Losing weight can dramatically improve your emotional and physical health, but it can be a slow process. So it’s no wonder that 15% of American adults use diet supplements to boost weight loss, opting for a range of products that claim to decrease appetite, block fat absorption, or increase metabolism.
Currently, most weight loss experts do not recommend many products marketed as weight loss supplements because of a lack of evidence. Also certain diet supplements, including ephedra, may cause heart attack and stroke. (Ephedra, also known as ma huang, was banned by the FDA in 2004 for sale in the U.S.)
However, there are some proven weight loss supplements available. Which weight loss supplements may be safe and helpful during a diet? Here’s a rundown on six products you can buy at most health food or drugstores that have some weight loss evidence behind them:
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- Green tea extract
- Meal replacements
- Orlistat, an over-the-counter weight loss drug
Remember, of course, that you should always check with your doctor before taking any type of supplement. Even supplements can have side effects and may interfere with medications you take. And, when it comes to weight loss, there are no quick fixes. A healthy eating plan and regular physical exercise should be the foundation of any weight loss program.
Weight Loss Supplements: Calcium
Bone health may be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word calcium, but this mineral may also help you lose fat while preserving muscle.
Research is mixed. Some studies have not found a relationship between calcium intake and weight loss.
However, “there have been several studies that have shown benefits from three daily servings of low-fat dairy foods, including weight loss,” says Toby Smithson, RD, national spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. Those studies “showed more weight loss from low-fat dairy foods combined with a reduced-calorie diet than from calcium supplements,” Smithson notes.
That’s not to say calcium supplements might not help you in your weight loss efforts. In one analysis, researchers found that dieting women who received 1,000 mg of calcium supplements each day lost, on average, more weight and more body fat than women taking a placebo. Although the differences in the amount of weight and fat lost by the two groups were not significant, the trend suggests there could be a relationship between calcium supplements and weight loss.
Because calcium and weight loss studies have found conflicting results, you can expect a lot more research on this subject. Researchers who have found a connection between calcium and weight loss hypothesize that dietary calcium might play a role in the breakdown and storage of fat. Additionally, the weight loss that has sometimes been observed in people who eat dairy may have something to do with specific dairy proteins and magnesium, another important mineral abundant in dairy products. But so far, these hypotheses are unproven.