Sorry, but natural weight loss supplements are mostly BS

David Malan/Stone/Getty Images
Originally Published: 

Bikini season is creeping into my newsfeed. And while I am of the opinion that every body is a bikini body, 'tis the season for weight loss schemes and six-pack dreams. The holistic weight loss supplement industry is a behemoth that rakes in literal billions, but according to new data, there’s basically no evidence that herbal weight loss supplements work. Here’s what you need to know about the data that debunks supposedly miraculous all natural diet pills.

In a global project, Australian researchers processed data from 121 clinical trials of herbal and dietary weight loss supplements conducted around the world, EurekAlert reported. Long story short, they found no evidence to suggest that the use of these popular weight loss supplements — including chitosan and glucomannan — can be justified.

Specifically, they found that neither herbal supplements (which are plant-based) nor dietary supplements (which contain naturally occurring compounds) will result in clinically significant weight loss. “Our rigorous assessment of the best available evidence finds that there is insufficient evidence to recommend these supplements for weight loss,” lead author Erica Bessell of the University of Sydney told EurekAlert. In other words, natural weight loss pills are basically bullshit — which some of us (*cough*) have long suspected — and now there are numbers to prove it.

Some of the participants in the studies lost a bit of weight, but scientists don’t think it’s significant enough to warrant taking unknown compounds. "Over-the-counter herbal and dietary supplements promoted for weight loss are increasingly popular, but unlike pharmaceutical drugs, clinical evidence for their safety and effectiveness is not required before they hit the market," Bessell told EurekAlert. "Even though most supplements appear safe for short term consumption, they are not going to provide weight loss that is clinically meaningful."

The researchers at the University of Sydney seem suspicious of the “studies" of these supplements, though, and want to see more robust scientific research. Basically, taking a natural diet pill probably won’t kill you tomorrow, but there’s no data about how these supplements may affect your long term health, and also they don’t really do anything.

If it seems confounding that people are still buying into natural weight loss quackery, try not to judge. This $41 billion industry spends a lot of its energy perpetuating the idea that we all need to look better than we currently do. Whether you buy into the thinner is better beauty myth or not — I emphatically do not — the reality is that there is no pill that will magically put you at a healthy weight, and it’s probably smarter not to risk your long-term health using dubious short-term solutions. Or as Bessell told EurekAlert, “Herbal and dietary supplements might seem like a quick-fix solution to weight problems, but people need to be aware of how little we actually know about them.”