group had lost 11 pounds (5.2 kg) of weight and 4.7 inches (11.9 cm) off their waistlines. They also had improved quality of life and reduced blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Side effects: No side effects have been reported.
For a detailed review of Meratrim, read this article.
BOTTOM LINE:One study showed that Meratrim caused weight loss and had a number of other health benefits. However, the study was industry sponsored and more research is needed.
Green tea extract is a popular ingredient in many weight loss supplements.
This is because numerous studies have shown the main antioxidant in it, EGCG, to aid fat burning.
How it works: Green tea extract is believed to increase the activity of norepinephrine, a hormone that helps you burn fat (33).
Effectiveness: Many human studies have shown that green tea extract can increase fat burning and cause fat loss, especially in the belly area (
Side effects: Green tea extract is generally well tolerated. It does contain some caffeine, and may cause symptoms in people who are caffeine sensitive.
BOTTOM LINE:Green tea and green tea extract can increase fat burning slightly, and may help you lose belly fat.
Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, has been a popular fat loss supplement for years.
Effectiveness: In a major review of 18 different studies, CLA caused weight loss of about 0.2 pounds (0.1 kg) per week, for up to 6 months (
According to another review study from 2012, CLA can make you lose about 3 lbs (1.3 kg) of weight, compared to a dummy pill (
Side effects: CLA can cause various digestive side effects, and may have harmful effects over the long term, potentially contributing to fatty liver, insulin resistance and increased inflammation.
BOTTOM LINE:CLA is an effective weight loss supplement, but it may have harmful effects over the long term. The small amount of weight loss is not worth the risk.
Forskolin is an extract from a plant in the mint family, claimed to be effective for losing weight.
How it works: It is believed to raise levels of a compound inside cells called cAMP, which may stimulate fat burning (
Effectiveness: One study in 30 overweight and obese men showed that forskolin reduced body fat and increased muscle mass, while having no effect on body weight. Another study in 23 overweight women found no effects (43,
Side effects: There is very limited data on the safety of this supplement, or the risk of side effects.
BOTTOM LINE:The two small studies on forskolin have shown conflicting results. It is best to avoid this supplement until more research is done.
Synephrine is related to ephedrine, which used to be a popular ingredient in various weight loss pill formulations.
However, ephedrine has since been banned as a weight loss ingredient by the FDA because of serious side effects.
Effectiveness: Very few studies have been done on synephrine, but ephedrine has been shown to cause significant short-term weight loss in many studies (
Side effects: Like ephedrine, synephrine may have serious side effects related to the heart.
Dieting and Weight Loss Drugs
There are many pills, potions, lotions, powders, and creams that promise to melt off the pounds you've put on while you sleep. The sad truth is that only one pill sold over the counter at this point in time has the FDA back up its claims of aiding in weight loss period. This drug would be the over the counter form of the drug that has been prescribed as Xenical. In the over the counter form it is known as Alli. Alli along with diet and exercise is known to boost the weight loss process to provide more immediate and long lasting results.
With any medication such as this there are those that will tout its effectiveness as well as those that will shout out the dangers of this chemical we are potentially introducing to our bodies. The one thing that is important to remember is that Alli holds no claims to work without consistent weight loss and fitness efforts on your part. This product is meant to supplement your own efforts not to work as a substitute for your own efforts.
It should be mentioned that there are consequences that occur as the result of taking Alli and not following up with a diet that is low in fat. Among the side effects that can result are flatulence, loose stools, and bowel incontinence. This is not a drug for the faint of heart nor is it a medication for those that are not completely dedicated to the cause of loosing weight and dieting.
While Alli is not the overall solution that so many are hoping for, it can lead to more substantial effects for your efforts and that is nothing to overlook when it comes to importance. According to the website for Alli you have as much as 50% greater weight loss potential when you combine Alli with diet and exercise than dieting and exercise alone would bring. This is a huge break through for the weight loss community and diet industry at large.
While this isn't the magic pill that will melt off the pounds as you sleep it is a pill that is documented to get results and some of these results are quite impressive for those who stick to the plan. If you have been struggling with dieting, diet plans, weight loss, and incorporating a bold and beneficial fitness routine into your life there is no time like the present to check out Alli and see what outstanding results this product can introduce into your fitness plan.
If Alli helps even a tenth of those who decide to take it achieve their fitness and weight loss goals then this is the miracle product we hoped it would be. Most miracles, after all don't come free and most of them do not come for less than $100 a bottle for certain.
If you are one of the many out there who is struggling with obesity and feels hopeless when it comes to controlling your weight and your life, then perhaps Alli is the answer to your prayers. My best recommendation is to discuss this product seriously with your doctor before making any sort of commitment in order to decide if you are committed enough and ready to take the next step or if your physician feels this may not be in your best interest at the time.
