If you're on the cutting edge of weight loss news, you may have heard of so-called "weight loss injections." The idea that you can get a shot (or two) at the doctor's office and watch the fat melt away might sound appealing. But is it too good to be true? What are weight loss injections? Are they safe and effective?
A weight loss injection is any drug or supplement injected by a doctor for the purpose of weight control. Most claim to "dissolve fat" or to have an effect on the how the body burns calories. Injections for weight loss usually require weekly visits to the doctor's office, but can often be administered by a nurse.
Types of Weight Loss Injectables
Three main weight loss injections are on the market:
hCG–Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone produced during pregnancy. It is used for fertility treatments and as a tumor marker. Some doctors have prescribed hCG for weight loss in conjunction with ultra-low-calorie diets (less than 500 calories a day) believing it capable of burning adipose (fat) tissue and preventing the loss of lean muscle mass.
B-12–This is a vitamin essential for metabolic processes and overall health. Proponents claim the injections work by giving an extra boost of energy and improving the metabolism.
Lipotropics–They are naturally occurring compounds in the body that assist with metabolism. Injections are thought to work by speeding up the metabolism.
Are They Effective?
In a word, no. While hCG was once a very popular weight loss medication in the United States, in 1976, it became illegal to promote the drug as effective for weight loss. Since then, continued research, including one recent article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has warned against the use of hCG for weight loss, claiming that it is not effective. Vitamin B-12, while generally good for you in multivitamin form, has also not been proven effective for controlling weight, nor has it been FDA-approved as an injection for weight loss. As for lipotropic injections, there appears to be very little scientific research published on its use as a weight loss aid.
Are they safe?
None of these injectable weight loss solutions have been approved by the FDA as safe or effective. Further, many injections are often concoctions made up by the prescribing doctor, which means they have not been been through any clinical trials. So though there is little evidence against many injectable weight loss solutions, that's also because there has been so little investigation. Further, it typically takes the FDA some time to ban certain supplements. Never assume that a supplement is safe just because someone (even a doctor) is selling it.
As always, when considering any medical procedure, it is important to do your research and to discuss the procedure both with your specialist and with your primary care physician. Your regular doctor may have more insight about whether a procedure is right for you, given your medical history.
The bottom line
When it comes to weight loss, there are no quick solutions. Healthy eating choices and activity are far more effective at controlling weight and have other benefits for your body.