Supplements. So many of them. The more you take the better, because why not cover every possible base? Among these is none other than fabled “fat loss pill” in all its various forms.
The general concept of a “fat loss pill” gets a lot of flack, perhaps rightly so, or perhaps because its easy virtue signaling. But lets be honest: every single one of us has wondered if such a thing actually exists, and most of us have tried one or more of them with high hopes.
I also suppose that, befitting the name of my site, there would be no possible easier way to lose fat than to take a pill. If there was such a thing I sure as hell would take it.
Too good to be true is a cliché for a reason though. And it’s not exactly a secret that the industry inundates us with supplements that boast claims that are obviously ridiculous. But is there something that legitimately works out there?
The honest, scientific answer to that is yes actually. There are compounds that have legitimately been proven to increase fat burning. But they’re generally illegal, not easy to acquire, and potentially strong enough to be lethal. 2,4-Dinitrophenol was prevalent in weight loss supplements in the 1930’s and can easily kill you with a single overdose. A compound you’re more likely to have heard of is ephedrine, which was widely popular until it was outlawed in 1997 because enough people were abusing it and dying for the FDA to take notice. On the other hand, that herbal supplement you got on Amazon is quite unlikely to be harmful, though probably as useful as a dust filled placebo.
The much more pertinent question that never seems to be asked, though, is how much so do these compounds work? A well reference article on Examine.com states that ephedrine has been shown to increase metabolic rate in humans by up to five percent, which comes to about 100 calories maximum of an assumed 2000 calorie per day requirement. That’s about two Oreos or a small handful of M&M’s.
You probably see the point I’m getting at, and it makes the initial question moot. Even if you did manage to acquire ephedrine, and you’re willing to take the risk or experience potential side effects, and you’re lucky enough to yield that 5% benefit… well, then enjoy your extra cookie I guess. Just understand that it won’t remotely come close to counteracting that big mac or frappuccino.
Another issue to consider is that even if something works, are you actually getting it in that supplement you’re taking? Diet supplements don’t actually need to be approved by the FDA, which even has an advisory against fraudulent diet supplements. Companies can also use the legal proprietary blend mechanism which supposedly protects their formula from getting ripped off. A proprietary blend is legally required to disclose the individual ingredients in order of amount, and the total amount of all ingredients, but not the specific amounts of each individual ingredient (source). This basically means a company can cut their products. Most of them are just loaded up with caffeine. I personally think that proprietary blends should be completely avoided, but there are some reputable companies that do fully disclose the amounts of each ingredient in their formulas.
Yet more issue lies in false advertising. All those magazine models you see holding those bottles? They’re dehydrated, oiled up, and professionally lit for the photo shoot. And odds are they’re actually on the “good stuff” that you can’t get over the counter if you get what I mean.
And so, in conclusion, are “fat burning pills” or other such weight loss supplements worth the money, risk, or hope? The pretty clear answer is no. Spend that money on fresh produce or a gym membership instead.