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Herbal supplements for weight loss may not produce desired results

Researchers have yet to find reliable, scientific evidence to support the use of such products

Photo (c) Doucefleur - Getty Images
Previous studies have highlighted the risks associated with weight loss supplements, and now a  new study conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney is warning consumers about using herbal supplements for weight loss. 

After a thorough investigation of such supplements, the researchers recommend that consumers avoid taking these pills. Their findings revealed that herbal weight loss supplements don’t have enough known benefits for consumers to take them -- especially for long periods of time. The team says they could also pose some health risks. 

“The problem with supplements is that unlike pharmaceutical drugs, clinical evidence is not required before they are made available to the public in supermarkets or chemists,” said researcher Dr. Nick Fuller. “This finding suggests there is insufficient evidence to recommend any of these herbal medicines for the treatment of weight loss.”

“Further, many studies had poor research methods or reporting and even though most supplements appear safe for short-term consumption, they are expensive and are not going to provide a weight loss that is clinically meaningful,” he added. 

What to know about herbal supplements

The team explained that these supplements generally pose a risk to consumers because they can hit store shelves without receiving proper evaluations. Also, manufacturers aren’t always required to prove that the supplements produce the desired results. 

Taking this into consideration, the researchers then analyzed 54 previous studies to determine what effect the supplements had on consumers. The work spanned the last two decades and included results from over 4,000 participants. 

While they did observe some weight loss among participants who used herbal supplements, the team determined that the weight loss wasn’t statistically significant and wasn’t maintained over a long enough period of time to properly be considered. 

Because the long-term effects of these products are relatively unknown, Fuller says that consumers should be mindful of any potential side effects that could arise. 

“The growth in the industry and popularity of these products highlights the importance of conducting more robust studies on the effectiveness and safety of these supplements for weight loss,” he said. 

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