Steer clear of supplements that make any of these promises

Misleading ads for weight-loss products continue to target consumers desperate for results. In fact, just the other day I heard an ad that promised to remove “undigested food causing pounds of unwanted belly fat.” Huh?

Nearly three in four people are now “overfat,” according to a 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers of Public Health. Some of these overweight individuals turn to the many supplements on the market that promise to make weight loss as simple as popping a pill or downing a drink. Often, these supplements say they can increase metabolism, improve body composition, increase the feeling of fullness, or suppress appetite.

Aside from the lack of scientific evidence or merit, there are many other red flag alerts when considering if a weight loss supplement is for you.

Promise #1: “Lose weight without dieting!”

Supplement manufacturers would love for you to believe that simply taking a pill, potion, or rubbing on a lotion would help melt fat off your body. Unfortunately, permanent results take effort. That effort means making smarter decisions in the kitchen, not at the drug store. As a dietician for close to 20 years, I’ve never seen a client who could lose weight without making changes in the kitchen. No pill, potion or cream can ever be more powerful than the food you put into your body. If you’re ready to put in that effort, try BellyOff from Men’s Health—it’s designed to help you burn fat at the fastest possible rate without losing muscle.

Promise #2: “Exercise is not required.”

Too many supplements promise results without training. Just like if you skip changing your diet, you cannot skip exercise if you want to lose weight. Weight loss without diet or exercise is unfounded and has zero merit or research support.

Promise #3: “Accelerate your metabolism.”

This is a common claim that started when supplement manufacturers began adding ephedra to weight-loss products. The FDA banned ephedra in 2004 due to safety concerns. Since that banning, other active ingredients, from green tea to synephrine to caffeine, have attempted to take its place. None of these ingredients has been shown to reduce weight permanently in long-term research.

Promise #4: “Feel fuller!”

Protein, fibre, and fat fill you up. Supplements don’t. The key is to examine how you can add each of these quality ingredients to meals and snacks to reach the results you’re looking for. Here are a few simple ideas: Swap eggs (protein and fat) and fruit (fibre) for your morning bagel and cream cheese. Pack nuts (protein, fibre, and fat) for snacks. Try salmon (protein, fat), greens (fibre), and a baked potato (fibre) for dinner instead of the typical pizza.


Promise #5: “Change your body composition.”

Certain supplements promise a change in body composition, usually by shifting use of nutrients or suppressing certain hormones. While this, in theory, could work, very little research has proven effectiveness. In one study, researchers found that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) did, in fact, aid weight loss—in rodents.

Promise #6: “Block the absorption of carbohydrates.”

If you’re looking to lose weight, targeting empty carbohydrates and replacing them with nutrient-rich foods is a good strategy. Taking a supplement that blocks carbohydrates is a bad strategy because there’s no well conducted research to show it’s possible. One 2011 review published in the British Journal of Nutrition examined six randomised controlled trials that “all had methodological flaws,” according to the authors. This review examined the efficacy of bean extract, a commonly purported carbohydrate blocker. This ingredient, and others like it, appears to partially block the carb-digesting enzymes (not necessarily carbs themselves). The studies that do show any promise also show the benefit is for those who eat the most carbs, which also means more calories.

Pills that make the promises above probably won’t work. You know what does?

Building meals around vegetables (the more the merrier), protein (a handful portion at each meal), and quality fibrous grains (potatoes, pasta, quinoa, rice). Of course all this has to be rounded out with smart training to truly get the lasting results you’re looking for.