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7 Popular Weight Loss Pills and Supplements Reviewed

There are many different weight loss solutions out there.

This includes all sorts of pills, drugs and natural supplements.

These are claimed to help you lose weight, or at least make it easier to lose weight combined with other methods.

They tend to work via one or more of these mechanisms:

  1. Reduce appetite, making you feel fuller so that you eatfewer calories
  2. Reduce absorptionof nutrients like fat, making you take in fewer calories
  3. Increase fat burning, making you burnmore calories

Here are the 12 most popular weight loss pills and supplements, reviewed by science.

  1. Garcinia Cambogia Extract

Garcinia cambogia became popular worldwide after being featured on the Dr. Oz show in 2012.

It is a small, green fruit, shaped like a pumpkin.

The skin of the fruit contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA). This is the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia extract, which is marketed as a diet pill.

How it works: Animal studies show that it can inhibit a fat-producing enzyme in the body and increase levels of serotonin, potentially helping to reduce cravings.

Effectiveness: One study with 130 people compared garcinia against a dummy pill. There was no difference in weight or body fat percentage between groups.

A 2011 review that looked at 12 studies on garcinia cambogia found that, on average, it caused weight loss of about 2 pounds (0.88 kg) over several weeks.

Side effects: There are no reports of serious side effects, but some reports of mild digestive problems.

BOTTOM LINE: Even though garcinia cambogia may cause modest weight loss, the effects are so small that they probably won’t even be noticeable.

  1. Hydroxycut

Hydroxycut has been around for more than a decade and is currently one of the most popular weight loss supplements in the world.

There are several different types, but the most common one is simply called "Hydroxycut."

How it works: It contains several ingredients that are claimed to help with weight loss, including caffeine and a few plant extracts.

Effectiveness: One study showed that it caused 21 lbs (9.5 kg) of weight loss over a 3 month period.

Side effects: If you are caffeine sensitive, you may experience anxiety, jitteriness, tremors, nausea, diarrhea and irritability.

BOTTOM LINE: Unfortunately, there is only one study on this supplement and no data on long-term effectiveness. More research is needed.

  1. Caffeine

Caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world (6

It is found naturally in coffee, green tea and dark chocolate, and added to many processed foods and beverages.

Caffeine is a well-known metabolism booster, and is often added to commercial weight loss supplements.

How it works: Short-term studies have shown that caffeine can boost metabolism by 3-11%, and increase fat burning by up to 29%.

Effectiveness: There are also some studies showing that caffeine can cause modest weight loss in humans.

Side effects: In some people, high amounts of caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia, jitteriness, irritability, nausea, diarrhea and other symptoms. Caffeine is also addictive and can reduce the quality of your sleep.

There really is no need to take a supplement or a pill with caffeine in it. The best sources are quality coffee and green tea, which also have antioxidants and other health benefits.

BOTTOM LINE: Caffeine can boost metabolism and enhance fat burning in the short term. However, a tolerance to the effects may develop quickly.

  1. Raspberry Ketones

Raspberry ketone is a substance found in raspberries, which is responsible for their distinct smell.

A synthetic version of raspberry ketones is sold as a weight loss supplement.

How it works: In isolated fat cells from rats, raspberry ketones increase breakdown of fat and increase levels of a hormone called adiponectin, believed to be related to weight loss.

Effectiveness: There is not a single study on raspberry ketones in humans, but one rat study using massive doses showed that they reduced weight gain.

Side effects: They may cause your burps to smell like raspberries.

BOTTOM LINE: There is no evidence that raspberry ketones cause weight loss in humans, and the rat studies showing it to work used massive doses.

  1. Green Coffee Bean Extract

Green coffee beans are simply normal coffee beans that haven't been roasted.

They contain two substances believed to help with weight loss, caffeine and chlorogenic acid.

How it works: Caffeine can increase fat burning, and chlorogenic acid can slow the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut.

Effectiveness: Several human studies have shown that green coffee bean extract can help people lose weight.

A review of 3 studies found that the supplement made people lose 5.4 more pounds (2.5 kg) than placebo, a dummy pill.

Other benefits: Green coffee bean extract may help lower blood sugar levels and reduce blood pressure. It is also high in antioxidants.

Side effects: It can cause the same side effects as caffeine. The chlorogenic acid in it may also cause diarrhea, and some people may be allergic to green coffee beans.

BOTTOM LINE: Green coffee bean extract may cause modest weight loss, but keep in mind that many of the studies were industry sponsored.

  1. Green Tea Extract

Green tea extract is a popular ingredient in many weight loss supplements.

This is because numerous studies have shown the main antioxidant in it, EGCG, to aid fat burning.

How it works: Green tea extract is believed to increase the activity of norepinephrine, a hormone that helps you burn fat.

Effectiveness: Many human studies have shown that green tea extract can increase fat burning and cause fat loss, especially in the belly area.

Side effects: Green tea extract is generally well tolerated. It does contain some caffeine and may cause symptoms in people who are caffeine sensitive.

Additionally, all of the health benefits of drinking green tea should apply to green tea extract as well.

BOTTOM LINE: Green tea and green tea extract can increase fat burning slightly, and may help you lose belly fat.

  1. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, has been a popular fat loss supplement for years.

It is one of the "healthier" trans fats, and is found naturally in some fatty animal foods like cheese and butter.

How it works: CLA may reduce appetite, boost metabolism and stimulate the breakdown of body fat.

Effectiveness: In a major review of 18 different studies, CLA caused weight loss of about 0.2 pounds (0.1 kg) per week, for up to 6 months.

According to another review study from 2012, CLA can make you lose about 3 lbs (1.3 kg) of weight, compared to a dummy pill.

Side effects: CLA can cause various digestive side effects, and may have harmful effects over the long term, potentially contributing to fatty liver, insulin resistance and increased inflammation.

BOTTOM LINE: CLA is an effective weight loss supplement, but it may have harmful effects over the long term. The small amount of weight loss is not worth the risk.