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A review of the efficacy and safety of key ingredients of over-the-counter products for weight management

Ruxton, C.H.S., Gardner, E.J.
British food journal 2005 v.107 no.2 pp. 111-125
Citrus aurantium, Paullinia cupana, clinical trials, conjugated linoleic acid, ephedrine, ingredients, laws and regulations, obesity, pyruvic acid, weight control, weight loss
Purpose - Over-the-counter (OTC) weight management products are popular with the public. Manufacturers frequently claim beneficial effects of these products, however current legislation does not compel them to support these claims with research. This paper identifies the key ingredients of OTC weight management products and evaluates evidence for their safety and efficacy. Design/methodology/approach - Using Medline, published evidence on key ingredients and formulations was gathered. Contact was also made with manufacturers to ascertain whether unpublished data were available. All studies were assessed for quality. The efficacy and safety of the ingredients and formulations were then reviewed. Findings - The results showed little evidence for most weight loss claims, with the exception of a formulation containing Yerba maté, Guarana and Damiana. In addition, studies on pyruvate, conjugated linoleic acid, and Citrus aurantium demonstrated positive effects on weight loss, suggesting that they may be useful in future formulations. Safety implications were noted for ephedrine. Practical implications - Better labelling and supporting literature should be introduced by reputable manufacturers and retailers to help the public assess the efficacy of weight loss aids. Research limitations/implications - Given the popularity of self-treatment, there is a need for more manufacturers to submit their products to impartial clinical trials. OTC weight management products could be useful in addressing obesity, but most still need scientific evidence to demonstrate safety and effectiveness. Originality/value - This review reviews the available evidence on ingredients of OTC weight management products, providing a unique guide to what works, and what doesn't.