Hope or Hype?

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SupplementsDo those "miraculous" supplements really help?

Every day it seems that there's a new supplement on the market, promising to increase your stamina, decrease your weight, or help you put on more muscle mass. So... do they work, or are they just a waste of money? Check out our rundown of three of the latest ones supplements– green coffee bean extract, raspberry ketones, and garcinia. We'll find out whether they'll bring you hope, or whether they're all just hype.

Green coffee bean extract, a compound found in unroasted coffee beans, is supposed to help you lose body fat. But what's the science behind the claim? It turns out that there was only one (poorly regulated) study of 16 people, and that's what proponents of green coffee bean extract are relying on. Plus, the same thing is also found in roasted coffee and black tea.

The Verdict? Hype.

Raspberry ketones are what give red raspberries their distinctive aroma. The ads for raspberry ketones assert that they will increase fat loss... even though no human clinical trials have been conducted. How can they support this claim?

The Verdict? Hype.

Garcinia cambogia (aka HCA) is from the tamarind, a fruit that's commonly used as a condiment in Thai and Indian cuisine. The claim is that garcinia cambogia will help weight loss by suppressing appetite, increasing metabolism, and reducing body fat. However, three studies found that that garcinia cambogia doesn't help decrease weight or increase metabolism in obese people.

The Verdict? Hype.

So, if there's not enough solid evidence behind these supplements, why do people buy and use them? When we keep hearing and reading about these supplements (mostly from paid ads), we assume that companies couldn't make these dramatic health claims unless they was true. But, unfortunately, the vitamin and supplement industry is not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). False health claims are made.

People who use these supplements also may have heard about them from a friend who's used them successfully. And most of these successful results are from the placebo effect. When people believe strongly in something they tend to make other changes that can independently improve their health, but then they attribute it solely to the pill.

Not sure how to tell if a product offers hope or hype?

Look for these two signs that indicate hype. One, the product is promoted with words like "miracle," "breakthrough," "magic," "secret," "revolutionary," etc. And, two, it promises that no change in eating or activity level are needed for these dramatic results. Save your money and stick with what really works – eat less and move more.

By Dr. Jo, a.k.a. Joanne Lichten, PhD, RD

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