Over – the –counter weight loss supplements: to use or not use?

There’s an inexhaustible number of the over-the-the-counter weight loss and dietary supplements available. A person should recognize, however, the majority of them have no scientific evidence to substantiate claims of their effectiveness.


Taken from the seeds of a South American tree, it contains a large amount of caffeine. Based on a double-blinded randomised controlled study of short duration, it revealed a herbal combination of guarana and Ma Huang (a medicinal preparation from the plant Ephedra sinica) to be efficacious for weight loss (-4.0kg as opposed to -0.8kg for placebo) and fat loss. But, despite its proven efficaciousness for weight loss in the short term, its safety is questionable. Ephedra was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004. The supplement can still be bought but does not contain ephedra. By itself, guarana is not proven for weight-loss.

Acai berry

This is a fruit and as such is replete with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It has not been proven effective in weight loss.

Aloe Vera

This plant used for treating wounds and burns has had that role for centuries. It also has laxative properties that at high doses can cause grave side effects. Companies marketing the product promote it for weight loss. It has been tested in one brief double-blinded randomised study. Even though it showed an important difference in weight loss involving Aloe vera and a placebo group the distinction was not significant. At the conclusion of the two-month study weight loss versus weight gain was slight: -0.4kg versus 0.2, respectively.


Caffeine is not only found in coffee but also in the leaves and fruits of specific plants.  As a stimulant, excessive use can trigger increases in blood pressure and heart rate. Although caffeine increases the amount of energy burned while at rest and fatty acid turnover, much of the mobilised free fatty acids return to storage form. Substantial weight loss does not occur.


This is a plant tuber found in North America and East Asia. It has shown promise and effectiveness for weight loss using animal models but has not been proven thus far to be efficacious in humans.

Green tea

The ingredient responsible for weight loss in green tea, catechins, is also an antioxidant. Numerous studies have shown its effectiveness in losing some weight. There is some evidence to support this claim. In a study, people drinking green tea lost 1.3 kg more weight compared to those taking a placebo. The effect was greater for Asian than Caucasian populations in addition to those who do not have high intakes of caffeine per day. Drinking green appears more effective than taking an extract or supplement.

Cayenne pepper

Known also as hot chilli or red pepper, it is made from ground dried chilli peppers. It has been shown in research to increase the number of calories burned while a person is at rest (about 10 additional calories per hour over a four-hour period. As a stand-alone ingredient for weight loss there is no proof it is effective.

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