Doctors Weight Loss Program or Do-It-Yourself Supplements?

In 2004, researchers Pittler & Ernst published a global literature review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (v79, nr4) to assess the effectiveness of weight loss supplements.

Their research was comprehensive and solid, including only those studies which were both randomized and double-blind. This eliminated skewed manufacturer’s claims or other non-scientifically-acceptable data.

That study showed that the evidence for most dietary supplements as aids in reducing body weight was “not convincing”. In fact, the report went one step further to say that NONE of the supplements included in the review were recommended for use in losing the extra pounds.

In March of 2012, researcher Melinda Manore of the University of Oregon published the results of a similar study – reviewing the hundreds of supplements available in the $2.4-billion-per-year weight loss market in the U.S.

Dr. Manore went one step further than her UK colleagues and investigated claims by type of supplement including appetite suppressants, fat and/or carbohydrate blockers, stimulants to increase metabolism and products that claim to change the body composition

Sadly, Dr. Manore’s conclusion is strikingly similar to that of Pittler & Ernst and confirms our own feedback from patients in a doctors weight loss program as well.

In her report, Dr Manore states that “There is no strong research evidence indicating that one specific supplement will produce significant results, especially long term.” The study then even goes one step further to warn against many supplements due to their adverse health effects.

But what about the $2.4 billion of supplements sold in stores and on websites each year – can the research conclusions really be true? What about those wonderful claims from the manufacturers?

Dr. Manores’ study addressed this as well and found that many products had no randomized clinical trials on which to base their claims – meaning that the results of those “studies” or “clinical trials” by the manufacturer are junk and not at all meaningful.

Isn’t there any good news about these supplements? Doesn’t anything help at all?

In contrast to the earlier 2004 study, the latest report does show that “some supplements…may complement a healthy lifestyle to produce small weight losses and/or prevent weight gain over time.” But not the fat burners, carb blockers or other fancy-sounding supplement. Green tea, extra fiber and low-fat dairy, however, were shown to help produce a modest loss when used in conjunction with a calorie-restricted diet.

Now let’s compare those results to a doctors weight loss program. When working with any doctor, they do not look for a magic bullet to fix the problem, or even a single reason on why you may have gained the weight in the first place (or have trouble losing it now).

A responsible doctors weight loss program will begin with a review of your medical history, perhaps a physical exam and maybe even some lab tests. Then the doctor will review all of this to prescribe a program of care that usually includes eating right, some exercise, nutritional supplements (if needed) and perhaps some one-on-one coaching to help “get your mind right”.

Weight loss is like anything else – you get what you pay for. Pay little for something – even if it sounds great – holds no promise of any result.

Like we doctors often say – “just live normally – that’s already crazy enough” – especially in today’s fast-paced world.

So the next time the packaging on a Fat Burner product or the advertisement for a Carb Blocker screams success in your ear, please ignore it and save your money.

The doctors at WeightWorks have helped many people overcome prior failures to