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Newsflash: there’s no magic bullet for fat loss. (But you already knew that.)

That’s what Melinda M. Manore, PhD, RD, CSSD, FACSM concluded after examining America’s $2.4 billion weight-loss supplement industry. Her results appear in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

Manore, a professor of nutrition and exercise sciences at Oregon State University, began this study by categorizing supplements into four categories:

  1. Blockers such as carb blockers or fat blockers
  2. Stimulants: caffeine and ephedra, for instance, which increase metabolism
  3. Body composition changers: supplements like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that reduce fat
  4. Appetite suppressants like fiber Manore found several problems with these supplements. One is that many of them lacked clinical trials to prove they work.

Two, the studies that showed a particular supplement did work more often than not yielded an unimpressive two-pound or less weight loss benefit compared to the supplement placebo.

In other words, hardly the rapid fat burners some supplements claim to be.

“What people want is to lose weight and maintain or increase lean tissue mass,” Manore said. “There is no evidence that any one supplement does this. And some have side effects ranging from the unpleasant, such as bloating and gas, to very serious issues such as strokes and heart problems.”

Not all of Manore’s news was grim. She found green tea and fiber, for instance, could stimulate fat loss, but only when you combine them with the right diet and exercise.

Now, if you’ve read my book Living Low Carb, you know I call fiber the number-one supplement for weight loss. Most of us don’t get enough of this important nutrient that helps promote satiety, lower your hunger hormone ghrelin, and balance blood sugar levels.

I’m also a big fan of green tea and green tea supplements for fat loss.

But you can’t swallow a glassful of psyllium husk and then go down in the Krispy Kremes. Likewise, you can’t chug green tea with your Starbucks scone and watch the pounds melt away. In other words, you’ve got to combine fiber and green tea with optimal foods and exercise for effective, lasting fat loss.

(Read my take on a recent study where they fed green tea extract to obese mice.*)

Manore inevitably provides advice for fat loss, most of which is decent even if you’ve heard it before: move more, eat more vegetables, start your meal with a salad, eat fruit rather than fruit juice, and ditch the processed crap. Sound familiar?

Can’t argue with any of that. However, she seriously misfires when she recommends reducing high-fat foods to lose weight. Manore evidently never got the memo that the right fats, such as almonds, coconut oil, and avocado, can actually help burn fat.

The take-home here—again, this is nothing new—is that some weight loss supplements prove more effective than others if you use them with an effective diet and exercise plan. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money away. In my experience, a lower-carb diet with optimal protein and fat, combined with burst training and weight resistance, provides amazing results.

Adding fiber and green tea to that plan can give you an extra boost to reduce cravings and step up fat burning. Just don’t expect them to do much if you don’t step up your diet and exercise.


Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS

Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, (aka "The Rogue Nutritionist") is a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health. He is a board-certified nutritionist with a master’s degree in psychology and the author of nine books on health, healing, food and longevity including two best-sellers, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth” and “Living Low Carb”. A frequent guest on television and radio, he has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS as an expert on nutrition, weight loss, and longevity. He is a past member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Men’s Health magazine, is the Nutrition Editor for Pilates Style, and is a regular contributor to AOL, Vanity Fair Online, Clean Eating Magazine, Better Nutrition, and Total Health Magazine Online.