Alternative treatments for weight loss: a critical review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2001 Jan;41(1):1-28; discussion 39-40. doi: 10.1080/20014091091661.


"Nontraditional" or "alternative" treatments are extremely popular, especially with respect to obesity and body composition. Although such treatments are widely used, it is not clear that these are supported by the existing data in the peer-reviewed literature. Herein, we review the data on 18 methods/products advocated as potential anti-obesity/fat-reducing agents. We have found that none have been convincingly demonstrated to be safe and effective in two or more peer-reviewed publications of randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials conducted by at least two independent laboratories. Nevertheless, some have plausible mechanisms of action and encouraging preliminary data that are sufficiently provocative to merit further research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Obesity Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Safety
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss* / drug effects


  • Anti-Obesity Agents