More than one-third of adults are overweight in England alone, with nearly one-quarter obese, and growing numbers of people are turning to weight loss pills and products as a means to shed excess weight.
Many weight loss pills claim to contain herbs or natural substances that speed up metabolism or make you feel full up to discourage you from eating.
But according to the NHS, there is little evidence that some products sold by reputable retailers and over the internet actually work, and could even be packed with harmful substances.
Even products marketed as ‘guaranteed, clinically-proven and 100 per cent natural’ come with no guarantees, the NHS warned.
“Manufacturers often cite ‘clinical trials’ to prove that their products work,” said the NHS.
“However, many of these manufacturer-led studies are of poor quality, and independent research often finds that products simply don’t live up to these claims.”
Some ingredients included in weight loss products which claim to help you lose weight include bitter orange, calcium, green tea, guar gum and chitosan.
Despite research against the effectiveness of weight loss pills, many people are swayed by guarantees they will get results from certain products.
Many of these products promise a full refund if you don’t get the results they say you will.
“Even if you don’t really believe the claims, it’s easy to get drawn into the ‘Wow! I feel great!’ captions, the celebrity endorsements and the before-and-after transformations showing how in just 60 days some glum, pale, overweight person has transformed into a trim, happy individual with a cheesy grin and a pair of jeans that are now 10 sizes too big,” said the NHS.
Products marketed in this way actually breach UK advertising guidelines, according to the Advertising Standards Agency.
ASA states: “Marketing communications should not contain claims that people could lose precise amounts of weight within a stated period or that weight or fat could be lost from specific parts of the body.”
Some manufacturers of weight loss products also only focus on positive trials, failing to mention the negative or failed trials.
“Manufacturers cherry-pick and only ever mention the positive trials,” said academic physician and researcher Edzard Ernst.
“They then also fail to mention the mostly poor quality of their studies. Desperate people are being misled to buy unproven treatments at considerable expense.”
On top of this, many ingredients in weight loss pills can carry potential side effects, some which can be very serious, according to the NHS.
Potential problems associated with weight loss supplements include heart palpitations, stomach pain and throat blockages.
Even though many products are advertised as being natural and completely safe, testing has revealed some of them contain undeclared pharmaceuticals, banned substances or toxic ingredients.
In 2015, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) seized over 240,000 doses of unlicensed slimming pills and closed down over 2,000 unauthorised online retailers.
“Rather than turning to weight loss supplements, your GP should be your first port of call,” said the NHS.
“They will be able to offer you a number of tried and tested approaches to weight management.”
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