top of page


Don't waste your money! I have been saying this for years.

Drawn to the allure of "wellness", people in the U.S. spent close to $50 billion on dietary supplements (and other magic pills) in 2021. However, a recent study by Northwestern University confirms what I have always said, 99% of supplements are a complete waste of money!

Patients ask all the time, "What supplements should I be taking? They think there must be a magic set of pills that will keep them healthy when we should all be following the evidence-based practices of eating healthy and exercising,” said Dr. Jeffrey Linder, chief of general internal medicine in the department of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Northwestern Medicine scientists wrote an editorial that was published June 21 in JAMA that supports new recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of national experts that frequently makes evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services.

The task force is specifically recommending against taking beta-carotene supplements because of a possible increased risk of lung cancer, and is recommending against taking vitamin E supplements because it has no net benefit in reducing mortality, cardiovascular disease or cancer.

More than half of Americans take supplements. Why?

More than half of U.S. adults take dietary supplements, and use of supplements is projected to increase, Linder and his colleagues wrote in the JAMA editorial.

Eating fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, so it is reasonable to think key vitamins and minerals could be extracted from fruits and vegetables, packaged into a pill, and save people the trouble and expense of maintaining a balanced diet. However, whole fruits and vegetables contain a mixture of vitamins, phytochemicals, fiber and other nutrients that act synergistically to deliver health benefits. Micronutrients in isolation may act differently in the body than when naturally packaged with a host of other dietary components.

Individuals who have a vitamin deficiency can still benefit from taking dietary supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D, which have been shown to prevent fractures in older adults.

New guidelines do not apply to pregnant women

Pregnant women should keep in mind that these guidelines don’t apply to them. Certain vitamins, such as folic acid, are essential to support healthy fetal development. The most common way to meet these needs is to take a prenatal vitamin. More data is needed to understand how specific vitamin supplementation may modify risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and cardiovascular complications during pregnancy.

The Bottom Line

Don't fall for gimmicks that try to convince you to spend money on expensive pills or supplements! When you're trying to lose weight, it's not always easy to tell the difference between beneficial products and scams. Don't be a victim of clever marketing tricks that don't deliver on real results. Sometimes, the very advertising messages that make us feel good about a product are actually red flags to watch out for.

Do any of these phrases look familiar?

  • "...clinically proven to burn more fat..."

  • "...backed by science..."

  • "...laboratory tested to provide weight loss results..."

Scientific claims are intended to instill consumer confidence. They are often used to sell diet pills and other products that have not actually been proven effective. In the worst-case scenario, these products are potentially unsafe. Don't risk wasting your time, money, or safety on scam products. Protect yourself and achieve your goals by watching out for these common warning signs.

When diet product manufacturers want to grab your attention they often boast impressive scientific results. Advertisers may sugarcoat poor lab results by using statistics with ambiguous percentages.

  • "...burns 30% more fat..."

  • "...burns 75% more calories..."

  • "...lose weight 50% faster..."

At first glance, those numbers may look impressive. But what do they really mean? Without essential background information, it's impossible to understand the basis for those conclusions. When two products are being compared, you need to know the details of each in order to evaluate the claims.

For example, a diet pill manufacturer may claim that their product helped people lose weight 75% faster in studies. The question is: 75% faster than what?

Perhaps the study compared people who were taking the diet pill while also following a weight loss and exercise program. If their results are being compared to subjects who did not take the pill or make any lifestyle changes, this is not an equivalent comparison. As a result, the claims being made would be misleading and unreliable.

Have you seen ads for diet pills or weight-loss products using over-the-top words or phrases?

  • "...breakthrough treatment..."

  • "...first of its kind..."

  • "...exclusive compound..."

  • "...secret formula..."

Weight loss experts can confirm that no weight loss secrets, magical compounds, or breakthrough treatments really exist when it comes to weight loss. The vast majority of weight loss success stories happen as a result of time-tested lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.

A healthy diet includes the following:

  • Fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils and beans), nuts and whole grains (e.g. unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice).

  • At least 400 g (i.e. five portions) of fruit and vegetables per day, excluding potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and other starchy roots.

  • Less than 10% of total energy intake from free sugars, which is equivalent to 50 g (or about 12 level teaspoons) for a person of healthy body weight consuming about 2000 calories per day, but ideally is less than 5% of total energy intake for additional health benefits. Free sugars are all sugars added to foods or drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

  • Less than 30% of total energy intake from fats. Unsaturated fats (found in fish, avocado and nuts, and in sunflower, soybean, canola and olive oils) are preferable to saturated fats (found in fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oil, cream, cheese, ghee and lard) and trans-fats of all kinds, including both industrially-produced trans-fats (found in baked and fried foods, and pre-packaged snacks and foods, such as frozen pizza, pies, cookies, biscuits, wafers, and cooking oils and spreads) and ruminant trans-fats (found in meat and dairy foods from ruminant animals, such as cows, sheep, goats and camels). It is suggested that the intake of saturated fats be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake and trans-fats to less than 1% of total energy intake. In particular, industrially-produced trans-fats are not part of a healthy diet and should be avoided.

  • Less than 5 g of salt (equivalent to about one teaspoon) per day. Salt should be iodized.

As much as you might hate to admit it, deep down you know that the best way to lose weight (and maintain weight loss) is to use old-fashioned common sense methods. Sustainable weight loss takes time. Even if shortcuts seem to work, they don't typically provide lasting benefits. Choose nutritious foods, eat mindfully, and find physical activity that you enjoy and can be consistent with. If you are struggling with your weight or your health, seek professional assistance. Focus on your health first, and never put yourself at risk just to lose weight.



bottom of page