“Lose weight! Gain muscle! Boost your energy levels!” (Reddy, 2017). Have you ever heard these slogans? Of course, you have. Even if you have never thought of dropping weight yourselves, you have probably seen hundreds of advertisements like this. Dietary supplements tempt customers with their promises of quick weight loss and long-term weight maintenance. Meanwhile, the booming industry of these remedies has grown by $6 billion over the last decade. It is now $15 billion, as Euromonitor International, a company that researches markets, reports (Reddy, 2017).
People’s desire to lose weight is rational. Indeed, being overweight means facing an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. For example, it has recently been found that up to 40% of all cancers are caused by obesity and overweight (Halvorson, 2018). At the same time, health risks of weight-loss dietary supplements are often not communicated to customers, especially given the fact that many contain prescription drugs unreported on labels. This exposes desperate overweight clients at multiple of risks of developing adverse health conditions which sometimes lead to death. MAIN CLAIM: Consumption of weight-loss dietary supplements should be replaced by healthy eating. Even though weight loss occurs slower, the result is stable and does not cause toxicity or threaten life.
Consumption of weight-loss dietary supplements causes liver toxicity, a condition requiring liver transplant or leading to death. In their study of the effects on liver of Garcinia cambogia weight loss agent, Jiten Kothadia and colleagues have found that the prolonged use of Garcinia cambogia extract, which contains “hydroxycitric acid” as its active ingredient, can lead to acute hepatitis (Kothadia et al., 2018). Even though this dietary supplement is rather cheap and is believed to be natural and safe, the reality is it brings about disastrous side effects. Interestingly, dietary supplements that are marketed as natural often consist of so many compounds that it is hard to determine which one cases liver injury. At the same time, the US Drug Induced Liver Injury Network warns us that the list of toxic remedies is far longer. It, in particular, includes such supplements and ingredients as Hydroxycut, Herbalife products, Camellia sinensis (green tea extract), usnic acid, 1,3-Dimethylamylamine, LipoKinetix, uncoupling protein-1, anabolic steroid, vitamin A, and OxyELITE pro.
Other grave conditions associated with intake of weight loss supplements include serious kidney damage, cardiac and cerebrovascular accidents in young and previously healthy patients, as well as nervous system injuries. For example, Hydroxycut weight loss products have been found responsible for cases of death resulting from cardiac and cerebrovascular accidents in young patients who did not have any health problems before its intake. It was identified that ephedra, its component, causes serious damage to circulatory and nervous systems and therefore accounts for mortality. Kidney damage is a known outcome of consuming weight-loss remedies. In particular, Chromium Picolinate, used for lowering lipids, leads to acute kidney failure and, in certain groups of patients, to renal failure. Likewise, Hydroxycut causes kidney stones. Green coffee extract damages the nervous system causing insomnia, headaches, nervousness, and abnormal heart rhythms. Ephedra, also known as ma huang, causes psychosis and even seizures (Ansari & Omar, 2017).
Whereas we celebrate the miraculous, often not backed by science, properties of weight-loss dietary supplements, we rarely mention the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity. Unwilling to engage in physical activity and stop self-gratification, Americans tend to shrug off the mere idea that restricting themselves in food and doing even a minimal number of exercises can bring them close to their goal and, importantly, for much longer time. Meanwhile, The Times reports of a British woman from Southampton who managed to lose half of her body weight without any weight-loss surgery or supplements. Harriet Jenkins, who was awarded Slimming World’s slimmer of 2010, shed as many as 95 kilos through changing her eating behavior and doing physical exercise.
She dropped from size 30 to 10 and got her dream job (The Times, 2010). Another story comes from Matthew Letten, who lost as much as 50 pounds over the period of six months. Letten, who followed the Belly Off! Program, combined dieting and physical activity. He replaced pizza and beer with three healthy meals per day. To specify, Letten ate raw almonds, oatmeal, chicken breast, fish, salad, and vegetables. He started his mornings with just 30 minutes of physical exercise and walked twice a week in a local public park. That accounted for dropping around 30 pounds over 5 months. Sticking to diet for 3 more months without workouts because of a physical injury caused Letten to lose 20 more pounds. As a result, Letten became confident enough to approach the girl he liked. They have been dating for over 6 months now (Men’s Health, 2010). These examples show how healthy eating, preferably combined with minimal physical exercises, can lead to desirable effects in losing weight and achieving what you have dreamt of.
To sum up, rather than look for quick and effortless solutions to the problem of overweight, let’s find ways to lose weight in a healthy and body-friendly way. Hopefully, Letten and Jenkins’ experiences show that losing weight through adjusting our food habits and being physically active brings impressive results. “Liver toxicity! Kidney failure! Psychosis! Death!” should be the slogans we come across in ads of weight-loss supplements. That would be fair, wouldn’t it?