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  • May 16, 2021
  • Although use of some herbal and dietary supplements show statistically greater weight loss than placebo, it is not sufficient to benefit health, according to the joint findings of two systematic reviews, which are the first to comprehensively include all available herbal and dietary supplements for weight loss for over 15 years.

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    “There is currently insufficient evidence to recommend any of the supplements we included in our reviews for weight loss,” stressed lead author Erica Bessell, a PhD candidate from the University of Sydney in Australia.

    She added that some products with promising results warrant further investigation in well-conducted randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to determine their efficacy and safety.

    But, overall, she would like to see a reduction in the number of products on the market without evidence to support their efficacy, “because, as we found, many of the products currently marketed for weight loss just do not work.”

    “Herbal and dietary supplements might seem like a quick-fix solution to weight problems, but people need to be aware of how little we actually know about them,” she told Medscape Medical News in an interview“We would recommend that people trying to lose weight should save their money and seek out evidence-based care instead,” she emphasized.

    The research was presented as two posters at this year’s online European Congress on Obesity (ECO).

    Herbal and Dietary Supplement Industry Booming

    Supplements for weight loss are growing in popularity, sustaining a rapidly expanding business sector globally. In the United States, the herbal and dietary supplements industry was estimated to be worth USD $41 billion in 2020, with 15% of Americans having tried a weight loss supplement in their efforts to shed pounds.

    In light of this, Bessell said it is increasingly important to ensure supplements are efficacious and safe: “The popularity of these products underscores the urgency of conducting larger, more rigorous studies to have reasonable assurance of their safety and effectiveness for weight loss.”

    Commenting on the study and the wider issues related to the surge in uptake of herbal and dietary supplements, Susan Arentz, PhD, said the evidence is similar to that for other complex interventions that people attempt for weight-loss, including for example exercise, in that it is heterogeneous and low quality.

    “One outstanding limitation for herbal medicine was the failure of trialists to validate the contents of interventions. Given the chemical variability of plants grown and harvested in different conditions, and the presence of pharmaceuticals and heavy metals found in some supplements…future investigations of standardized herbal supplements and RCTs of higher methodological quality are needed,” remarked Arentz, a board member of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association and researcher at Western Sydney University, Australia.

    “Also, further RCTs are warranted due to the consumer preferences for natural treatments, especially in health settings with predominant use of traditional medicines and practices,” said Arentz.

    https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/951005