Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss: Overview
No matter where you are in your weight loss journey, chances are you have either tried or considered using a weight loss supplement. With a vast assortment of options ranging from herbal remedies to weight loss pills, it certainly can be challenging to figure out which method might work for you. Before you consider using any form of dietary supplement, please keep in mind that they are designed to enhance and compliment your diet and not replace healthy food choices.
Popular dietary supplements can be separated into four different categories:
- Weight Loss Pills
- Fish Oil
- Meal Replacement
- Vitamins and Minerals
Weight Loss Pills
This is probably the most dangerous category of all dietary supplements. Advertisers for these companies prey on people who are fed up with diet and exercise and are desperate for an easy solution to their weight loss struggle.
The problem with weight loss pills is that the companies responsible for manufacturing the pills do not have to endure the rigorous trials and testing of prescription drugs; their magic bullet wonders can easily be sold to the public with limited proof of their effectiveness and safety. Once a weight loss pill is introduced to the public, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does have the power to recall a dangerous product, but there’s no formula for how long that can take.
If you are determined to try a weight loss pill, first check the FDA’s web site for alerts and product recalls. Next, do as much research as you can on the product and talk to your doctor before you start taking any weight loss pills.
In a 2010 survey, ConsumerLab.com reported that fish oil had become the most popular dietary supplement on the market, beating out multivitamins. Since the survey only polled about 6,000 respondents, it’s safe to say this claim is not based on a large enough sample to substantiate the findings. Regardless of whether or not fish oil is more popular than multivitamins, it’s clear that the use of fish oil as a dietary supplement is growing in popularity.
Fish oil contains essential omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for human health. The trick with these fatty acids is they cannot be produced by the human body – you can only get omega-3 fatty acids into your system by eating foods that contain it. While it’s possible to get omega-3 fatty acids by ingesting foods like canola oil, walnuts, and soybeans most people simply take fish oil pills. While fish oil pills are an easy way to get omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, a healthier and more natural solution would be to include two servings of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, or mackerel into your meal plan twice a week.
While meal replacement products like EAS Myoplex shakes and Slim-Fast bars may not immediately come to mind when you think of dietary supplements, many dieters use them as an alternative to a full meal. Meal replacement bars and shakes can be a great way to keep your daily calorie count down as long as use of the product is part of low-calorie, nutritious diet.
Vitamins and Minerals
While the goal should be to get all of your necessary daily vitamins and minerals from food, sometimes hectic schedules take over and it’s just not possible. Vitamins and minerals have long been used as nutritional fillers for anyone who has a less-than-ideal diet.
With so many options to choose from (Calcium, B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Multivitamins), it can be difficult to determine exactly what, and how much, you need each day. Most people simply resort to taking a single multivitamin, hoping it will fill in the gaps. This shouldn’t present a problem since daily multivitamins are widely considered harmless for most people; however, you should speak with your doctor before taking any additional vitamins or minerals.
How to Select a Dietary Supplement
Regardless of which dietary supplements you’re interested in using, there are a few things you may want to consider before adding any of them to your diet.
- Do your research. Look for trusted brands that have been around for several years.
- Consider product claims with a healthy dose of skepticism. If the product appears too good to be true, chances are it is.
- Talk to your doctor
- The Health Professional’s Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements. Fragakis, Allison S. and Thomson, Cynthia. American Dietetic Association 3rd Ed. January 2007.
- WebMD: The Truth Behind the Top 10 Dietary Supplements
- Consumer Lab: Fish Oil Becomes Most Popular Dietary Supplement in Consumerlab.com Survey
- Mayo Clinic: Over-the-counter weight-loss pills: Do they work?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 fatty acids