Can Weight Loss Supplements Promote Weight Gain?Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Apart from the fact that there are indeed no weight-loss supplements that will help you lose more than the weight of the money in your back pocket (a fact that even Dr. Oz had to admit to at a recent senate inquiry into the rubbish he promotes on his shows), there may be reason to suspect that the use of such supplements may in fact do the opposite.
Thus, a rather simple experiment by Yevvon Chang and Wen-Bin Chiou from Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan, published in Nutrition, suggests that taking a (supposed) weight-loss supplement may actually lead to greater caloric intake.
This field study was conducted in 70 volunteers, who were randomised to taking a either placebo or a weight-loss supplement (the same placebo) and were then exposed to a buffet meal.
On average, participants presumably taking weight loss supplements ate a greater number of food items than did control subjects (overall about 30% more food). They also tended to chose less healthy items than the control group.
This effect tended to be strongest in those subjects who had a more positive attitude towards taking supplements for weight loss (those with the most positive attitude eating almost 3 times more food items).
Or, as the authors summarise,
“…the results supported our hypothesis that taking weight loss supplements was associated with an inclination to eat more food. This link was driven by perceived progress toward the goal of weight reduction. The liberating effect of taking weight loss supplements on food consumption became more prominent as attitudes toward this kind of supplement became more positive.”
Obviously, it is hard to extrapolate from such a short-term experiment to what happens over time – especially when people do follow the lifestyle recommendations that come with most supplements (eat-less-move-more).
This study certainly is in line with the recent observation that people who take statins to lower their blood cholesterol levels tend to eat unhealthier diets and may in fact end up gaining more weight than people who don’t.
Thus, it may be time to study the “fattening” effect of weight-loss supplements. Perhaps the only reason that we have not yet observed this effect in larger studies is because very few people stay on these nonsensical agents for more than a few weeks.
Chang YY, & Chiou WB (2014). The liberating effect of weight loss supplements on dietary control: A field experiment. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 30 (9), 1007-10 PMID: 24976417