Do not fall for weight loss "tricks."
Many products claim they “melt fat,” boost metabolism, or help you shed pounds fast. Science does not support these claims. In most cases, there is no proof that the products work at all.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates weight loss drugs but does not review or approve weight loss products sold as food or supplements. Most doctors do not recommend these products.
- Even “natural” ingredients can hurt you.
- Vitamins and supplements can cause side effects or interact with medicines.
- Sellers often make false claims about what is in the product. Many products do not actually contain the listed ingredients. Some popular weight loss supplements have been found to contain medicines banned by FDA.
- Sellers often tout fake tests. For example, their “tests” may use bad study designs or involve people who are paid by the company.
- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 23,000 people visit the emergency room each year due to the side effects from dietary supplements, with weight loss supplements being the most common culprit.
What the science says.
For the few products that have been studied, any benefits appear to be modest at best. These products include fiber, green tea, and caffeine.
- Fiber. Fiber helps you feel full, which can make it easier to cut calories. However, results from studies of fiber are mixed. Some show no effect at all. Others report very small weight loss in people who eat high-fiber diets or take fiber supplements. It is not yet known whether fiber supplements are any more effective than fiber from food sources, such as oatmeal, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. And it is unlikely that expensive fiber preparations work any better than low-cost fiber supplements.
- Green tea. Green tea may affect how your body processes fats and burns energy, but a research group that looked at all of the studies available on green tea or green tea pills and weight found most studies showed no effect of green tea on weight loss. In a few studies, overweight adults who had some form of green tea for several months might lose just a few pounds. The researchers also found that green tea had no strong effect on keeping any lost weight off.
- Caffeine. Caffeine can lower your appetite a bit, but only in people who do not usually consume it. The effect goes away once your body develops a tolerance. The evidence suggests caffeine does not suppress appetite effectively. Be careful: too much caffeine can be dangerous. Caffeine is not recommended for children.
What is the best way to lose weight?
The best thing you can do is find a healthy diet and lifestyle you can maintain. Studies show that your ability to sustain a pattern of healthy eating over many years is more important than the specific blend of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and other components you eat.
- Your diet should help you balance calories consumed with calories spent.
- Your diet should include healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
- Some dietary patterns (such as the Mediterranean diet, a low-carb diet, or a low-fat diet) have been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off. However, none of these dietary plans have been proven to always work better than the others.
Typically, you will lose weight if you burn more calories than you consume. Eating well and exercising can help you strike the right balance.
The longer you stick to your healthy lifestyle behaviors, the better the outcome. But no single factor causes a person to be fat or thin. Body weight is also influenced by:
- Your snacking habits
- Your genes
- Sleep patterns
- Mental health
- How your body responds to foods and hormones
- The culture and environment where you live
You are not alone.
If you are struggling to lose weight, consider seeing your doctor, finding a support group, or joining a weight loss program in your community.
Science shows that structured weight loss programs, FDA-approved medicines, and surgery can be beneficial for some people. Many health insurance plans cover weight loss treatments.
Your doctor can also help you figure out how much weight you need to lose. Often, a little weight loss goes a long way. Studies show that people who are overweight can significantly improve health markers like blood pressure after losing just 5% of their body weight.
- CDC – Losing weight
- FDA – Beware of products promising miracle weight loss
- NIH – Weight management
- NIH – Healthy weight
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – Food and Nutrition studies
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – Roundtable on Obesity Solutions
- Health.gov – Physical activity guidelines