A couple of PharmDs from Ohio have published a review of 16 weight loss supplements (and 1 drug) used to help shed excess girth.

I’ll give just the bottom line on each supplement here.

Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium)

  • Little evidence supporting its use.
  • Can elevate heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Those with a history of cardiovascular disease should avoid it.


  • Scientific evidence does not support using this fat blocker.

Chromium (Chromium picolinate)

  • Yes, this trace element aids in insulin secretion.
  • Few studies support its use as a weight loss aid.
  • A recent, comprehensive review concluded that it does not alter body composition.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

  • Not supported for weight loss.
  • It might help attenuate weight gain in patients with a dietary deficiency of CLA


  • Although claimed to increase satiety, there is little evidence to support this claim.

Green tea (Camellia sinensis)

  • Green tea products contain varying amounts of caffeine, which has a mild diuretic effect.
  • Some may perceive this as weight loss, but it’s only a transient loss of sodium and water.

Guar gum (Cyamopsis tetragonolobus)

  • It’s a source of soluble dietary fiber.
  • Insufficient evidence to recommend is for weight loss.

Guarana (Paullinia cupana)

  • Not much support for using it alone.
  • Most studies combined it with ephedra.
  • Probably should be avoided due to adverse effects on the central nervous system.


  • Popular, but little scientific support.
  • See an earlier post for more information.

Hydroxycitric acid (Garcinia cambogia)

  • Appears to be safe.
  • Proof of weight loss in humans is lacking.


  • One study, which did not report positive results.
  • Watch for nausea or diarrhea.

Natural licorice

  • No evidence of weight loss.

Usnic acid

  • No evidence of effectivness
  • A report of fulminate liver failure, make this a bad choice for weight control

White kidney bean extract (Phaseolus vulgaris)

  • Advertised as a “carb blocker” that reduces the rate that starch is converted to sugar in the digestive process, thus reducing caloric intake.
  • One study showed a positive modest response in a decrease in body mass index.

Willow bark

  • No studies on weight loss.
  • One report of a severe reaction in a young person who was allergic to aspirin.

Yohimbine (Pausinystalia yohimbe)

  • The 2 studies available published opposite results.
  • High blood pressure, anxiety, and agitation are side effects.

The bottom line?
The article provides useful background information. Read it all for greater detail

5/19/08 19:42 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.