Do Natural Weight-Loss Supplements Really Work?

May 7th 2016

Not All Supplements Are Equal

"Natural weight-loss supplements" can cover a wide variety of products, from ancient Chinese herbal remedies to chitosan, a sugar that comes from lobster shells. Some have science backing their role in weight-loss programs, while others are pure marketing hype. Do your research on any potential supplement before taking it to fully understand whether the science backs it, discredits it or is currently inconclusive.

Understand the Limitations

There is no magic pill or supplement that causes weight loss. Some natural supplements may help your body's metabolism work more quickly, or they may give you more energy or suppress your appetite to help you eat less. These can all help you lose weight, but none of them work alone. Natural weight-loss supplements work best in the context of a holistic diet and exercise plan that focuses on getting active, eating healthy foods and sizing portions appropriately.

Natural supplements are also not generally effective against medical conditions that cause you to gain weight or medications that cause it as a side effect. They may help a little or control mild cases, but these conditions often need medical treatment.

Understand the Risks

Although "natural" is often equated with "safe" by marketing campaigns, the fact is that natural weight-loss supplements can pose health risks. As a general rule, any herb or supplement that is strong enough to affect your health in a positive way is also strong enough to affect it in a negative way. While most are basically safe for the average person, some natural supplements for weight loss can interact with certain medications or underlying health conditions in a negative way. It is a good idea to consult your doctor before adding any new supplement to your diet.

Some natural weight-loss supplements, such as bitter orange and ephedra, can be dangerous for everyone. Although it was once a popular supplement, ephedra was banned in the United States because it can cause serious side effects including strokes, seizures and heart attacks.

Is It Sustainable?

Popping a pill every morning to shed pounds sounds like a dream, but it is important to think about the long-term effects. It may be beneficial overall to focus on developing healthy, balanced eating habits and a fun and sustainable exercise routine rather than relying on a supplement to lose weight.


Natural weight-loss supplements are oftentimes all the rage, and it seems like every week, a new one arrives on the market. It can be hard to separate fact from fiction and truth from marketing when it comes to these natural supplements. Many of them have little or no scientific backing, or the studies on them have mixed results. So, do these natural weight-loss supplements work?

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