Study Explores Herbal Weight Loss Aids: Which Herbs Help with Weight Loss Summary
- The study examined which herbs help with weight loss. The study found that the certainty of the evidence for some of the nutraceuticals was low or moderate, meaning that it doesn’t strongly endorse them as effective weight loss solutions for general use.
- Psyllium was the most effective nutraceutical intervention for weight loss. Other effective nutraceuticals for weight loss included Nigella sativa (87%), spirulina (80%), and chitosan (78%).
- Glucomannan, green tea, and Nigella sativa were effective for weight loss compared with placebo. However, compared with a placebo, capsaicin, garcinia cambogia, and cinnamon were ineffective for weight loss.
- Concluding, the current network meta-analysis of 111 randomized trials indicates that the increased consumption of nutraceuticals has minimal to no effect on weight loss in adults
An Introduction to Herbal Weight Loss Aids
Losing weight is a struggle against the scale, one where the odds seem daunting amidst our sedentary lifestyles and caloric imbalances. Obesity is a condition characterized by excessive body fat caused by an imbalance between caloric intake and physical activity. (Bray, 2003) This health issue is complex, with various other factors such as genetics, behavior, and environment playing a role in its development. (Garvey & Mechanick, 2020; Mechanick et al., 2017)
Despite the allure of fat burners and weight management supplements, the evidence often paints a starkly different picture. As discussed in a previous article on Evidence Based Muscle, a literature review found minimal evidence to support fat burners. A recent sweeping review of 111 clinical trials did an extensive literature review on which herbs help with weight loss and the potential of nutraceuticals in this battle of the bulge.(Shahinfar et al., 2023)
Natural Aids for Weight Loss
In the realm of pharmacological interventions, a recent review has categorized anti-diabetic drugs based on their weight loss efficacy. Drugs like metformin, acarbose, empagliflozin, and exenatide have shown mild weight loss effects, less than 3.2% of initial weight. Meanwhile, canagliflozin, ertugliflozin, dapagliflozin, and dulaglutide have induced moderate weight loss, ranging between 3.2% and 5%. Notably, liraglutide, semaglutide, and tirzepatide have effectively achieved weight loss, exceeding 5% in patients with type 2 diabetes.(Lazzaroni et al., 2021) However, many still use over-the-counter nutraceuticals for weight loss.
Nutraceuticals for Weight Loss
Despite these many people using over-the-counter weight loss products, the overall impact of dietary supplements on weight loss appears limited. 34% of adults attempting weight loss have reported using dietary supplements, with higher usage among younger adults, females, and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. (Pillitteri et al., 2008) The potential of nutraceuticals in weight management has also been explored. Ingredients like cinnamon, curcumin, resveratrol, and green tea may possess properties conducive to weight loss and could serve as adjunct therapies. However, which herbs help with weight loss is still controversial with studies finding both positive and no benefits.
Studies on Fat Burners
Studies have shown that while some weight-loss supplements have modest effects, many have no or few randomized clinical trials examining their effectiveness. (Manore, 2012) Furthermore, a review of over-the-counter weight loss products emphasizes the importance of clinicians being knowledgeable about these products and promoting culturally and individually sensitive weight-management strategies.(Manore & Patton-López, 2022)
New Large Scales Study on Herbal Weight Loss Products and Nutraceuticals
A comprehensive analysis of 111 studies titled “Comparative effects of nutraceuticals on body weight in adults with overweight or obesity,” published in Pharmacological Research, aimed to quantify which herbs help with weight loss and rank the effects of different nutraceuticals on weight loss in adults with overweight or obesity.
The study examined ingredients like psyllium, Nigella sativa, spirulina, chitosan, grape seed, glucomannan, green tea, green coffee, curcumin, garlic, flaxseed, resveratrol, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, capsaicin, garcinia cambojia, and cocoa. These are commonly found in many fat burners and supplements to boost metabolism.
