CAM and Weight Loss: Does It Work?

Désirée A. Lie, MD, MSEd

Disclosures

March 27, 2013

In This Article

Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Weight Loss

Television, Websites, blogs, and other popular media are a quick and often-used resource for patients seeking solutions to health problems. Surveys indicate that over one half of patients obtain health information from the Internet, and of these, one half act upon that information.[1,2]

Celebrities are reported to have significant influence on the incidence of hazardous health behaviors, such as smoking[3] and texting while driving.[4] Alternatively, they can promote positive behaviors, such as cancer screening.[5] However, there is ongoing debate about whether celebrities help or hurt the public's health when they take on health-related causes or endorse products, lifestyles, or procedures.[6,7]

The obesity epidemic has spawned a wide range of treatments. Uptake of recommended approaches based on evidence, however, is often hindered by reliance on unproven or emerging products that are not backed by clear evidence or well-conducted clinical trials, yet are promulgated by a myriad of sources. Patients who are desperate for a solution may find such information and products appealing. The Internet feeds the need for "quick fixes" and removes barriers to treatment (time spent consulting a provider, or shame and guilt associated with seeking treatment). Often, Websites offering weight-loss products promise a "good return on investment" and fast results.

How can clinicians best help patients address the bewildering deluge of information online and from the media, to sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly? And what are patients reading about weight-loss products on the internet, or hearing from their favorite shows or celebrities on television or radio? What are they trying out for themselves?

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