Herbal weight-loss products: how informed are we?

  • L van den Berg
  • C Walsh


Objective: Non-prescription, weight-loss products are advertised as quick-solution alternatives to long-term lifestyle changes.
Design: Cross-sectional descriptive.
Setting: Free State province.
Subjects: Fifty-six dietitians registered to the Free State branch of the Association of Dietetics in South Africa, excluding lecturers and students, and 88 pharmacists working in the Bloemfontein area.
Outcome measures: Structured telephonic interviews were conducted with 25 dietitians and 46 pharmacists to ascertain whether or not they had heard of the individual ingredients listed in non-prescription, weight-loss products and if they knew if each of these ingredients were scientifically proven to induce weight loss.
Results: Most dietitians and pharmacists reported that they had heard of green tea extract (92% and 89%), chromium picolinate (76% and 59%), apple cider vinegar (100% and 96%), lemon juice (100% and 87%) and alcohol (100% and 91%), respectively, being ingredients in weight-loss products. More dietitians and pharmacists reported that, to their knowledge, green tea extract (52% vs. 26%), chromium picolinate (52% vs. 15%), apple cider vinegar (64% vs. 33%), lemon juice (80% vs. 64%) and alcohol (76% vs. 61%), were not scientifically proven to be effective in attaining weight loss. Both groups included a percentage who were not familiar with the ingredients, or who thought that these ingredients had been demonstrated to be effective, despite no conclusive evidence existing in the literature.
Conclusion: Healthcare professionals need to actively educate themselves about non-prescription weight-loss products in order to guide the public and reduce consumer confusion.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190