What Herbs Aid in Weight Loss
While green tea extract, green coffee, capsaicin, and garcinia cambojia are the most common fat burner ingredients, the analysis revealed that psyllium, in particular, led to a significant weight loss of 3.70 kg or 8.8 pounds in adults, surpassing the minimum clinically important difference for weight loss when compared to cocoa. Nutraceuticals like Nigella sativa, chitosan, green tea, curcumin, glucomannan, and resveratrol have also demonstrated greater weight loss than placebos, especially in calorie-restricted scenarios.(David et al., 2007; Jensen et al., 2014)
Psyllium, a natural nonfermented gel-forming fiber, effectively controls body weight and composition, cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and insulin levels in animal and human studies.(Pal & Radavelli-Bagatini, 2012) A comprehensive review and meta-analysis also support the effectiveness of psyllium as a natural fiber for weight loss (Gibb et al., 2023). Furthermore, a meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials demonstrated the effectiveness of psyllium in improving serum lipids in individuals with mild-to-moderate hypercholesterolemia (Wei et al., 2008).
Another key finding was that psyllium and Nigella sativa were found to be relatively effective for weight loss; the study also noted that their effectiveness decreased after 12 weeks of supplementation.
This study is the first to systematically review and rank the comparative effects of nutraceuticals on weight loss in adults with overweight or obesity and determine which herbs help with weight loss The findings suggest that while some nutraceuticals may result in a small weight loss, the overall effect is not substantial, and the certainty of evidence is moderate to low.
Which Herbs Help with Weight Loss Scores
Based on their P-scores, here is the relative ranking of the nutraceuticals from the study, ordered from most effective to least effective. A higher P-score (closer to 1, such as psyllium) suggests that the treatment is more likely to be effective compared to others. A lower P-score (closer to 0, such as cocoa) indicates that the treatment is less likely to be effective.
1. Psyllium – 0.99
2. Nigella sativa – 0.87
3. Spirulina – 0.80
4. Chitosan – 0.78
5. Grape seed – 0.71
6. Glucomannan – 0.68
7. Green tea – 0.66
8. Green coffee – 0.62
9. Curcumin – 0.48
10. Garlic – 0.45
11. Flaxseed – 0.41
12. Resveratrol – 0.40
13. Ginger – 0.38
14. Cinnamon – 0.32
15. Saffron – 0.30
16. Capsaicin – 0.30
17. Garcinia cambogia – 0.27
18. Placebo – 0.15
19. Cocoa – 0.05
According to the study, psyllium was the most effective nutraceutical intervention for weight, followed by Nigella sativa (87%), spirulina (80%), and chitosan (78%). The study also found that nutraceuticals such as glucomannan, green tea, and Nigella sativa were effective for weight loss compared with placebo. In contrast, others, such as capsaicin, garcinia cambogia, and cinnamon, were ineffective.(Shahinfar et al., 2023)
Key Takeaway on Which Herbs Help with Weight Loss
So, what’s the takeaway for many adults turning to dietary supplements in the hope of a solution? While such supplements are widespread, particularly among younger females, the study cautions against over-reliance on these products. The effect sizes for supplements with moderate certainty of evidence were trivial, and those with important effects had low or very low certainty.
Concluding, the current network meta-analysis of 111 randomized trials on which herbs help with weight loss that the increased consumption of nutraceuticals has minimal to no effect on weight loss in adults. The certainty of this evidence ranges from moderate to very low. Therefore, future research focusing on nutraceuticals for weight loss should be approached cautiously to prevent misleading participants and avoid allocating resources to potentially unfruitful research questions. While the primary outcome of this analysis was weight loss, it’s important to note that other potential benefits of these supplements were not investigated.
