I know. It can be frustrating to lose weight for many people, and out of that frustration and increasingly urgent feeling to lose the weight, people then seek something “easy”, something quick to finally take off the weight. America is overweight, and is getting fatter all of the time. We’ve covered obesity statistics a lot in this blog, and current rates suggest all states have an obesity prevalence of greater than 30 percent. But this urgency to lose weight is true even for those that are not obese, but are looking to lose in the 10-20 pound range. Losing that last weight which is keeping you from looking how you really want to look can be equally challenging.

So…enter the booming weight loss industry.

A 2007 study printed in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association assessed how many Americans took a non-prescription weight loss supplement as part of their overall plan for weight loss. Researchers found that more than 15 percent of all adults (around 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men) had used weight loss supplements, and that most didn’t discuss this use with their healthcare providers. According to the FTC, the American weight loss industry rakes in more than $30 billion per year.


Many of the programs and products available make questionable promises, but because people are looking for a quick and easy fix, they pin their hopes on the latest claims that they can lose quickly and easily without making many changes. Some of the weight loss claims include:

  • Eliminate one entire food group (carbs, fat, etc.), and you’ll lose weight.
  • Lose weight without diet or exercise.
  • Eat all you want and lose weight.
  • Never diet again (except for that diet).
  • Eat these “delicious” microwave/processed meals and feel so “satisfied” while losing all the weight!
  • Try our miracle patch/cream/pill and lose weight with no effort.

If It Sounds too Good To Be True…

There’s an old adage that says, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Yet, the weight loss industry makes claims all of the time that are clearly too good to be true. I understand the hope that comes along with promises of easy to lose weight without changing your habits. But you have to change your lifestyle if you want to lose weight for the long-term, at least in a healthy way. You may huff and puff and sigh and wrinkle your nose as you read this and want to truly believe there is a way around it. But there really isn’t. It doesn’t have to be torturous, and you don’t have to starve yourself or feel hungry, so long as you have a good strategy and fill up on the right foods. But yes, you have to make some effort and better and different choices.

I recently discussed it in my recent blog about the definitely too good to be true promises made about the latest weight loss craze, raspberry ketones. One of the types of questions I get from people most frequently is about whatever happens to be the latest miracle supplement. I thought I’d answer as many of those questions as I can here!

Green Coffee Bean Extract

The claims:

  • Contains chlorogenic acid, which inhibits the release of glucose, increasing metabolism.
  • Has much less caffeine than coffee, so it won’t leave you jittery.
  • Roasting the beans to make the coffee removes the chlorogenic acid.
  • The extract also has antioxidants and may be good for diabetics because of its blood stabilizing effects.

What science says:

The bottom line:  Very limited human evidence

  • No human studies currently link GCBE to weight loss.
  • GCBE may help people who are mildly hypertensive lower their blood pressure. You would get much better results with improving your blood pressure by changing your diet (less animal fat/cholesterol, etc.) and not relying on supplements to do so.
  • No specific human studies have been performed on GCBE and diabetes.


The claims: Hoodia makes you eat less by tricking you into believing your full.

What Science Says:

While there was some initial success in rodent studies examining the appetite suppressant benefits of hoodia, a 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed no significant affect on appetites of human beings. The non-placebo group of human subjects in the study also showed that side effect such as nausea, headaches, and dizziness were fairly common.

The bottom line: There’s no solid proof Hoodia works with humans to really create and maintain weight loss. But it can sure cause unpleasant side effects.


The claims: This high soluble fiber supplement fills you up and makes it so you aren’t hungry, leading you to eat less.

What science says:

  • A randomized double-blind study showed glucomannan improved blood lipid profiles and glucose levels in diabetic subjects.
  • A 2008 study showed that subjects who didn’t make lifestyle changes noticed increased satiety with glucomannan but there was no statistically significant weight loss.
  • A 1984 study showed that obese patients taking glucomannan lost an average of 2.5 kg over an 8-week period with no adverse effects.
  • Health Canada advises that glucomannan taken with inadequate fluid can cause choking.

The bottom line: While glucomannan may, indeed, cause some reduced appetite, you still have to change the amount of food you eat and what you eat in order to lose weight. It’s no miracle, but in some cases it may help with satiation and blood lipid profiles, but you need to take it with lots of water.

This is really just a fiber pill. Why don’t you just drink the Glowing Green Smoothie instead, which as over 13 grams of fiber for 16 ounces? If you drink 32 ounces+ each day (like me) that’s 26 grams of fiber just from the GGS, but in a whole food form with tons of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and other phytonutrients. Chia seeds are another great source of fiber, and when hydrated in liquid they swell 10-15 time their size. No fiber pills needed!

African Mango

The claims: Reduces body fat, weight, and cholesterol.

What Science Says:

  • Claims are based on studies on an extract from the African mango seed called IGOB131. One study on the extract showed statistically significant weight loss in people taking the extract for four weeks, although body fat didn’t change – just weight.
  • According to ConsumerLab.com, this study was funded by a manufacturer of African mango seed supplements.

The bottom line:  While there may be promise here, further study is definitely needed since the scope and neutrality of the study remain limited. Plus, if you just lose weight but not fat you may just temporarily be losing water weight.

Do You Really Need a Miracle?

These are a few of the many weight loss “miracles” that are touted every year as the latest weight loss miracle. Don’t worry, I’m sure another fill will come along again soon. While there’s typically an excited buzz surrounding them (usually hype generated by product manufacturers), once the science kicks in we typically learn the same thing over and over again:

  • There are no miracles.
  • If you are overweight and eat an unhealthy, processed diet, the best way to lose weight is to limit portion sizes and eat a diet of healthy, unprocessed foods.
  • There is no fast and easy way to lose weight that doesn’t require a change in habits.
  • No pill allows you to eat as much as you want of processed, high-fat, and sugary foods.

The Best (and Cheapest) Way to Lose Weight

Weight loss products and supplements are hitting Americans hard in their wallets. In fact, the least expensive way to lose weight is also the most effective: eat mostly plant-based foods, moderate your portions, and move your body. I go over all of this extensively in how to eat healthy on a budget. It’s a formula that has always worked and will continue to do so. No miracle necessary.


New York Times Bestseller and Nutritionist