Long-time readers here at Diet Pills Watchdog may have noticed that we have a rather critical streak when it comes to the vast majority of diet pills! In our experience, nearly all are guilty of being weaker than advertised and tend to hand out as many side effects as benefits. Unfortunately, many of the ingredients we see used in popular diet pills have no scientific evidence supporting their usage or have been repeatedly shown in studies not to have any appreciable effect on weight loss (major guilty parties include green coffee bean and hoodia gordonii). Others, like ephedra or synephrine, can genuinely help with weight loss but can cause serious damage to customer health.
To help our readers understand which common supplement ingredients are the most useful, we have prepared this handy guide. Remember these names and you can pick out the good products from the bad yourself if we haven’t already covered them!
To make this list even more useful, we’ve picked out a range of ingredients that can specifically aid women. You won’t find any muscle builders or testosterone boosters on this list, and we’ve taken care to pick ingredients that rely less on giving dizzying energy boosts. We’ve also picked out ingredients that perform a range of functions, from thermogenic fat burning to appetite suppressing and carb blocking effects. Enjoy!
1) Green Tea
Green tea stands at the top of this list for one reason and one reason only: it is probably the most useful weight loss supplement out there. Green tea has repeatedly been linked with weight loss effects in numerous studies and is one of the most available ingredients. Rather than investing in an expensive product, consumers need only head down to their local supermarket!
Green tea works by burning fat through thermogenesis. Essentially, this means that the tea artificially raises the body’s temperature, helping it to burn calories even when static or resting. The part of the tea that has this effect is the catechins that are found within it, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG). Together with green tea’s natural caffeine, EGCG and other catechins are known to increase fat oxidation, reduce lipogenesis and decrease fat absorption.
Unlike some of the other ingredients on this list, the scientific evidence backing green tea is substantial. There have been numerous meta-analyses of green tea (this is when one paper summarises all of the available studies that have been carried out). The conclusion from most of these is that green tea can cause mild weight loss when used with caffeine, and that ECGC and catechins don’t work on their own. It’s not a huge effect, but it has been measured consistently.
As you might expect, green tea is also not thought to be a major cause of side effects (although a minority may experience mild discomfort like nausea, constipation or increased blood pressure). There’s very little to lose, so consider adding green tea to your diet!
2) Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate may not be as widely available or well-known as green tea, but it has a similarly stellar reputation. This herbal tea has also been repeatedly linked with numerous health benefits and weight loss effects, and has the distinction of bringing no recorded side effects to the table. The scientific evidence is strong as well; since 20001, five reputable human and animal trials have all concluded that yerba mate causes moderate weight loss.
Although it is also a herbal tea, yerba mate works slightly differently to green tea. It has a high methylxanthine and chlorogenic acid content, both of which work together to effectively burn fat. Yerba mate stimulates the metabolism and decreases the rate at which fat cells and fat tissue are formed. The tea is also said to slightly suppress the appetite, helping consumers to regulate their own food intake as well.
Yerba mate has also been associated with a range of additional health benefits. Studies have shown that it reduces blood cholesterol, reduces the rate at which blood clots are formed, affects blood sugar levels favourably, and has an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect. No side effects have ever been recorded in the scientific literature so far, with one 2005 study (published in “Obesity Reviews”) going as far as to state that it is absolutely free from adverse effects.
The drawback? Yerba mate is often more expensive and harder to find than green tea. If you can get hold of some for a good price though, you should definitely consider giving this unusual herbal tea a try.
Caffeine is one of the most common ingredients found in diet pills for a pretty straightforward reason: it works. Caffeine’s mild stimulant effect essentially forces the body to work harder, raising body temperature and increasing fat oxidation even when resting.
Caffeine is a central component to how both of the above ingredients work, and can be associated with numerous other benefits, including improved concentration and useful boosts of energy. It’s also incredibly easy to get hold of – dieters need only grab a black coffee or even a simple caffeine pill for a very low-calorie dose of thermogenic, fat-burning caffeine.
Although its effects are self-explanatory, numerous studies have still proven that caffeine works to burn fat. Most of these were actually testing the effects of caffeine and other ingredients together, which can make it hard to work out which part was truly responsible for the recorded weight loss. However, one very useful 12-year study conducted on a huge population of over 45,000 people has proved the real role that caffeine could play in weight loss over time, showing that those who maintained their daily caffeine intake lost more weight than those who didn’t.
The most significant drawback of using caffeine for weight loss is the side effects. As much as 4.5 cups of coffee a day can be consumed without experiencing serious adverse effects, although those exceeding this (or those who are generally sensitive to caffeine) may experience jitteriness, insomnia, and other effects. Combining caffeine with more risky ingredients like ephedra or synpehrine can actually cause dangerous and deeply unpleasant effects, up to and including seizures.
So we’ve heard a lot about fat burners so far, but what about appetite suppressants? One useful solution is provided by the konjac root, which produces a soluble fibre known as glucomannan.