Bray, G. A. (2003). Evaluation of obesity. Postgraduate Medicine, 114(6), 19-38. https://doi.org/10.3810/pgm.2003.12.1544
David, C. W. L., James, D. D., Katherine, M. M., Irene, M. H., Arya, M. S., & Ehud, U. (2007). 2006 Canadian clinical practice guidelines on the management and prevention of obesity in adults and children [summary]. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 176(8), S1. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.061409
Garvey, W. T., & Mechanick, J. I. (2020). Proposal for a Scientifically Correct and Medically Actionable Disease Classification System (ICD) for Obesity. Obesity, 28(3), 484-492. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22727
Gibb, R., Sloan, K. J., & McRorie, J. W. (2023). Psyllium Is a Natural Nonfermented Gel-Forming Fiber That Is Effective for Weight Loss: A Comprehensive Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. https://doi.org/10.1097/jxx.0000000000000882
Jensen, M. D., Ryan, D. H., Apovian, C. M., Ard, J. D., Comuzzie, A. G., Donato, K. A., Hu, F. B., Hubbard, V. S., Jakicic, J. M., & Kushner, R. F. (2014). 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and The Obesity Society. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 63(25 Part B), 2985-3023.
Lazzaroni, E., Ben Nasr, M., Loretelli, C., Pastore, I., Plebani, L., Lunati, M. E., Vallone, L., Bolla, A. M., Rossi, A., Montefusco, L., Ippolito, E., Berra, C., D’Addio, F., Zuccotti, G. V., & Fiorina, P. (2021). Anti-diabetic drugs and weight loss in patients with type 2 diabetes. Pharmacological Research, 171, 105782. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2021.105782
Manore, M. M. (2012). Dietary Supplements for Improving Body Composition and Reducing Body Weight: Where Is the Evidence? International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.22.2.139
Manore, M. M., & Patton-López, M. (2022). Should Clinicians Ever Recommend Supplements to Patients Trying to Lose Weight? The Ama Journal of Ethic. https://doi.org/10.1001/amajethics.2022.345
Mechanick, J. I., Hurley, D. L., & Garvey, W. T. (2017). Adiposity-Based Chronic Disease as a new Diagnostic Term: The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and American College of Endocrinology Position Statement. Endocrine Practice, 23(3), 372-378. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.4158/EP161688.PS
Pal, S., & Radavelli-Bagatini, S. (2012). Effects of Psyllium on Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors. Obesity Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789x.2012.01020.x
Pillitteri, J. L., Shiffman, S., Rohay, J. M., Harkins, A. M., Burton, S. L., & Wadden, T. A. (2008). Use of Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss in the United States: Results of a National Survey. Obesity, 16(4), 790-796. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2007.136
Shahinfar, H., Jayedi, A., Torabynasab, K., Payandeh, N., Martami, F., Moosavi, H., Bazshahi, E., & Shab-Bidar, S. (2023). Comparative effects of nutraceuticals on body weight in adults with overweight or obesity: A systematic review and network meta-analysis of 111 randomized clinical trials. Pharmacol Res, 196, 106944. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2023.106944
Herbal weight loss products, like Caralluma fimbriata, Gymnema Sylvestre, Zingiber officinale, or ginger, Cayenne pepper, black pepper, and green coffee bean extract, have been suggested to offer numerous health benefits for those seeking healthy weight loss such as increasing fat burning, fat loss, increasing energy expenditure, supporting digestive health and appetite suppression. These weight loss supplements, rooted in traditional medicine like traditional Chinese medicine, have also been suggested to reduce blood sugar levels, aiding in glycemic control and insulin resistance. Many fitness enthusiasts have an over-reliance on herbal remedies instead of focusing on a healthy diet and daily routine, along with regular exercise, which can positively impact overall health, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure, offering an alternative to prescription drugs. These supplements should be looked up with skepticism for the best results in achieving weight loss goals but may provide small to moderate benefits for weight loss.
Are there any potential side effects of using weight loss herbs?
While weight loss herbs can be effective, it’s important to note that they may have potential side effects. Some herbs, like green tea extract and bitter orange, can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before using any weight loss herbs.