Is there a dieter who hasn't, at some point in his or her life, wished for a magical pill that would end that battle of the bulge? Most of us have spent more than a few dollars on a supposedly simple solution to our weight-loss dilemma. The typical result: We've wasted our money and time -- and the scale hasn't budged.
Here's the real skinny on weight loss supplements:
Myth Number One: There's a quick, easy path to weight loss. You just need to figure out which advertiser to believe, purchase that product and voila! You'll be a size 2 in less than a week.
Fact: Regardless of how much it costs and what the label promises, no product is going to substitute for the two basics of weight loss: diet and exercise. If you eat more calories than you burn, the scale will rise. Your clothes won't fit as well. And you'll experience that sting of "I wasted my money."
On the other hand, if you use that money on smarter food choices and an exercise program such as dance aerobics classes or a gym membership, you can burn more calories than you eat. The scale will show that you've lost weight -- and your clothes will fit better.
Myth Number Two: Hoodia is the hot new solution that will make your hunger vanish and cause you to lose weight quickly and painlessly.
Fact: Although there are no known precautions for using Hoodia that are known of to date, this supplement “is not thermogenic, so does not speed up the metabolism. It is simply an appetite suppressant,” explains Dr. Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH, CCN and author of The Hamptons Diet. "It does work but it is not a superstar. It will lessen the severity of hunger but will not take it away completely. Also, one must make sure they are getting the South African Hoodia that has the research behind it. It is a rare cactus and there are many imitators on the market, so buyers beware (of) this one."
Myth Number Three: CLA will melt the fat on your body, especially around your stomach, and help you tone up more quickly and easily. Take it, and those fat cells will vanish!
Fact: Despite those ads guaranteeing you’ll lose weight when you take CLA, this supplement "has no clear evidence to support this claim," according to Dr. Pescatore. "It is a medium chain triglyceride that may help metabolism and fat burning in the areas around the abdomen in an attempt to offset cortisol. However, in my opinion and my practice, I have never seen CLA do anything by itself for weight loss."
Myth Number Four: Those drinks with caffeine as an added ingredient will give you so much energy, you’ll breeze through even the toughest workout -- and extra caffeine is totally safe.
Fact: Read this before you take another sip of that quadruple-caffeinated drink! "It is not safe for people to take caffeine in this way," Dr. Pescatore says. In particular, "anyone with blood pressure, or heart rhythm abnormalities, mitral valve issues, pregnant women nursing women and diabetics should avoid these."
Myth Number Five: Chromium and carnitine are super-powerful supplements for dieters. They speed up your metabolism and burn off that stored fat quickly and easily.
Fact: Chromium does “help balance blood sugar,” explains Dr. Pescatore, and it “has earned a qualified health claim from the FDA to say so.” Carnitine, however, does not help to burn stored fat in this physician’s experience and he has not “seen this work.”
When it comes to weight-loss supplements, Dr. Pescatore tends “not to recommend them.” Why? “Because people need to learn to lose weight by managing the foods they eat. Magic bullets at this point in time do not exist, and if the healthier foods are not in your diet to the utter elimination of the unhealthy ones, then there is really no way one is going to lose weight.”
Joanne Eglash is a writer and an editor specializing in health, weight control and fitness. She's written for a variety of publications and websites, ranging from Energy for Women magazine to KidsHealth.org and is a certified personal fitness trainer currently completing her M.S. in nutrition. For more information about Joanne, visit her Web site at www.geocities.com/snackscribe.