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Supplements for Weight Loss

When you want to drop some weight, it's tempting to look for help anywhere you can. If your thoughts turn to supplements or herbal remedies, keep in mind that research gives many of them mixed reviews. In some cases, there isn't a lot of science to back up the claims, and some have health risks. Talk with your doctor first before you try any.

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.

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The FDA regulates dietary supplements, but 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 they sell them.

Chitosan

This is a sugar that comes from the hard outer layers of lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. It may block fats and cholesterol from getting absorbed by your body.

Does it help you lose weight? Natural Medicines, an independent group that analyzes research on supplements, says there isn't enough reliable evidence to rate it. Some studies show it may help, but others show no benefit. 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 insulin, a hormone that's important for turning food into energy. Your body also needs it to store carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

There are claims that chromium supplements can:

  • Lower your appetite
  • Help you burn more calories
  • Cut your body fat
  • Boost your muscle mass

But a review of 24 studies that checked the effects of 200 to 1,000 micrograms of chromium a day found that there aren't any significant benefits. Natural Medicines 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. You shouldn't use it if you have kidney or liver problems.

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