16:08 EDT, 2 February 2009
A slimming pill that boosts weight loss by up to 50 per cent
– that’s the claim being made for Alli, a drug that will soon be available without prescription.
The downside is that only people with a Body Mass Index of 28 or above (a normal BMI is between 20 and 25) will be allowed to buy the £1-a-day pill.
Weighty cost: Dieters spent £47 million last year on pills and other diet aids
However, there are still plenty of other slimming pills available, and last year dieters spent £47million on pills and other diet aids, according to market research company IRI. But is it money well spent?
We asked Lorraine McCreary, a state registered dietician who runs a diet advisory service, to assess a range of popular pills and other diet aids. LOUISE ATKINSON reports on her findings…
Adios rating: 3/10
£11.95 for 100 (take three a day)
MAIN INGREDIENT: Fucus – a dried seaweed extract.
CLAIMS: ‘Can help speed up weight loss naturally.’
WHAT IT’S LIKE: White sugar-coated pill.
VERDICT: Fucus is high in iodine, an essential ingredient of the hormone thyroxin, which the body uses to regulate metabolism. The idea is that fucus will stimulate the thyroid, increase your metabolism and help you burn calories faster. But there’s no evidence to suggest it will do this in anyone who doesn’t have an underactive thyroid. The dandelion root extract might reduce bloating and make your stomach look flatter.
MANUFACTURER SAYS: Adios has passed strict quality, safety and effectiveness standards to satisfy the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
BIO SYNERGY SKINNY WATER
Bio Synery Skinny Water rating: 2/10
99p for 500ml, from supermarkets and health stores
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Chromium (a mineral) and L-Carnitine (an amino acid).
CLAIMS: ‘Shown to suppress appetite, block carbohydrates from converting into fat and increase fat burning.’
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Mildly fruitflavoured (either grapefuit or pomegranate) water with a slight artificially sweet aftertaste.
VERDICT: Despite the hype about chromium and L-Carnitine, no proper studies have proven the slimming benefit of either. In fact, our daily requirement for chromium – which we need in tiny amounts to metabolise glucose – is 26mcg. If you drink the recommended four bottles of Skinny Water every day, it would boost your chromium intake to 800mcg, and it’s not a good idea to take large quantities of any mineral in supplement form. The only positive is it encourages you to drink two litres of fluid a day.
MANUFACTURER SAYS: Has helped numerous individuals lose weight, and all claims made by this product have been upheld by UK Trading Standards.
Slimthru rating: 8/10
12-pack (for six days) £12.49, from Boots
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Palm and oat oils.
CLAIMS: ‘May help you to eat less from the very first day.’
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Individual foil-topped pots of creamy white liquid that taste like oily milk. Drink separately, or add to hot drinks, cereal or salad dressing.
VERDICT: Evidence from gold standard clinical trials seems to suggest Slimthru has a longterm effect on your feeling of fullness. The idea that it makes you feel full so you are tempted to eat less makes me think it might be useful for people on a calorie-controlled diet and trying to maintain weight loss. The trials indicate it also boosts metabolism, but this is probably due to the exercise plan the volunteers undertook.
Slendex rating: 2/10
£34.99 for one month’s supply from www. slendex.co.uk
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Methyl cellulose, a bulking agent, LCarnitineand chromium picolinate, a mineral.
CLAIMS: ‘A nutritional food supplement that can help assist with weight loss as part of a calorie-controlled diet. Can also help reduce appetite.’
WHAT IT’S LIKE: White powder in clear capsules.
VERDICT: This food supplement contains a bulking agent, which may help you feel full after a meal for longer, and L-Carnitine, purported to enhance fat breakdown. However, LCarnitine is not well-absorbed by the gut and there’s also no hard evidence that chromium – a mineral that assists with burning carbohydrates and fat – works. You’d be better off eating a high-fibre diet.
MANUFACTURER SAYS: Slendex has passed vigorous clinical trials proving the formulation provides advanced aided weight-loss support.
