Weight Loss Supplements

Will pills help you achieve your goals?

Non-prescription drugs, dietary supplements and herbal remedies can be found in any grocery store or drugstore. There are entire stores dedicated to pills and potions boasting their abilities to lift you up towards your goal faster than ever before.

What’s the catch? Gymaholic shows you how to look past the temptation of a quick fix, and decide for yourself whether a supplement is something you need to achieve your goals.

Many pills

The Problem

The main reason that people turn to pill bottles is because they have a problem that isn’t easily solved. The primary issue discussed in this article is weight loss, though there are many similar products used for other issues.

Losing weight, especially a large amount of fat, can be extremely frustrating. Healthy, lasting weight loss can require a lot of hard work, learning and patience, so a picture of a thin model holding a bottle that implies you can drop pounds without sweating or giving up your favourite treats can be more than tempting.

The unfortunate reality is that no magic pill for weight loss exists. Why? Because dramatic weight loss in a short period of time is dangerous!

General Safety

There are systems put in place meant to keep us out of harm's way. Things that can alter our health on even a moderate level also have the potential to hurt us. For that reason, these ‘drugs’ must be prescribed by a health professional, so we can use them safely and effectively.

Even prescription medication from the doctor’s office meant to assist in weight loss can only have moderate effects at best, and alongside that comes the very real possibility of side effects.

Realistically, products available without a prescription can only have a minimal impact, since we can take them without supervision. It must also be ensured that the potential to hurt us is also minimal, in case we happen to misuse it.

The FDA

You may have heard of the acronym, but in case you didn’t know, in the United States, the FDA stands for the Food and Drug Administration and in Canada it refers to the Food and Drugs Act.

The FDA is meant to protect us from false advertising and misleading information on packaging that could potentially confuse and pose a threat to the safety of the person buying that product.

Unfortunately, in the United States and Canada, the majority of dietary supplements (or natural health products, in Canada) are not required to explicitly prove that their product is effective or safe before it can be sold.

This is because the majority of supplements are put under the category of ‘food’, and not ‘drugs’. Obviously any ingredients listed in the product that are known to be a risk to our safety, or only have a couple studies done on a new ingredient that hasn’t been researched before will be investigated...

...But as long as the product is not claiming to treat, prevent or cure any specific or major diseases, usually it can slip into the market unnoticed. There are rules in place for what companies can have explicitly written in the recommended use section of the label, but those rules leave many loopholes for companies to exploit.

Some examples of the ways a product can trick the consumer:

  • Marketing and media that imply weight loss or another health benefit, even though it is not listed as the intended use for the product.

  • Using synonyms for ‘Natural’ words and imagery to imply the product is organic, natural, ext. and avoiding flagged words that require proof of the ingredients source.

  • Trace amounts of other drugs in the product (not listed on the label) that cause the effects, making you believe the claim.

  • Though there are scientific claims, the research backing it up can be inconclusive, or biased towards the company who funded the study or created the study’s design.

With the hundreds and thousands of products out there, the FDA will mainly investigate products that have been brought to their attention, or at random. Leaving potentially ineffective products on the market for any length of time.

Effectiveness

As mentioned, although there is no guarantee a product is completely safe, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to hurt you. Some products may not be as effective as they seem, but are there some out there that work?

Yes, there are some products that have shown to be effective in some situations. However, these products will not work for everyone, will likely have a very modest benefit, and most supplements even state that it should be taken alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Although many ingredients can show an experimental benefit, those results shown in a research setting will likely be very different in a practical one. Research studies often have very controlled environments and scenarios that don’t:

  • Reflect daily life and other habits

  • Account for differences in ethnicity, sex, age and many other factors that make us different.

A good example of this is caffeine which has shown some effectiveness in trials, showing a slight boost in metabolism function.

However, these effects are minor, and seem to disappear when the person develops a tolerance to caffeine, making it not sustainable or proven for long term effectiveness. There are other ingredients, like green tea extract, that are likely beneficial for some people simply because they contain caffeine.

Flat stomach

The Solution

There is no quick and easy solution for the roadblocks we face on the way to a happier and healthier life. However, this does not mean you cannot accept help. Just keep in mind that the ‘help’ you see advertised in stores may be wasted time that you could be spending pursuing healthier, lifelong habits.

If you plan to take a natural health product or supplement remind yourself that it will likely only give you minor assistance, and you shouldn’t use it as a crutch or an excuse for an unhealthy diet or lack of physical activity.

Some articles that can put you on the right track:

Although you do not have to get a prescription for most herbal remedies, natural health products, dietary supplements, ext… It is wise to ask, or at the very least, inform your doctor you plan to take it, in case there is a chance of it reacting badly with any other medication you may be taking.

For other articles that can help with struggles you might be facing on your health and fitness journey, check out The Ultimate Health and Fitness Guide, a collection of all our articles in different fitness and nutrition categories.

In Conclusion

You can avoid scams by understanding what to look for, and deciding whether or not it’s necessary for you to buy a supplement in the first place. Just remember these important points:

  • Just because it’s available on the shelf, doesn’t mean it’s safe or effective
  • Read the recommended use and medicinal claims, as it doesn’t always match the advertised and implied use.
  • Make sure any non-prescription supplements won’t interfere with any prescription medication you may be taking.
  • Any non-prescription herbal remedies, natural health products and dietary supplements should be taken in addition to, and not as a replacement for healthy diet and regular exercise.

Stay safe and keep pushing towards your goals. You are strong, and you are not alone. Be patient and work hard, we’re all in this together!

Questions & Comments

If you have any question or simply want to talk about your experience, don't hesitate to comment below. We don't bite ;)

References:
Pittler, Max H., and Edzard Ernst. "Dietary supplements for body-weight reduction: a systematic review." The American journal of clinical nutrition 79.4 (2004): 529-536.
Pittler, Max H., and Edzard Ernst. "Dietary supplements for body-weight reduction: a systematic review." The American journal of clinical nutrition 79.4 (2004): 529-536.
Wedick, Nicole M., et al. "Effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on biological risk factors for type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial." Nutrition journal 10.1 (2011): 93.
Manore, Melinda M. "Dietary supplements for improving body composition and reducing body weight: where is the evidence?." International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 22.2 (2012): 139-154.
Canada’s Regulatory System for Foods with Health Benefits - An Overview for Industry [http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/industry-markets-and-trade/statistics-and-market-information/by-product-sector/processed-food-and-beverages-sector/trends-and-market-opportunities-for-the-food-processing-sector/canada-s-regulatory-system-for-foods-with-health-benefits-an-overview-for-industry/?id=1274467299466]
U.S Food and Drug Administration - Ingredients, Packaging and Labelling [https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/default.htm]

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