Weight loss supplements are all the rage, they are everywhere and sometimes hard to ignore.
Obesity is a problem that faces 2/3 of the American and UK adult population and 15% of the teenagers. I lecture young adults 17-24 and I have witnessed this increase in obesity over the last 10 years. This problem with weight gain has been growing over the past several decades and is creating medical and emotional problems. As people’s waistlines expand so does the number of weight loss supplements.
Although the way to lose weight is relatively simple, the execution is for many people difficult. Often people will turn to weight loss supplements because changing their eating habits is just so difficult and using supplements and pills can sometimes help reduce that challenge and in theory make losing weight much less painless.
We also want fast progress and instant results. We want fast food, fast Internet, fast service and fast weight loss. We want it all and we want it quickly and painlessly.
So let’s look at weight loss supplements. They fall into two large categories; over the counter and prescription medications. Prescription supplements are only available from your doctor and a pharmacist.
Prescription medications will have undergone severe testing by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The manufacturing of these products will also be regulated.
Over the counter weight loss supplements are not regulated by the FDA and are not classified as drugs. As they are not classified as drugs there will be no regulation on their distribution or on the manufacturing process. Usually there are no stringently performed scientific research studies that evaluate their efficacy and possible side effects of the weight loss supplement.
An example of a weight loss supplement is Ephedra. This supplement has shown a good success rate with weight loss but also has many serious side effects. These side effects include blood pressure problems, cardiac issues and even death. The media eventually got to Ephedra and this made a huge dent in the sales volume of the supplement. This improved the health of those who thought that taking it would be an easy route to lose weight.
Hoodia Gordonii is another supplement that has some medical consequences. There is a credible weight loss in the small studies that have been done but only one type of the Hoodia has the P57 component that is the appetite suppressant. There is some pure Hoodia but there are in fact very few manufacturers that guarantee the authenticity and quality of the product. There have also been some research studies that have indicated significant side effects in the liver.
Many of the over the counter weight loss supplements also use caffeine as their active ingredient. Caffeine dehydrates the body and the client will feels an initial ‘thinness’. This feeling is followed by rebound bloating when the body attempts to retain as much fluid as possible for survival. It’s all part of Homeostasis where the body keeps the fluid balance constant and if too much water is lost it will readjust and retain more.
When you choose a weight loss supplement always look at the ingredients – both the active and inactive ones. Pills often will have inactive ingredients that can affect you adversely, sometimes even as much as the active ingredients. Check with the pharmacist if you are taking any other medications to ensure there are no known drug interactions between the tablets you already take and these over-the-counter ones you are considering.
Just remember this – anything you purchase and put into your body should be treated just like a medication or drug. Just because it has a label calling it a supplement, or all natural or herbal does not mean that it will not have side effects or will not interact with medications you are already taking. It also does not mean that it will not interfere with any underlying medical conditions.
Keep in mind that weight loss supplements should only be used together with eating habit changes. if you do not change your eating habits then once you stop taking the supplements and go back to old ways your weight will pile on again and you’ll gain even more weight than you originally lost.
Weight loss supplements are only a tool in the battle of the bulge. If they are Used correctly and with care then they will help you to develop good eating habits that you can continue when you no longer take the supplements
Kathy is a Health Sciences lecturer in a College in N.Ireland and lectures in Nutrition,medical conditions and Personal Development