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Shady Supplements

August 10, 2010

Over-the-counter weight loss supplements work no better than a placebo.


The skinny on supplements…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s time for another episode of Reality Check (eerie music) where we investigate science folklore. Many people turn to popular over-the-counter supplements to lose weight. But do any of these products actually work? Dr. Thomas Ellrott and his team at the University of Göttingen Medical School in Germany recently tested the effectiveness of nine supplements, including guarana seed powder, L-Carnitine, and fiber pills. Over the course of eight weeks, he says volunteers did lose a few pounds, but no more so on average than those taking a placebo.
THOMAS ELLROTT (University of Göttingen Medical School):
If you compared the success of the placebo group to the other groups, there was no other group that was statistically better than placebo. It’s nothing more than the placebo effect.

He warns that just because a supplement looks promising, doesn’t mean it will work. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.