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Supplements for Weight Loss

Looking for supplements and herbal remedies for weight loss?

There isn't a lot of science backing up the claims, and some have health risks. So, talk with your doctor if you're thinking about trying any of them.

Also, you should know that the FDA has cracked down on some weight loss supplements that had prescription drugs in them that weren't noted on the label. You can't always tell what you're getting.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.

Here are some common ingredients found in over-the-counter supplements and herbal remedies for weight loss:

Chitosan

Chitosan is a sugar that comes from the hard outer layers of lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. It’s said to block the absorption of fats and cholesterol.

The research on whether it works for weight loss is mixed. Doses from 1 to 5 grams have been studied.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says there is “insufficient reliable evidence to rate” chitosan for weight loss. Some studies show it may help, and others show it doesn’t. And many of the studies aren’t very good.

Chitosan usually causes no side effects, but some people get an upset stomach.

Chromium Picolinate

Chromium is a mineral that enhances the action of insulin, a hormone critical to metabolism. Your body also needs it to store carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

There are claims that chromium supplements can:

  • lower appetite
  • help burn more calories
  • cut body fat
  • boost muscle mass

But one review of 24 studies examining the effects of 200 to 1,000 micrograms (mcg) of chromium a day found no significant benefits. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says that chromium is "possibly ineffective" for weight loss.

Rarely, chromium supplements can cause side effects such as:

  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • headache

Also, at least three people have developed kidney and liver damage when taking chromium. People with either kidney or liver problems should not take it.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

CLA is a popular supplement containing chemicals found in the fatty acid linoleic acid. There are claims that it may help curb body fat and help you stay full.

The research on CLA for weight loss is mixed. Some suggests that for some people, 0.7-4.5 grams of CLA per day may:

  • curb body fat
  • boost muscle

But other research shows no benefit.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says that CLA is "possibly effective" for weight loss.

Some researchers have warned that long-term use of CLA, especially in people who are obese, may raise insulin resistance, which makes type 2 diabetes more likely.

In some people, CLA may cause side effects such as:

  • upset stomach
  • nausea
  • loose stools
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