Q & A Library
Should You Try Thermogenic Supplements for Weight Loss?
I'm seeing information and advice on the use of thermogenics. Any thoughts on these products?
Answer (Published 1/22/2002)
Reviewed on 3/24/2009
I can sum up my thoughts on thermogenics in two words: stay away! Manufacturers claim that thermogenic supplements are designed to increase your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories), suppress your appetite, and promote weight loss. The term "thermogenics" refers to an increased production of heat in the body, yet the safest and most effective way to generate more heat and boost your metabolism is not through a supplement or drug, but with regular physical activity. That said, thermogenic supplements include a variety of stimulants - mostly herbal - alone or in combination. These stimulants, such as caffeine (typically in the form of guaraná, kola, or yerba maté) or ephedrine (in the form of the herb ephedra), purportedly help increase energy levels, suppress appetite, and burn fat.
The FDA has banned ephedra, saying "dietary supplements containing ephedra present an unreasonable risk of illness or injury, and should not be consumed." I have often warned against ephedra (ma huang) and ephedrine, which can be dangerous especially when combined in weight-loss products with other stimulants such as caffeine. In addition to a risk of addiction, ephedra can cause such side effects as irregular heartbeat, insomnia, and elevated blood pressure. As far as weight loss is concerned, don't be surprised if you regain every pound you lose once you stop taking supplements containing ephedra or other stimulants.
Here are some other ingredients commonly used in thermogenic formulas and my objections to them:
Although you may seem to lose weight in the short-term with thermogenic supplements, you won't maintain this weight loss without eating less and exercising more. Since several of the ingredients are potentially dangerous and the evidence of their effectiveness is weak, I would avoid thermogenics and instead concentrate on cutting back on calories and portion sizes, and increasing physical activity.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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