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Weight-Loss Wonder Ingredients: Q&A Part 2, Fad Diets

I know, I know: You can’t always trust an infomercial. But we live in a fast-food world, and those of us interested in losing weight would love to find a single magic ingredient to do the work for us.

Coconut oil, turmeric, & other supplements supposedly encourage healthy weight-loss.
Coconut oil, turmeric and other supplements supposedly encourage healthy weight loss.

In this second installment of our Fad Diet Q&A series, UVA nutritionists Carole Havrila and Katherine Basbaum offer a reality check.

Q. What about weight-loss claims for wonder ingredients? Recently, I’ve been curious to see magazines touting turmeric, coconut oil or garcinia cambogia. Can adding just one of these or other ingredients really make you lose weight all by themselves?


  • Be skeptical if the product or diet promises a quick fix, if it recommends approaches based on limited, hard-to-find studies or a single study, if it lists good and bad foods or if it sounds too good to be true.
  • Do some research on credible websites.
  • Ask your dietitian, doctor or pharmacist to help.
  • Understand that diet pills and dietary supplements are not regulated as drugs are. Therefore there is a risk of contamination or a risk that products marketed and sold with these ingredients may not even have these ingredients in them.
  • Remember, some weight loss or diet pills have been associated with liver failure and even death.

Basbaum: When it comes to specific foods or herbs that are touted in the press as miracle weight-loss foods, remember a couple things:

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Even if there is some solid evidence that supports its weight-loss claims, you still have to do all the other things that are traditionally needed for weight loss if you want to see significant results, i.e., healthy diet and exercise.

Next up: Diet Dangers for Cancer & Heart Patients, Fad Diets Q&A Part 3

Tags: fad diets

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