Evidence lacking for “alternative” weight-loss therapies

Posted 07 July 2021

A systematic review of published research evaluating the efficacy of dietary supplements and “alternative therapies” for weight loss among people at least 18 years of age has found that supportive evidence is weak. Many clinical trials were also hampered by a significant risk of bias due to inconsistent testing methods. Problems with studies include small sample sizes, short follow-up periods, and poor study designs.
Reference: Batsis JA. A systematic review of dietary supplements and alternative therapies for weight loss. Obesity, June 23, 2021

Key findings included:

  • Out of 315 randomized controlled trials included in the review, 52 were classified as having a low risk of bias, of which 16 demonstrated significant weight changes for tested therapies compared to placebo.
  • No high-quality evidence supported acupuncture, calcium-vitamin D supplementation, chocolate/cocoa, phenylpropanolamineguar gumPhaseolus vulgarispyruvate, and mind-body interventions as weight-loss
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Dodgy diet pills: Dying to lose weight?

Posted 17 August 2016

A press release from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, United Kingdom.

Dodgy diet pills: Dying to lose weight?

First published: 17 August 2016

MHRA launch FakeMeds campaign with warning on dodgy diet pills

A campaign is being launched today aimed at young adults warning of the dangers of buying dodgy diet pills online.

FakeMeds aims to warn would-be slimmers against shelling out for dangerous or useless products sold by illegal online suppliers.

Thousands of pills and potions promising miracle results are bought over the summer months as holidaymakers look for shortcuts to beach-ready bodies – with women aged 18-30 most likely to buy.

After handing over bank details, many receive bottles of tablets packed with dangerous or useless ingredients. Nasty side effects can include heart attacks, strokes – and in extreme cases, death.


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Phenolphthalein (banned) found in LeanGenie product

Posted 20 November 2012

Phenolphthalein (banned in South Africa for safety concerns) and sibutramine has been found in the LeanGenie product, JS Slim-weight-loss capsules, and in Lifestyle Tradelink’s Fruit & Vegetables-capsules.  

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UK ASA Ruling: Biomedical Laboratories – Lipo Contour garment

A complaint was laid with the UK ASA for a leaflet that promoted the Lipo Contour garment. Text stated “The non surgical option to Cellulite reduction! Lipo Contour, helps remodel your figure safely and effectively, with long lasting results, without the stress of dieting. Clinically proven, Lipo Contour has been developed from more than 20 years clinical practice and experience in the field of liposuction and liposculpture."

How did the UK ASA rule?

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MyWeigh vs Eden Clinic


The celebrity, Sandy Ngema, claims to have lost weight thanks to Verimark's MyWeigh, or is it due to Eden Life's weight-loss product, or Verimark's MyWeigh, or Eden Life's . . . or . . . 

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UK ASA ruling: Bodytrim

"We noted that we had not seen specific evidence, such as rigorous trials on people, to show the Bodytrim programme could safely and effectively achieve weight loss. We also noted the weight loss amounts claimed in testimonials in the ad were not stated together with the period involved."

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F.D.A. Finds “Natural” Diet Pills Laced With Drugs

February 9, 2009

This article by NATASHA SINGER in the New York Times,  reports that the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now says weight-loss capsules, called StarCaps and promoted as natural dietary supplements using papaya, could be hazardous to your health.

In violation of the law, the agency has found, the capsules also contained a potent pharmaceutical drug called bumetanide which can have serious side effects. In a continuing investigation that has prompted consumer warnings and recalls by some distributors, the F.D.A. has determined that dozens of weight-loss supplements, most of them imported from China, contain hidden and potentially harmful drugs. In the coming weeks, the agency plans to issue a longer list of brands to avoid that are spiked with drugs. Read the remainder of the New York Times report.

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Neu-U – Austell Laboratories

Posted 05 February 2009

A consumer complaint was laid against a print advertisement for “Neu-U” in Modern Medicine magazine (and also advertised on a website).

The advertisement is headed “THE LATEST WEIGHT MANAGEMENT SOLUTION” and states, inter alia, that “In-vitro tests conducted on a gastrointestinal model have shown that NeOptunina reduces fat absorption by 28,3%”.

It also contains a pack shot featuring the words “clinically proven fat binder”.  In essence, the complainant submitted that the in-vitro study referred to was a computer assisted model and no testing was done on animals or humans to determine whether the claims apply when used by humans. In addition, no other studies have been done on this product.

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