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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Weight Control and Complementary and Integrative Approaches

January 2015
Person standing on a weight scale

© istockphoto/tzara

Your patients may ask you about complementary and integrative health approaches for losing weight, such as natural products marketed for weight loss, which are available in supermarkets, pharmacies, health food stores, and the Internet. Although patients may be tempted by the “quick fix” claims of these products, most of these products haven’t been proven safe or effective. Safety concerns about natural products include the possibility of drug interactions, direct toxicities, and contamination of supplements with active pharmaceutical agents. Although there is a widespread public perception that the botanical and traditional agents included in dietary supplements can be viewed as safe, it is abundantly clear that these products carry the same dangers as other pharmacologically active compounds. There is some emerging evidence suggesting that some mind and body approaches, such as meditation and yoga, may be useful complements to other weight-loss interventions.

Modality and Summary of Current Evidence


a Natural Product

Acai berry products have become popular in the United States, where they have been marketed as folk or traditional remedies for weight-loss and anti-aging purposes, but there is no definitive scientific evidence to support these claims.

Read more about the scientific evidence of acai for weight loss

Bitter Orange

a Natural Product

Overall, only a few small studies of bitter orange have been published, and the evidence is insufficient to support the use of bitter orange for any health purpose.

Read more about the scientific evidence of bitter orange for weight loss


a Natural Product

There is little evidence of ephedra’s effectiveness, except for short-term weight loss. However, in 2004, the FDA banned the U.S. sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra after finding that these supplements had an unreasonable risk of injury or illness—particularly cardiovascular complications—and risk of death. (Note: The ban does not apply to traditional Chinese herbal remedies or to products like herbal teas regulated as conventional foods.)

Read more about the scientific evidence of ephedra for weight loss

Green Tea

a Natural Product

There are not enough reliable data to determine whether green tea can aid in weight loss.

Read more about the scientific evidence of green tea for weight loss


a Natural Product

There is no reliable scientific evidence to support hoodia’s use for any condition. No clinical studies have been published to date.

Read more about the scientific evidence of hoodia for weight loss

Mindfulness Meditation

a Mind and Body Approach

To date there are only a few studies on the effects of mindfulness as a component of weight-loss programs, but the evidence is intriguing and research is ongoing.

Read more about the scientific evidence of mindfulness meditation for weight loss


a Mind and Body Approach

Overall, therapeutic yoga programs can be frequently effective in promoting weight loss and are a potentially successful intervention for weight maintenance and prevention of obesity.

Read more about the scientific evidence of yoga for weight loss

Scientific Literature

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.


Content is in the public domain and may be reprinted, except if marked as copyrighted (©). Please credit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health as the source. All copyrighted material is the property of its respective owners and may not be reprinted without their permission.

This page last modified November 20, 2015