What herbal remedies and supplements should I avoid?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
While hundreds of herbs and supplements have been purported to help you lose weight, many of them have not been studied well enough to support those claims and are not regulated by the FDA. Safety can be an issue -- as was the case with ephedra, which helped people lose weight through adrenaline-like action, but put people at risk of heart attacks. Here are some common herbal remedies and why they may not be all they're supposed to be, which is why you shouldn't put your weight-loss faith in any of them:
  • Calcium: It's been touted as an ingredient that speeds weight loss. Studies have shown that those with low calcium are more likely to gain weight and be overweight. But the people who lost weight with increased calcium were also on short-term, calorie-restricted diets, so the weight loss was more predictable than an Oscar winner's speech.
  • Bitter orange: It's been shown to decrease weight, but has the same side effects as ephedra, such as increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Chitosan: It's extracted from the shells of shellfish, and the theory is that it works a little like some weight-loss drugs, by blocking fat absorption in your body. But studies show that it doesn't lead to weight loss.
YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

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YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

For the first time in our history, scientists are uncovering astounding medical evidence about dieting -- and why so many of us struggle with our weight and the size of our waists. Now researchers...

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Dietary Supplements

Whether you're visiting the drug store, grocery or natural food shop you'll likely find an aisle where there are jars and bottles of things for you to put in your body that are neither foods nor medicines. Ranging from vitamins an...

d minerals to fiber and herbal remedies, these supplements are not regulated in the same way as either food or medicine. Some of them are backed by solid research, others are folk remedies or proprietary cures. If your diet does not include enough of certain vitamins or minerals, a supplement may be a good idea. Natural treatment for conditions like constipation may be effective. But because these substances are unregulated, it is always a good idea to educate yourself about the products and to use common sense when taking them. This is even more true if you are pregnant or taking a medicine that may be affected by supplements.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.