Do any diet/weight loss pills actually work?

I’ve always been curious about diet supplements that claim to dramatically increase weight loss – sometimes they’ll even claim you can lose weight without dieting or exercising.  Seems way to good to be true.  I finally caved and decided to try one and carefully monitor its effect on my body and write a full product review.  I bought a 30-day trial of Tru Body Wellness ULTRA LEAN by Tru Body Wellness – if you’re like me you’ll be happy to know they offer a 30 Money Day Money Back Guarantee.  The tag line for this product is 4 Ultimate Weight Loss Supplement Products ALL in 1 pill.  So taking this one pill allowed me to investigate the claims behind 4 popular diet fads.  I took two pills a day for 30 days without making any changes to my diet or exercise.  I did not gain or lose any weight, nor did I experience any side effects.

Alright, let’s start by breaking down what’s actually in these pills; Green Coffee Bean 400mg, Raspberry Ketone 200mg, African Mango 150mg and Green Tea 50mg.

Lets go through them individually:

1. Green Coffee Bean.  In a small study these beans were shown to increase weight loss compared to placebo.  In 22 weeks, 16 overweight men lost an average of 17 pounds without changing diet of exercise.  One theory as to how green coffee bean may increase weight loss is because it contains Chlorogenic acid, a plant compound, which may have some effect on keeping down glucose absorption.  A larger study is currently underway.

2. Raspberry Ketone.  This is the compound in red raspberries that is responsible for their smell.  There is definitely an aroma associated with these pills because of the raspberry ketone component.  Because there are only small amounts of them available in nature, raspberry ketone supplements are generally biosynthesized.  There is currently no clinical evidence that they are responsible for weight loss in humans.  The myth that raspberry ketone helps with weight loss comes from the idea that it enhances the activity of a hormone adiponectin, which plays a role in weight regulation and blood glucose levels.  There have also been two studies, one in mice and one in rats, that showed that raspberry ketones might help prevent rodent’s from becoming obese.  Not overly compelling…

3. African Mango.  African mango is a nickname for the fruit produced in Central and West Africa by a tree called Irvingia gabonensis.  Its been suggested that the high soluble fiber in the seed can “melt away belly fat”, by reducing appetite, lowering blood cholesterol levels, reducing fat cell growth, breaking down fats and improving blood sugar control.  That’s quite a claim!  A few studies have backed these claims up but were sponsored by manufacturers of the supplement.  More research needs to be done but it does seem like this might really aid in weight loss.  At the very least it is high in fiber so will help you feel more full. 

4. Green Tea.  Green tea contains a substance called EGCG, an antioxidant that is thought to have a calorie burning effect.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming 90mg of EGCG and 50mg of caffeine at mealtime increased energy expenditure by 4%.  This sounds promising but the study only had a sample size of 10, and 4% increased energy expenditure probably wouldn’t have a worthwhile effect on weight loss anyway.

Right on the bottle you’ll find this product claim: Tru ULTRA LEAN combines Green Coffee Extract, Raspberry Ketone, African Mango and Green Tea into one capsule.  This powerful combination assists in increasing metabolism, energizing, suppressing your appetite and cravings, while turning your body into a fat burning machine.  Use in combination with a sensible diet and exercise plan.  These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

So lets break down these claims one by one:

1. Will this supplement increase your metabolism?  First let’s talk about what your metabolism really is.  Your metabolism is all of the chemical reactions in your cells that are necessary for life.  Including how we convert our food into fuel and then how efficiently we use that fuel – this translates into how quickly we burn calories and how easy it is for us to gain or lose weight.  There are several factors that can affect your metabolism; age, sex (darn you men!) and how much muscle mass you have.  However, a lot of it just comes down to genes, some people just have a faster metabolism than others.  The good news is you can increase your metabolism! Exercising, for example, particularly weight training, will increase your muscle mass.  Muscles cost more calories to sustain even while at rest so just having greater muscle mass will increase your resting metabolic rate!  A pound of muscle burns about 35 calories a day compared to the pathetic 2 calories a pound of fat burns.  Another way you can increase your metabolism is to change your eating habits.  When you wait a long time in between meals your metabolism starts to slow down because your body wants to preserve calories, essentially you’re in starvation mode.  Eating little snacks in between meals (see my previous post on low calorie snacks!) will help keep your metabolism up.  So back to the point, it’s really impossible for me to evaluate whether or not this product increased my metabolism just from taking the supplement for 30 days.  I will say, however, that I did not gain or lose and weight while taking this supplement so… it doesn’t appear to have had any effect.  However, maybe in combination with dramatic changes to diet, exercise and lifestyle it may aid in revving up your metabolism.  Although, even if these supplements do have an effect, it seems unlikely that they would increase metabolism enough to have any significant effect on weight loss by themselves. It also probably depends on the person; I have a very high metabolism to begin with, so perhaps it would have more effect on someone with a more sluggish metabolism – who knows.  To conclude, I’m going to go out on a limb and say no, this supplement does not increase metabolism, at least not in a substantial enough way to aid your weight loss.

2.  Does this supplement boost your energy?  This is an interesting one.  I would take one pill in the morning when I woke up and then one mid afternoon.  I really do think I noticed some sort of energy boost from my morning pill, but maybe it was just me waking up in the morning.  I didn’t notice any difference with the afternoon pill but I’m normally pretty sleepy then anyway!  The energy boosting effect was negligible at best, non-existent at worst.

3. Here’s the best one, does this have an effect on your appetite? My vote is yes! I really felt less hungry after I took the pill and I think it helps you make sensible diet choices throughout the day.  Perhaps the African Mango really does suppress apetite!

4. Turns your body into a fat burning machine?  This claim is just plain ridiculous marketing sensationalism.

5. This ones not listed on the bottle, but lets take a minute to think about the placebo effect.  If you’ve hit a plateau with your diet and you start taking a supplement that you believe is going to help, maybe it will give you some added motivation that really will lead to weight loss!  Additionally I think if you invest money into buying a supplement you’re more likely to stick to your diet and exercise regiment.

The bottom line, if you are looking for something to supplement your diet and exercise this may be for you, but its certainly not going to turn you into a “fat burning machine” all by itself.  From my experience this supplement could definitely make it easier to avoid cravings  and exercise better portion control, but that’s really about it.