University of Sydney: Herbal Medicines Not Very Effective for Weight Loss

Obesity and overweight are problems plaguing the entire world approximately affecting 72 percent of men and 63 percent of women worldwide. It is defined as excessive or abnormal fat accumulation according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and is usually associated with severe comorbidities, poor mental health, and overall poor quality of life.Obese Person

Obesity is associated with cardiovascular insults and incidents, which can reduce the quality of life significantly. Moreover, these insults are accompanied by a financial strain as well which can be detrimental to the patient’s mental health which is already strained due to obesity.

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Obesity is a serious concern in the public health department as it is often accompanied by psychological, physical, and even financial burdens which can negatively impact one’s own health, personal relationships, and in the long run, a country’s economy.

Due to the seriousness of the condition, studies are being performed regularly to evaluate the etiology and to better understand the pathophysiology of the disease along with various treatments or weight loss methods. Some of the common weight loss methods can be classified as either exercise-based, nutrition-based, or medication/herbal medicine-based.

Use of herbal medicine to treat obesity

Obesity is a serious condition however, even the slightest weight loss can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular insults associated with obesity. Hence, weight loss is strongly recommended for obese or overweight people. To lose weight, one can choose to start an exercise regimen or a diet like keto diet, veganism, and so on.

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However, most people choose a completely different route to lose weight which includes the consumption of herbal medicines. People are attracted to the minimum effort, maximum reward associated with herbal medicines since they do not necessarily need to restrain themselves from unhealthy food or perform any exercise.

Herbal medicines are sold as a quick and easy one-step solution to the weight loss problem many suffer from. The rapid result guarantee is another main reason why people go for herbal supplements. The use of natural ingredients like green tea, garcinia Cambogia, white kidney bean, and African mango in herbal medicine helps promote this method of weight loss as people usually consider natural ingredients as safe options.

A University of Sydney study

A recent meta-analysis and review study performed by Erica Bessel of the University of Sydney, Boden Collaboration for Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders, Central Clinical School, Charles Perkins Centre, Australia, and her team was published in the Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism Journal claiming that although herbal medicines are commonly associated with weight loss, they don’t actually reduce a significant amount of weight.

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Method of study

Bessel and her team searched four electronic databases and identified 54 randomized placebo‐controlled trials of healthy overweight or obese adults. These studies were analyzed and meta-analysis was conducted accordingly. Any weight loss greater than 2.5 kg was considered a significant weight loss due to herbal medication use.

Results of the study

The researchers found that most of the herbal medicines had no clinically significant results indicating that herbal medicines may be helpful for weight loss. Furthermore, Bessel claims that the results should be interpreted carefully as very few studies are available on the topic and almost all the studies are of generally poor methodological quality and include poor reporting of the herbal medicine interventions.

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Furthermore, the researchers also found that although almost 1000 herbal products are listed in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods as weight loss supplements, none of them are checked for efficacy and safety by the appropriate authorities. Anyone can manufacture and sell these drugs as far as they fill the sole criteria of including acceptable levels of non-medicinal substances.

Based on their review, they do not recommend any herbal medications for weight loss due to a lack of present data.


Effectiveness of herbal medicines for weight loss: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials

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