Efficacy of dietary supplements containing isolated organic compounds for weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled trials

Int J Obes (Lond). 2021 Aug;45(8):1631-1643. doi: 10.1038/s41366-021-00839-w. Epub 2021 May 11.


Background/objectives: A systematic review with meta-analysis was conducted to synthesise evidence on the efficacy of dietary supplements containing isolated organic compounds for weight loss.

Subjects/methods: Four electronic databases (Medline, Embase, Web of Science, Cinahl) were searched until December 2019. Sixty-seven randomised placebo-controlled trials of dietary supplements containing isolated organic compounds for weight loss were included. Meta-analyses were conducted for chitosan, glucomannan, conjugated linoleic acid and fructans, comparing mean weight difference post-intervention between participants receiving the dietary supplement or placebo.

Results: Statistically significant weight differences compared to placebo were observed for chitosan (-1.84 kg; 95% confidence interval [CI] -2.79, -0.88; p < 0.01), glucomannan (-1.27 kg; 95%CI -2.45, -0.09; p = 0.04), and conjugated linoleic acid (-1.08 kg; 95%CI -1.61, -0.55; p < 0.01). None met our threshold for clinical significance (≥2.5 kg). There was no statistically significant effect on weight for fructans compared to placebo (p = 0.24). For dietary supplements with an inadequate number of trials for meta-analysis, a statistically and borderline clinically significant weight difference compared to placebo was found for modified cellulose, manno-oligosaccharides (in males), blood orange juice extract, and three multiple-ingredient dietary supplements. These were only reported in one trial of each. Thus, more evidence is needed before recommending them for weight loss.

Conclusions: While some dietary supplements containing isolated organic compounds warrant further investigation to determine efficacy and safety, there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend any of these dietary supplements for weight loss.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chitosan / pharmacology
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fructans / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated / pharmacology
  • Mannans / pharmacology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss / drug effects*


  • Fructans
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated
  • Mannans
  • (1-6)-alpha-glucomannan
  • Chitosan