A systematic review with meta-analysis was conducted to synthesise evidence on the efficacy of dietary supplements containing isolated organic compounds for weight loss.
Four electronic databases (Medline, Embase, Web of Science, Cinahl) were searched until December 2019. Sixty-seven randomised placebo-controlled trials of dietary supplements containing isolated organic compounds for weight loss were included. Meta-analyses were conducted for chitosan, glucomannan, conjugated linoleic acid and fructans, comparing mean weight difference post-intervention between participants receiving the dietary supplement or placebo.
Statistically significant weight differences compared to placebo were observed for chitosan (−1.84 kg; 95% confidence interval [CI] −2.79, −0.88; p < 0.01), glucomannan (−1.27 kg; 95%CI −2.45, −0.09; p = 0.04), and conjugated linoleic acid (−1.08 kg; 95%CI −1.61, −0.55; p < 0.01). None met our threshold for clinical significance (≥2.5 kg). There was no statistically significant effect on weight for fructans compared to placebo (p = 0.24). For dietary supplements with an inadequate number of trials for meta-analysis, a statistically and borderline clinically significant weight difference compared to placebo was found for modified cellulose, manno-oligosaccharides (in males), blood orange juice extract, and three multiple-ingredient dietary supplements. These were only reported in one trial of each. Thus, more evidence is needed before recommending them for weight loss.
While some dietary supplements containing isolated organic compounds warrant further investigation to determine efficacy and safety, there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend any of these dietary supplements for weight loss.
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This work was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Programme (RTP) Scholarship awarded to EB, and by an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship to AS.
AM, RL and NRF contributed to the conception of the review and the development of the protocol. AM, RL and EB were involved in data extraction. AM and RL analysed the data. AS mentored AM and EB in interpretation of the results and preparation of sequential drafts of the manuscript. All authors reviewed and contributed to the manuscript drafted by AM and EB. All authors read and approved the final version.
Conflict of interest
AS is the author of The Don’t Go Hungry Diet (Bantam Press; 2007) and Don’t Go Hungry For Life (Bantam Press; 2011); and has provided paid presentations at conferences for Eli Lilly, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Novo Nordisk, the Dietitians Association of Australia, Shoalhaven Family Medical Centres, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, and Metagenics. AS served on the Nestlé Health Science Optifast® VLCD™ Advisory Board from 2016–2018. NRF is the author of Interval Weight Loss (Penguin Random House; 2017), Interval Weight Loss For Life (Penguin Random House; 2018) and Interval Weight Loss For Women (Penguin Random House; 2020), has received research grants for clinical trials funded by SFI Research, Australian Eggs Corporation, Zafgen, Novo Nordisk, Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, Millendo, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline, payments for lectures from Australian Eggs Corporation and Ausmed Education, and payments for consultancy from Novo Nordisk.
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Bessell, E., Maunder, A., Lauche, R. et al. Efficacy of dietary supplements containing isolated organic compounds for weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled trials. Int J Obes 45, 1631–1643 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-021-00839-w
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