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Weight-Loss Supplements Often No Better Than Fakes: Study

Changes in diet, activity levels still best way to control weight, expert suggests

Please note: This article was published more than one year ago. The facts and conclusions presented may have since changed and may no longer be accurate. And "More information" links may no longer work. Questions about personal health should always be referred to a physician or other health care professional.

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MONDAY, July 12, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- A large number of weight-loss supplements don't appear to work any better than placebos (or fake supplements) at helping people shed pounds, a new study has found.

German researchers tested placebos against weight-loss supplements that are popular in Europe. The supplements were touted as having these ingredients: L-Carnitine, polyglucosamine, cabbage powder, guarana seed powder, bean extract, Konjac extract, fiber, sodium alginate and certain plant extracts.

"We found that not a single product was any more effective than placebo pills in producing weight loss over the two months of the study, regardless of how it claims to work," said researcher Thomas Ellrott, head of the Institute for Nutrition and Psychology at the University of Gottingen Medical School in Germany, in a news release from the International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm, Sweden.

The researchers tested the products and placebos on 189 obese or overweight people, of whom 74 percent finished the eight-week study. While some participants lost weight, there wasn't a significant difference between those who took the placebos and those who took the real supplements, they reported.

At least some of the supplements are available in the United States. "L-Carnitine is in U.S. supplements, polyglucosamide is found in chitosan, which is still in some weight-loss supplements, and guarana was ordered removed from weight-loss supplements, but it has slowly worked its way back into some products," said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis and former president of the American Dietetic Association.

"The main message here that I would encourage people to hear is that medications aren't the magic answer to weight loss. Changes in eating and activity behaviors are the route to long-term changes in weight," Diekman added.

"For those who are extremely overweight, or those whose health is at risk, a conversation with their physician about some of the prescription drugs is advisable, but even then changes in behavior are key to maintenance of a healthier weight," she said.

The study findings were scheduled to be released Monday at the International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on healthy weight management.

SOURCE: International Congress on Obesity, news release, July 12, 2010; Connie Diekman, director, university nutrition, Washington University, St. Louis


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