You are here

Face Off: 3 Popular Supplements Go Head-to-Head


Photo by iStock.

By Margaret Badore for

Can a concentrated dose of one of these “super” plants really help you lose weight? Our experts tend to say not likely, at least not anything long term. However, the growing popularity of raspberry ketones (since Dr. Oz’s “miracle fat burner” endorsement last week) has us looking back at some of the biggest supplement fads in recent years.

Here, we take a look at three supplements that promise weight loss: raspberry ketone, hoodia and acai.

Raspberry Ketone 

This supplement recently got major attention when Dr. Oz touted raspberry ketone as a fat-burner that can help anyone lose weight. Although scarce in nature, the synthetic raspberry ketone is relatively inexpensive. The supplement is basically a stimulant that works by increasing the body's production of norepinepherine and adiponectin. Norepinepherine boosts metabolism by raising the body's temperature, while adiponectin makes glucose less likely to be stored. However, there haven't been any controlled studies on humans showing that these effects result in weight loss. "Like other diet pills that have an effect on body temperature and metabolism I would think that these products would only be effective for a short period of time and would eventually have to be discontinued," says Dr. Sarah G. Khan, DietsInReview's resident pharmacist.


The berry comes from the rainforest, and only became widely available in the past several years. On its own, the fruit contains antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A and even some protein. However, it also tastes very bitter, and often is combined with large quantities of sugar when sold as juice or pulp. Acai is also sold in pill form as a supplement, which promise a number of healthy benefits, including weight loss. Although this fruit is a good source of a number of nutrients, there have been no studies whatsoever showing any additional health benefits associated with consuming acai.


Hoodia gordonii is a South African plant used in a number of weight loss products. There have been some investigations showing that hoodia may act as an appetite suppressant. After some initial research, both Unilever and Pfizer abandoned projects to develop hoodia products because of concerns about its ultimate effectiveness. We also still don't know about possible side effects associated with long-term use.


There's no real winner in this matchup. The sellers of these products will all tell you that you'll experience the best results when combining supplements with diet and exercise, which are the real foundation to weight loss anyway. "Be advised that any long-term effects will only truly be garnered by incorporating a proper diet and exercise regimen," says Dr. Khan. "It’s always smart to visit with your doctor before popping any of these pills."