In a new study, researchers have conducted the first global review of herbal medicines for weight loss in 19 years, finding insufficient evidence to recommend any current treatments.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Sydney.
With overweight and obesity rates reaching epidemic proportions worldwide, many people are turning to herbal supplements as an alternative approach to maintain or lose weight.
The problem with supplements is that unlike pharmaceutical drugs, clinical evidence is not required before they are made available to the public in supermarkets or chemists.
Herbal medicines, or ‘herbal supplements’ as they are commonly known, are products containing a plant or combination of plants as the active ingredient.
They come in various forms including pills, powders, or liquids.
Common herbal supplements used for weight loss include green tea, garcinia cambogia, white kidney bean, and African mango.
These substances can be sold and marketed to the public with sponsors (those who import, export, or manufacture goods) only required to hold, but not necessarily produce, evidence substantiating their claims.
In the study, the team analyzed the latest international research in this area finding 54 studies comparing the effect of herbal medicines to placebo for weight loss in over 4000 participants.
They found that despite some of the herbal medicines showing statistically greater weight loss than placebo, weight loss was less than 2.5kg and therefore not of clinical significance.
This finding suggests there is insufficient evidence to recommend any of these herbal medicines for the treatment of weight loss.
Furthermore, many studies had poor research methods or reporting and even though most supplements appear safe for short-term consumption, they are expensive and are not going to provide a weight loss that is clinically meaningful.
The most recent data on the use of weight loss supplements, from a US study, showed that among people trying to lose weight 16% reported past-year use.
The team says the growth in the industry and the popularity of these products highlights the importance of conducting more robust studies on the effectiveness and safety of these supplements for weight loss.
One author of the study is Dr. Nick Fuller.
The study is published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.
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