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HealthNotes

Considering Weight-Loss Supplements? Shop with Confidence

Considering Weight-Loss Supplements? Shop with Confidence: Main Image
The most important tip-off that a supplement may not be legitimate are claims that are too good to be true

As more and more people struggle to lose extra weight, many of us have contemplated weight-loss dietary supplements. But do they work? The short answer: For long-term weight loss and health, nothing beats a healthy diet and regular exercise. However, a multitude of products exist, some with preliminary research supporting certain effects.

The most important tip-off that a supplement may not be legitimate or pure are claims that are too good to be true. Products that promise quick action (“Lose 20 pounds in 10 days!”), that tout a revolutionary new scientific breakthrough, or that are marketed as having actions similar to FDA-approved weight-loss medications should raise a red flag. These products may contain unapproved or potentially harmful ingredients, including prescription medications.

Be supplement savvy

In addition to paying attention to aggressive product claims, a few tips will help you make the most of any dietary supplement you decide to try.

  1. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about whether a supplement is right for you before adding it to your self-care routine.
  2. If you take prescription medications; have a heart condition, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or high blood pressure; or have anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, do not use weight-loss supplements without your doctor’s guidance. Some products can significantly worsen these conditions.
  3. Read labels. Be especially cautious with products manufactured in a foreign country or whose marketing materials are in a foreign language.
  4. Watch out for testimonials from people who claim outrageous weight-loss success. Companies selling a product often make up their own testimonials.
  5. Supplements that boost metabolism or suppress appetite may aid weight loss, but most are considered safe only for short-term use of four to six weeks, even in healthy folks.
  6. If you think you’ve had a bad reaction to a dietary supplement, notify the FDA through their website or by phone. This is the only way to make sure harmful products are taken off the market.
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.

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