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Weigh Loss: Don?t go by ads hype

There is little convincing evidence that any specific dietary supplement is effective in reducing body weight.
By Kiran Sawhney | PTI, New Delhi
UPDATED ON SEP 02, 2004 06:22 PM IST

‘Burn Fat While You Sleep’, ‘Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days’. We all know the ads are too good to be true, but still we spend millions each year on unregulated pills and potions promising weight loss. While we may want to believe the hype, is there any scientific evidence to back it up? According to findings from a newly published analysis, the answer is a qualified no. There is little convincing evidence that any specific dietary supplement is effective in reducing body weight.

Ephedra and chromium picolinate were much hyped about till another research came with their side effects. Ephedra is associated with modest, short-term weight loss. But the supplement is also known to speed the heart rate and constrict blood vessels, and heart palpitations were common among the participants in the ephedra studies. The other supplement shown to be modestly effective for weight loss was the trace mineral chromium picolinate, which is touted as enhancing insulin's activity and reducing body fat. But the researchers concluded that the weight loss effect of the supplement was minimal.

The review was published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Other Supplements

Other supplements found to have little or no effect on weight loss included:

·         Chitosan -- A marine-derived starch found in the skeletons of shrimp, crab, and other shellfish. The supplement is used in products promising to keep dietary fats from being absorbed by the body.

Garcinia cambogia -- One of the main ingredients in one of the best-selling supplemental weight loss aids, Hydroxycut.

Pyruvate -- Formed by the body during breakdown of carbohydrates, it's touted as a booster of metabolism and an appetite suppressant.

If it’s true that “You are what you eat,” a lot of athletes may be experiencing an identity crisis these days. As the stakes for winning get higher, an increasing number of amateur and professional competitors are ingesting powders and potions of questionable origin, without knowing the products’ exact contents or strength. While this trend has resulted in a financial boost for the dietary supplement industry, the performance-enhancing benefits to the athletes are less clear.


Attempts to enhance athletic performance through diet aren’t new. For centuries, athletes have turned to performance-enhancing substances. Their use can be traced back to the Romans (who reportedly drank lion’s blood) and the Aztecs (who ate human hearts to improve their strength and courage). Modern-day athletes have sampled an array of chemical substances ranging from strychnine to cocaine “speed balls.” 

When it comes to performance-enhancing supplements, separating fact from fiction is a mental workout. For every piece of solid science, there is a conflicting report. There is no magic pill. It is important for people to understand that a supplement isn't necessarily safe because it is advertised so. Rely on exercise, diet and nutrition rather than supplements and pills.

(The author is a certified personal fitness trainer)

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