5-HTP rating: 0/10
£14.99 for 60 capsules (one to two months’ supply), from Holland and Barrett
MAIN INGREDIENT: L-5 – H y d r o x y –tryptophan.
CLAIMS: ‘5-HTP turns off hunger.’
WHAT IT’S LIKE: White capsules.
VERDICT: There is some research that shows 5-HTP could stimulate your levels of the hormone serotonin (which has a ‘feel good/feel full’ effect). But the study involved huge doses. The side-effects – nausea, headache, sleeplessness and anxiety – could be dangerous, and the effects are unknown if 5-HTP is taken in pregnancy, which is worrying.
MANUFACTURER SAYS: Low mood often leads to emotional eating; 5-HTP has been extensively studied for its mood-enhancing effect, so any weight loss might be a long-term benefit of 5-HTP.
Coffee Slender rating: 7/10
£11.95 for 21 sachets (one week’s supply) www.coffee slender. co.uk
MAIN INGREDIENT: Extract of green coffee beans, called chlorogenic acid, but branded as Svetol.
CLAIMS: ‘Dieting with coffee Slender may be twice as effective as dieting alone.’
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Individual coffee sachets.
VERDICT: Clinical trials found that Svetol appears to slow your glycaemic response – that is, the speed at which your blood sugar levels are raised by the carbohydrates you eat. This could reduce cravings. It’s reassuring that the company advocates a calorie-controlled diet and exercise regime as well. If the trials are unbiased – it’s difficult to tell – this could be an effective adjunct to a healthy calorie-controlled diet and exercise regime. As for the claims of double overall weight loss, this was shown in one trial, but everyone loses weight at a different speed, so it might not be true for you.
Formoline L112 rating: 1/10
£19.95 for 48 tablets (12 days’ supply)
MAIN INGREDIENT: Natural fibre called polyglucosamine.
CLAIMS: ‘The naturally sourced fibre binds itself to fat, so it’s not absorbed and leaves the body naturally.’
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Light brown herbal-looking pills.
VERDICT: There’s no robust clinical evidence that these pills would stop fat being absorbed. In fact, if they did, they’d also stop the absorption of some essential fatty acids, such as omega 3, vital for healthy skin and brain power.
MANUFACTURER SAYS: ‘Formoline is the leading weight-loss supplement in Germany; we recommend taking a multi-vitamin supplement to ensure consumers have the necessary nutrients.’
Perfect 10 rating: 6/10
£24.99 for 60 capsules (one month’s supply), from Holland and Barrett
MAIN INGREDIENTS: NLT-400, which is found in green tea, and the amino acids LTheanine and LCarnitine
CLAIMS: ‘Has been scientifically demonstrated to help manage weight and sustain a feeling of energy.’
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Pearlised pink capsules containing brown powder.
VERDICT: I don’t think the ‘active ingredients’ in Perfect 10 would contribute to weight loss. Green tea can slightly speed the metabolism (like caffeine does). Two other ingredients, bioperine (extracted from black pepper) and capsaicin (from chilli peppers) have purported thermogenic effects – where the body temperature is supposedly raised slightly in response to the digestion of food. This has been shown to speed fat metabolism in animals, but not in humans. However, each tub has a hidden code in the lid which gives you access to the Perfect 10 website. There, you can download an excellent 84-page diet and exercise book that really could help you lose weight, but it’s expensive.
Thermopure rating: 2/10
£13.99 for 90 capsules (one to two months’ supply), from www.myprotein.co.uk
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Green tea extract, caffeine, raspberry ketones, cayenne and chromium.
CLAIMS: ‘When combined with an effective diet and exercise routine, Thermopure’s ingredients have been proven to help burn and mobilise fat stores in the body.’
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Sweetsmelling, powder-filled capsules
VERDICT: The raspberry ketones and cayenne have a purported thermogenic effect, meaning it stimulates the body’s burning of fat. But there’s no evidence this will help with weight loss. A waste of money.
RATING: 2/10 MANUFACTURER SAYS: There is significant anecdotal evidence from many professional athletes and customers that makes Thermopure one of our best sellers.
* See www.dietscotland.com for more nutritional information.