Glucomannan has rather odd properties when taken through the digestive system. Most of its bulk remains undigested, and it actually absorbs significant amounts of water whilst passing through the digestive system. In this way, glucomannan makes you feel fuller and satisfied for longer, and prolongs the process of digestion to stave off hunger pangs till later.
Side effects are not common and appear to dissipate over time as the body gets used to the new and large hits of dietary fibre. In the earliest stages, some consumers may experience flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal discomfort, although these symptoms tend to fade. Consumers must also be careful not to take glucomannan in a tablet form, as it can swell in the throat and cause choking (although glucomannan is normally available these days in capsule or powder form).
The scientific evidence backing glucomannan is not as strong as for other supplements. As recently as 2015, one meta-analysis conclusively stated that glucomannan has no appreciable effect on weight loss. However, studies that instruct participants to limit their food intake and partake in exercise have dramatically different results, with participants universally stating that the ingredient helped them to achieve their goals. The trick with glucomannan is to use its effects to your advantage and work hard in your own time to lose the weight – it will achieve nothing on its own.
As you might expect, diet is a huge part of the weight loss process, and results can often be achieved by simply looking at the foods you eat. Protein intake often has a huge effect on personal weight loss, and it is a factor that can be controlled through food choices or through dietary supplements.
Protein is known to boost metabolism and reduce overall hunger. Compared to carbohydrates and fat, protein is also known to have a relatively high Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) – this means that more of the calories you consume as protein are burned off naturally whilst it is metabolized. Ultimately, consuming more protein means that fewer calories come in before the dieter feels full and more of the consumed calories are burnt off quickly – a win/win situation!
Studies have repeatedly shown that high protein diets result in weight loss. One recent study published in the “Journal of Nutrition” found that women tend to lose more weight on protein-rich diets, and enjoy a more lean and muscular physique.
Protein supplements and powders are easy to find and buy, with almost all causing little to no side effects. However, the real value is in the details – make sure to pick one with a very-low calorie content in order to enjoy the full weight loss benefits that protein offers!
6) Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We all know that omega-3 is good for you – we see its supposed benefits listed repeatedly on the packaging of omega-3-rich foods like salmon or eggs all the time. Despite its positive association with health, few people actually know why it’s so important to ensure that these fatty acids are part of your diet.
Studies show that omega-3 helps to accelerate weight loss and fat burning in people who are on low-calorie diets. Omega-3s work by stimulating enzymes that trigger fat-burning at the cellular level, as well as improve leptin signalling that encourages fat burning and suppresses the appetite.
The scientific evidence is strong, and shows that consuming omega-3 is not associated with any side effects. Its effects also seem to be particularly relevant for women; one landmark study presented to the American Society for Clinical Nutrition showed that women on low calorie diets saw their natural fat burning processes greatly speed up when consuming omega-3 fatty acids.
These healthy fats can be found naturally in eggs, salmon and nuts, and can also be taken in supplement form. If you’ve already found a low calorie diet that works for you, add this into your diet and watch the weight loss process accelerate!
7) Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Conjugated Linoleic Acid has sometimes been accused of having a mixed record as a fat burner, but has still seen enough encouraging results to warrant a mention.
CLA is a fatty acid that is created when the bacteria found in cow and sheep stomachs ferments. It can then be isolated and extracted from the meat or milk of the animals, and can then be used as a targeted fat burner in the human body.
The scientific evidence backing this link is encouraging. Several studies and meta-analyses of CLA show that it successfully reduces body fat, sometimes dramatically. CLA seems to fail to help dieters to lose overall weight or see a significant decrease in BMI, but instead delivers results in terms of dieters’ muscle-fat ratio and overall leanness. Its overall effect is focused and targeted, useful for those who want to eliminate fat specifically.
The levels of CLA needed to have this effect can’t really be taken naturally from food, so readers interested in this approach may want to seek out a good, low-cost supplement. Side effects are possible, but are generally mild, often limited to little more than “gastrointestinal discomfort”.
8) White Kidney Bean
White kidney bean is probably the weakest item in this list, but has been included for its interesting and unique effects. This legume is known for its alpha-amylase activity, meaning that it is thought to essentially block the absorption of carbohydrates in the digestive system.
Whether this helps with losing weight is a little more controversial. Those all-important meta-analyses have struggled when looking at all the studies covering white kidney bean – unfortunately, many of the studies we have were poorly designed and carried out, which can make it hard to draw a conclusion. One general trend that does seem to emerge is that (like CLA) white kidney bean seems to cause a reduction in body fat but sometimes has no effect on overall body weight. Side effects are possible, but are limited to relatively mild issues like constipation, flatulence or headaches.
Make no mistake, this one is a mixed-bag. Some studies found that white kidney bean is very effective, and others ultimately concluded that it was useless. However, the prospect of a real carb-blocker is exciting enough to warrant inclusion. Consider giving this interesting supplement a try soon!
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.