Supplements for Weight Loss
Guar gum comes from the seed of the guar plant. Like other dietary fibers, it is supposed to work by preventing the absorption of fats by binding them in the gut and increasing feelings of fullness.
Side effects may include:
- abdominal pain
Guar gum has been studied more extensively than other fibers for weight loss. Most researchers have concluded that it is ineffective.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says that guar gum is "possibly ineffective."
Hoodia is a plant that grows in the Kalahari Desert in Africa. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the stem of the root was traditionally used by bushmen to reduce hunger and thirst during long hunts. It is marketed for weight loss as an appetite suppressant.
Hoodia contains an extract dubbed P57 that is thought to suppress appetite by increasing feelings of fullness. But there is no credible evidence that hoodia is either safe or effective.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says there is "insufficient evidence" to rate the effectiveness of hoodia.
So far, no credible human studies of hoodia have been published.
Senna is an herb that is approved by the FDA as a laxative. But some people use senna for weight loss.
Senna can cause some side effects such as:
It shouldn't be used for more than two weeks because in the long term it can cause the bowels to stop functioning normally and might cause dependence on laxatives.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says there is "insufficient evidence" to rate senna's effectiveness for weight loss.
Ephedra is also known as ma huang. It is an herb that contains the stimulants:
Ephedra has been used for more than 5,000 years in China and India to treat conditions such as colds, fever, flu, headaches, asthma, wheezing, and nasal congestion. Dietary supplements containing ephedra have been used for weight loss, increased energy, and enhanced athletic performance. The FDA banned dietary products with ephedra after the herb was linked to serious side effects, including:
- heart attack
The FDA's ban does not apply to traditional Chinese herbal remedies or to products such as herbal teas. So ephedra can still be legally purchased in the U.S.
According to the FDA, there is little evidence for the herb's effectiveness except for short-term weight loss. But the agency says the health risks outweigh any benefits.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says that ephedra is "likely unsafe."
The bitter orange tree is native to Africa and tropical Asia. But it is now also grown in other areas such as the Mediterranean, California, and Florida.
Bitter orange contains synephrine, a stimulant related to ephedrine. It supposedly works by increasing the number of calories burned.
After the FDA banned weight loss products containing ephedra, many manufacturers switched to bitter orange. But there is little evidence that bitter orange is safer.
Like ephedra, there have been reports that bitter orange may be linked to dangerous side effects in people who took bitter orange alone or in combination with other stimulants such as caffeine. These dangerous side effects include:
- ischemic stroke
- irregular heartbeat
- heart attack
According to the FDA, bitter orange may not be safe to use as a dietary supplement. You should especially avoid taking bitter orange supplements if you have:
- a heart condition
- high blood pressure
You should also avoid bitter orange supplements if you are taking medications (such as MAO inhibitors), caffeine, or other herbs/supplements that speed up the heart rate.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says that bitter orange is "possibly unsafe" and "probably ineffective."