A quick fix or a health risk? Here’s that works, what doesn’t and what’s just plain dangerous – once and for all.

Got a few pounds to shift? No problem – no sweat, either. You don’t have to consult a specialist or sign up to some time-consuming weight-loss programme. You don’t even have to spend hours in the gym. You just need to get to your nearest supermarket, chemist or health-food shop and pick up some pills. The shelves are heaving with herbal slimming aids, all promising to blast fat – and all you have to do is swallow. Celebrities such as the Kardashians, Snooki and Lauren Goodger endorse them, and the promises they make can seem all too tempting if you’re struggling to lose weight. ‘No more diets!’, ‘Eat what you like and lose weight!’, ‘Burn fat naturally!’ Don’t mind if we do.

Description: Are Diet Pills Too Good To Be True?

Are Diet Pills Too Good To Be True?

And if those don’t work, there’s always the murky underworld of weight-loss clinics and online pharmacies, happy to sell you unlicensed drugs without knowing a thing about your medical history.

“It’s good to be weight and health conscious,” says Dr. David Haslam, a GP and chair of the National Obesity Forum. “But the way we go about it is key – there’s no such thing as a quick fix.”

So are diet pills a slimming secret that needs to be shared? Or an idea that’s, at best, a waste of money and, at worst, dangerous? Glamour investigates…

Let’s start with the natural ones…

From traditional meal-replacement shakes and bars to weight-loss wonder pills, there’s an increasing array of ‘natural’ products available that promise to help you shift pounds faster than by dieting alone.

“Often described as sports or nutritional supplements or herbal aids, these types of product are usually fibre-based – to help you feel fuller longer and suppress you appetite,” explains dietician Dr. Carrie Ruxton. “Or they’re ‘thermogenic’, meaning they have active ingredients that raise your body temperature ever so slightly, boosting your metabolism so you burn more fat. Others have a laxative or diuretic effect.’

Description: herbal aids

herbal aids

And do they work? “Some of them can have modest physiological effects that could give weight-loss efforts the edge, yes,” she says. “But diuretics and laxatives clearly won’t lead to lasting weight loss and aren’t healthy, so steer well clear. And none of them will work while you eat what you like and sit on the sofa.”

“The problem,” says Dr. Haslam, “is that these sorts of products aren’t subject to the same testing laws as prescribed or over-the-counter medicines. Manufacturers get round this by calling their slimming products ‘medical devices’ rather than ‘medicines’ so they don’t have to provide any proof that they work.”

So while they’re unlikely to physically harm you, because they won’t be allowed to use dangerous ingredients, there’s also a good chance that they won’t give you the results you’re hoping for either.

“There are lots of ingredients in slimming products which have been tested and shown to have effects,” says Dr. Ruxton. “Fibre, caffeine, guarana, green tea – they all work to a degree. But what most manufactures aren’t doing is testing their particular formulation. They may offer a pill containing lots of ingredients they say have weight-loss effects. But how do we know they work at the levels used in the product you are buying, or in combination with the other ingredients in their formula, or in the dosage they advise? Without good-quality tests – that means large, peer-reviewed, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on humans, not animals – it’s not possible to prove they work.”

Dr. Haslam gives the example of hoodia gordonii, an ingredient derived from cactus plants and found in many slimming supplements: “I’ve seen evidence this may work at certain levels,” he says. “But it’s widely reported that there aren’t enough cacti in the world to provide the active ingredient needed to make all the products currently on sale. That means many aren’t using the real thing, or if they are, not in significant amounts.” According to natural health practitioner Mike Adams of naturalnews.com, who has been researching natural sources, “The vast majority of the Hoodonii sold in the United State and around the world is still counterfeit.”

Description: Website: naturalnews.com

Website: naturalnews.com

But surely some of the weight-loss products on offer must yield results, or they wouldn’t continue to sell? One natural supplement called Zotrim contains a combination of herbal ingredients damiana, guarana and yerba mate. “It’s been well tested and RCTs show that gastric emptying is slower in people taking Zotrim supplements,” says Dr. Ruxton. “This means it takes food longer to leave your stomach, so you feel fuller for longer and are less likely to overeat. Studies have shown participants consumed 130 calories fewer a day, so this is a decent contribution to the 600 you need to cut lose weight.”

Another product, XLS-Medical, claims to help you lose three times more weight than dieting and exercise alone. “It’s a fat binder, so it works in a similar way to the medical drug orlistat [see Warning: It Won’t Be Pretty!], transporting some of the fat you eat out of your body without absorption,” says Dr. Haslam. Its active ingredient, also derived from cacti, helps you feel fuller. “The company has produced a robust, but small clinical study to support it, which is encouraging, although I’d like to see more.”

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