Benericial Herbs

ECO2021: Exposing Thin Science of Herbals for Weight

As the European Congress on Obesity starts this morning, a pair of analyses are casting a harsh light on herbals and dietary supplements for weight loss. In fact, the science for these products is thin. The lead author of this work, Erica Bessell, explains:

“Very few high-quality studies have been done on some supplements, with little data on long-term effectiveness. Many trials are small and poorly designed. Some don’t report on the composition of the supplements.”

A Global Review of Evidence

Bessell presented a pair of studies – the first global review of dietary supplements and herbals for weight loss in over 16 years. This systematic review and meta-analysis looked at 121 RCTs, with nearly 10,000 research subjects. But they could not find real evidence that any of these products work. They might be safe for the short term. However, the researchers could not find much data on long-term safety.

For a few products – chitosan, glucomannan, and conjugated linoleic acid – the research found evidence for a very small effect. The effect, though, was so small that it is clinically meaningless.

A Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

This is a 41-billion-dollar industry for one reason. Excess weight and obesity is a health problem for hundreds of millions of people. But health systems deny people access to evidence-based care for this condition. So people are left with two options: self-care and weight loss scams.

Obesity prevalence is growing because the food supply, physical environment, social factors, and economic forces are prompting more obesity in susceptible individuals. Reversing the factors that are prompting this growth is important, but has proven difficult.

Sparked by Poor Access to Care

Meanwhile people with obesity have difficulty getting effective care for this condition – lifestyle therapy, anti-obesity meds, surgery, and post surgical care. So instead, health systems spend many billions of dollars on the medical complications of untreated obesity. High rates of untreated obesity lead to high rates of death from COVID-19.

Herbal medicines for weight loss are, frankly, a scam. Denying people access to effective care for obesity keeps that scam alive.

Click here, here, and here for more on this pair of new studies. For the scientific abstracts of these two analyses, click here and here (note that registration credentials for ECO2021 are necessary).

Beneficial Herbs (Vasilisa the Wise), painting by Nicholas Roerich / WikiArt

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May 10, 2021