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Which pills should you avoid?

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If there really were a magic fat-burning pill, you’d already know about it. Your best bet for losing weight is always going to be eating less and exercising more. If you’re already doing that, there are a few supplements worth considering, especially if you just can’t seem to shed those last few pounds. We asked Richard Krieder, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation at Baylor University, to help us wade through the hype.

Three Pills With Potential

Glucomannan

Extracted from vegetable pulp, this fiber forms a thick, indigestible gel when exposed to liquid. Swallow a capsule and it will do the same thing, bulking up to fill your stomach and suppress your appetite. A Norwegian study showed that people taking glucomannan lost an average of 5.5 pounds over eight weeks, without exercise or dieting. The substance comes in two forms: flour and capsules.

Green tea extract (EGCG)

There’s some evidence that EGCG may help boost your metabolism and suppress your appetite, says Krieder. It’s being added to beverages like JavaFit and Celsius, but these drinks can sometimes contain additional, less desirable supplements, so if you’re going to take it, it’s best to use it on its own.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

This fatty acid found in beef and dairy products may help you burn fat instead of muscle. In one study, people who took CLA for two years lost 7% to 9% of their body’s stored flab while simultaneously increasing their lean-muscle mass by 1% to 2%—without dieting or exercise. There are some concerns that CLA may raise cholesterol, but the accompanying weight loss could bring it back down.

Three Pills to Avoid

Hoodia

True, the South African plant hoodia gordonni does have appetite-suppressing chemicals. But most of the supplements you see advertised contain little or no actual plant extract. The British company that holds the global patent on hoodia for weight loss says an effective product is still years away from commercial development.

Alli

This over-the-counter version of the prescription weight-loss drug Xenical works by decreasing the amount of fat absorbed by the body in every meal you eat. But all that fat’s got to go somewhere, leading to side effects like oily diarrhea. Most people who take Alli soon learn that the side effects go away if they eat less fat—which is what you should be doing anyway if you’re serious about weight loss.

Bitter Orange

Found in supplements like Advantra Z and others, bitter orange is simply an ephedra replacement, and it may have many of the same potentially deadly side effects—like increased blood pressure and heart rate—that got the substance banned in the first place.

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