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Do Over-the-Counter Diet Supplements Really Work as Promised?

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If you have ever wanted to drop a few pounds—or a few dozen—you may have been tempted to get a little help from the pharmacy.

Walk down any diet supplement aisle and you may notice more spring in your step and a new focus in your mental motivation. Then your eye catches the packaging, a beacon that promises you can drop that weight with less effort and discomfort. Your heart races as you reach for the shiny little bottle of pure promise…

Hold on! It’s time to get a grip.

Now that you’re safely back to planet Earth, here’s the real skinny: two separate studies presented this week at the International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm, Sweden have found a broad selection of popular slimming supplements were no more effective than the fake supplements they were compared with.

That’s right. The “real promise,” they hold is nothing more than the placebo effect.

If you have tried diet supplements before, you’re certainly not alone. Americans spend more than $1.6 billion every year on them. In North America losing weight is a mega industry, netting a whopping $50 billion annually. In Western Europe, sales of weight-loss products, excluding prescription medications, topped £900 million ($1.4 billion) in 2009. And yet, Americans still rank as third fattest country on Earth (American Samoa tops the list), according to the 2010 World Health Organization’s obesity analysis. Germany, Bosnia, Croatia and the United Kingdom round out the top 10.

There are legitimate reasons to drop pounds. Body image aside, excess weight can lead to a host of health problems, from insomnia to heart disease; endometrial, breast and colon cancers; type 2 diabetes, breathing problems and stroke.

Slimming down can be difficult, so who would turn down a boost? Especially when there are scores of slimming supplements out there claiming weight-loss effects from all sorts of mechanisms: The so-called fat magnets, mobilizers and dissolvers, as well as appetite tamers, metabolism boosters, carb blockers, full body flushes and so on.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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