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Can you shed the pounds by swallowing a pill?

“Today” consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman reports on new study that takes a took at weight loss and energy supplements.
/ Source: TODAY

Who wouldn't want to lose a few pounds by swallowing a pill?  We spend millions of dollars a year on weight loss products. But do they really help you shed the pounds? What's in them that is supposed to make them work? “Today” consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman tells us the results of a new study.

It’s amazing to find out what was in some of these popular supplements which promise to enhance your metabolism, curb your appetite and increase your energy. Many companies are promising an easy way to shed the pounds. They draw you in but you don't necessarily believe what they tout but you get hooked. 

John Stanley has been enticed. He's tried several weight loss supplements but never really liked the way they made him feel. “I thought I was ADD for a long time and it was really these supplements because I was all over the place,” says Stanley., an independent testing group, had 23 weight loss and energy supplements tested to see what was really in them.

“Some of the products that I'd be most concerned about are Ripped Fuel, which is a Twinlab product which contains a combination of bitter orange and caffeine which can cause increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and that's in healthy people. Xantrax 3 just had the caffeine, but that had so much caffeine that you'd have to drink about thirty cans of cola or about twelve cups of coffee to get the equivalent amount of caffeine in that product,” says Dr. Todd Cooperman, president of

Here's what Twinlab, the maker of Ripped Fuel had to say:

“Before marketing Ripped Fuel, Twinlab sponsored a clinical study that confirmed the safety and efficacy of bitter orange extract as an ingredient that promotes weight loss.  The findings of this independent study were published in a peer reviewed journal, (Current Therapy Research, Vol. 60 pp. 145).

This study confirmed that the weight loss effects of bitter orange are actually enhanced when combined with other ingredients present in Ripped Fuel, caffeine and St. John’s Wort.  These clinical studies used the same doses as those currently used in Ripped Fuel, and did not reveal any of these side effects that were stated by     

These findings, that bitter orange extract was both safe and effective in promoting weight loss, were confirmed again this year in an article in the premier medical journal on prevention of obesity (Obesity Research 2005, Vol. 13 pp. 1187). 

At Twinlab, we are a science driven company, and in addition to sponsoring clinical trials we extensively review the leading medical research and literature before developing formulations for our products. These statements by about Ripped Fuel do not appear to be scientifically based, as they do not provide any medical citations to support their statements, they do not state the incidence of these alleged side effects, nor the degree of change to blood pressure and heart rate, or whether these changes were of clinical significance (i.e. have harmful consequences).”

Zoller Labs, makers of Zantrex-3, says they don't conceal their ingredients:

First, here are the facts about the xanthine content of Zantrex-3: Each serving of Zantrex-3 has approximately the same caffeine content as a Starbucks' Grande.

Yes, Zantrex-3 is one of the country's most popular weight loss pills, but it is also the number one energy pill in America... in part because it delivers a huge energy boost that customers enjoy and expect. It's the energy component that's kept Zantrex as the leading diet and energy pill on the market for three consecutive years.

At no time do we try to conceal either the xanthine content or the huge energy boost. In fact, our ads proudly state that Zantrex-3 offers "Rapid Weight Loss and Incredible Energy." That's a message that continues to resonate with literally millions of consumers in the United States and worldwide.

Dr. Louis Arrone, an obesity specialist at Cornell University's Weill Medical College, says the quest for a magic weight loss pill is un-ending — but it just doesn't exist.

“In the problem is that two thirds of the population is overweight and obese and many of those people have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol.  They have risk factors for cardio vascular disease. When you mix that with a powerful stimulant it’s a recipe for disaster, says Dr. Arrone.

But no doubt we will still be enticed and people will continue to buy them.

Stanley says, “In the end only a healthy life style works but you don't want to hear that — you want a miracle.”