Over-the-counter weight-loss pills
The temptation to use over-the-counter weight-loss pills to lose weight fast is strong. But are these products safe and effective?By Mayo Clinic Staff
The appeal of losing weight quickly is hard to resist. But do weight-loss pills and products lighten anything but your wallet? And are they safe?
Setting realistic expectations
There's no magic bullet for losing weight. The most effective way to lose weight and keep it off is by eating a healthy low-calorie diet and being more physically active.
Weight-loss pills — prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, herbal products or other dietary supplements — are all, at best, tools that may help with weight loss. But there is relatively little research about these products. The best studied of these are prescription weight-loss drugs.
For example, a 2016 study reviewed 28 long-term trials of prescription drugs for treating obesity. The researchers concluded that when a person makes appropriate lifestyle changes, a prescription weight-loss drug increases the likelihood of achieving "clinically meaningful" weight loss within a year.
Clinically meaningful weight loss means you've lost enough weight to lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. This is generally defined as 5 percent or more of body weight.
It's important to consider that weight loss achieved in a research setting may be greater than in actual practice. Also, possible side effects and adverse reactions to weight-loss pills can affect how well you might do.
It's reasonable to expect that prescription weight-loss pills may be beneficial, but they won't be magical. They don't work for everyone, and the benefits may be modest. Researchers know much less about the potential benefits and risks of over-the-counter weight-loss products.
Understanding over-the-counter treatment regulations
Over-the-counter weight-loss treatments fall into two general categories:
- Nonprescription drugs
- Dietary supplements
The standards for regulating the production and marketing of these two types of treatments are different. For a nonprescription drug, such as orlistat (Alli), the drug company must provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with results from human (clinical) trials that show the safety and effectiveness of the drug at the nonprescription dose.
The makers of dietary supplements are responsible for ensuring the safety of their product and making honest claims about possible benefits. However, the makers' claims aren't subject to FDA review or approval before marketing. Also, the type or quality of research used to support claims can vary.
If the FDA can demonstrate that a supplement is unsafe, the agency can ban the product or ask a manufacturer to withdraw it voluntarily. The FDA may also take action against a manufacturer if there is no evidence at all to support a claim.
These differences in research, production and marketing can make it difficult to make informed decisions about products.
Interpreting claims on weight-loss supplements
When a dietary supplement is marketed as "clinically proven" to cause weight loss, there should be some type of clinical evidence to support it. Such a claim, however, provides no details about the clinical research.
For example, raspberry ketone supplements are marketed as clinically proven, natural weight-loss products. As of December 2017, the results of only one clinical trial with raspberry ketone had been published. The results include the following information:
- The eight-week trial used a multi-ingredient supplement with raspberry ketone, caffeine, bitter orange, ginger root extract and garlic root extract, as well as other herbs, vitamins and minerals.
- Seventy obese adults were randomly assigned to receive either the supplement or an inactive ingredient (placebo).
- All of the participants were placed on a restricted diet and exercise program.
- Forty-five people completed all eight weeks of the trial.
- Among people completing the trial, the average weight loss in the supplement group was 4.2 pounds (1.9 kilograms).
- The average weight loss in the placebo group was 0.9 pounds (0.4 kilograms).
The weight loss in the treatment group was modest, and the trial was only eight weeks, which isn't long enough to know if the supplement will help with weight loss long term. Plus, the supplement included multiple ingredients, making it impossible to judge which ingredients helped the weight loss.
Understanding safety concerns
Limited research also makes it difficult to judge the safety of a weight-loss supplement. And a product isn't necessarily safe simply because it's natural. Though rare, some dietary supplements have been linked to serious problems, such as liver damage.
Ephedra, or ma-huang, is an herbal stimulant once used in weight-loss products. It's now banned by the FDA because of possible adverse effects, including mood changes, high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, stroke, seizures and heart attacks.
Bitter orange is a currently available herbal stimulant used in some weight-loss supplements and is often called an ephedra substitute. The active ingredient in bitter orange has chemical properties and actions that are similar to ephedra and may be associated with similar adverse effects. Because of limited research and the use of bitter orange in multi-ingredient supplements, the safety of the product isn't well-understood.
Researching before you buy
It's important to do your homework if you're thinking about trying over-the-counter weight-loss pills. Information about many dietary supplements is available online from the Office of Dietary Supplements and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
The Natural Medicines database summarizes research regarding dietary supplements and herbal products. Although information from the Natural Medicines database is available only by subscription, you may be able to access it through a public library.
Including your doctor in your weight-loss plans
If you're considering weight-loss pills, be sure to talk with your doctor, especially if you have health problems, take prescription drugs, or are pregnant or breast-feeding. It's also important to get advice on possible interactions with your current use of medicine, vitamins or minerals.
Your doctor can also offer advice on losing weight, provide support, monitor your progress or refer you to a dietitian.