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Which Weight Loss Pills Actually Work?

There are a number of different weight loss solutions and quick fixes on the market right now that claim to offer substantial results. This includes a variety of pills, drugs, and supplements. 

These supplements claim to help you lose weight directly or make the weight loss process easier as a whole. Typically, it does this by reducing appetite/cravings, reducing nutrient absorption, or increasing fat/calorie burn.

However, supplements – as we know – aren’t regulated by the FDA and have no legal obligation to work as advertised. Which begs the question: do these actually work?

Below I breakdown the most popular supplements/ingredients that are found in weight loss pills and what the science has to say about them.

Garcinia Cambogia Extract

Garcinia Cambogia exploded in popularity over the last decade after being featured on the Dr. Oz show in 2012. 

Garcinia cambogia is a small, green, pumpkin-shaped fruit whose skin contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA). HCA is the active ingredient that commonly gets marketed as a diet pill.

How It Works: Animal studies show that it can inhibit enzymes that produce fat while increasing levels of serotonin to reduce cravings.

Effectiveness: A 130 person study was conducted where half of the group took garcinia while the other half took a placebo. After several weeks of diet and exercise, both groups showed equal weight loss results. Overall, supplementing Garcinia Cambogia does not yield any positive results when supplemented with diet and exercise.


Caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world. It’s in coffee, tea, energy drinks, pre-workouts, and a major ingredient in several weight loss supplements.

How It Works: Caffeine is known for its metabolism-boosting ability as the increase in heart rate leads to increased calorie burn. Not to mention the boost in energy also leads to you doing more both physically and mentally.

Effectiveness: Consumption of caffeine can boost your metabolism in the short term but regular consumption of caffeine can build a tolerance limiting its effectiveness. Overconsumption of caffeine has also been linked to anxiety, insomnia, irritability, digestive distress, and other symptoms. 

Green Coffee Bean Extract

Green coffee beans are normal coffee beans that haven’t been roasted. 

How It Works: The two active ingredients that claim to help with weight loss are caffeine and chlorogenic acid. The latter of which has been noted to slow down the breakdown and absorption of carbs in the gut.

Effectiveness: 3 Studies have found that the supplement has been able to help participants lose up to 5 more pounds than a placebo when paired with diet and exercise. However, all of these studies were funded by industry sponsors of the extract. So these results have an asterisk to them.

Green Tea Extract

After caffeine, green tea extract is probably the next most popular ingredient added to weight loss supplements. 

How It Works: Green tea extract is believed to increase the activity of norepinephrine, which is a hormone that aids in burning fat.

Effectiveness: Several human studies have shown green tea extract to increase fat burning and improve fat loss by about 3-4% more than placebo ingredients when paired with diet and exercise.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

CLA has been one of the most popular fat loss supplements for decades now. It is a naturally occurring trans fat that can be found in dairy products like cheese, butter, and yogurt.

How It Works: CLA may reduce appetite, boost metabolism, and stimulate the breakdown of body fat.

Effectiveness: In a major review of 18 different studies, CLA has been correlated with losing an additional 0.2 pounds per week over a six month period when paired with diet alone.

Raspberry Ketones

As the name states, this is a substance found in raspberries and is sold as a stand-alone weight loss supplement.

How It Works: Raspberry ketones are described to isolate fat cells and increase the breakdown of them. It can also increase levels of adiponectin which is a hormone that is believed to be released during the act of weight loss.

Effectiveness: There are no human studies that have been done with raspberry ketones so it’s up in the air whether or not it can actually do what it claims to do.


Glucomannan is a type of fiber that is derived from elephant yams. 

How It Works: Glucomannan absorbs water and becomes gel-like. This gel-like substance sits in your stomach and promotes a feeling of fullness, reducing cravings and appetite.

Effectiveness: When combined with a healthy diet, glucomannan has been shown to help people lose anywhere between 8-10 pounds of weight in 5 weeks. However, this works the same as any soluble fiber that you would consume from fruits and vegetables.

So Which Of These Actually Work?

Based on the research, some of these have been shown to benefit you to some degree – usually minimal at best. However, they’ve never been able to do it alone!

Each and every study has noted to say the same thing when talking about the benefits of the supplement in question:

“effective with the addition of diet and exercise.”

None of these supplements alone can do much to help you lose weight. In fact, they have no effect without diet and exercise present in the participants’ day to day lives. 

Sure, caffeine and green tea extract can be helpful – and maybe you’ve already been consuming them – but without actually focusing on your nutrition and training, you won’t see any significant results.

So, in my opinion, your money is likely spent better on other supplements that aid your health or on food that will yield the same effects. Because regardless of whether you take these or not you’ll need a good nutrition plan and training regimen to actually get significant weight loss results!

If you’re not sure where to start with designing your diet, you can get a free copy of my ebook “The Nutrition Manual: Mastering Your Diet Made Simple” to help you get started today.

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