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The Truth Behind Weight Loss Products

Published | 5 min read

Not all weight loss products are good. There are some things you should be aware of before taking diet pills or using sculpting creams.

A woman looking thoughtfully at a row of beauty products on the table in front of her.

Malaysia’s 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey revealed that out of 50.1% of Malaysian adults, 30.4% were overweight and 19.7% were considered obese. It’s not surprising given these statistics that the market for weight loss products continues to grow locally and globally. The global cosmeceuticals industry is a multi-billion dollar one and continues to expand annually.

Cosmeceuticals are defined as products with cosmetic and therapeutic effects that benefit skin health and beauty. They encompass lotions or creams containing active ingredients such as topically applied weight loss gels, creams and lotions. With the popularity of weight loss products booming, beauty companies have jumped on the bandwagon to produce and market these products. They promise consumers that they to be able to slim, sculpt and tone problematic areas of the body such as the tummy, thighs and buttocks.

Due to this lucrative industry and advancement in technology, the competition and marketing efforts of every brand are intensified. Unfortunately, companies resort to fake advertising and unscrupulous claims to sell their weight loss products.

So, what is the truth behind weight loss products and are they effective? Is there a holistic approach to losing weight? Read this article to find out more. 

The Truth Behind Weight Loss Products  

As stated on the website of the United States’ Federal Trade Commission: Consumer Advice (FTC), products claiming that anyone can lose weight without changing their habits simply aren’t true and some of them are probably harmful. Dishonest advertising can appear as false promises and fake online stories.

According to the FTC, claims on weight loss products are false if they make the following promises: 

  1. You can lose weight without dieting or exercising 
  2. There’s no need to watch what you eat to lose weight 
  3. You can lose weight permanently by using their products 
  4. All you have to do to lose weight is wear a cream or drink a pill 
  5. You can lose 30 pounds in 30 days 
  6. Their products work for anyone 

The FTC also advises everyone to be careful of fake websites, suspiciously glowing online reviews and altered images on the internet. The government agency further reminds consumers that miraculous permanent weight loss without a healthy diet and exercise is just not possible. Indeed, several studies have confirmed that weight loss supplements have limited benefits. When compared to exercising or a combination of dieting and exercising, the supplements are proven to be less effective.

A woman applying cream on her leg while sitting on her bed.
If a cream promises to be able to make you lose weight by application, it’s likely that it’s a false claim.

What Experts Say About Weight Loss Products  

Does this mean that there aren’t any trustworthy weight loss products at all? Well, not exactly. There are some products that are approved by and registered with regulatory authorities. Moreover, some people swear by some weight loss products. A 2019 survey revealed that weight loss product consumers in Malaysia, most of whom are overweight working females, believed that the items they have been using were safe.

Experts have weighed in on the phenomenon of body sculpting or slimming products. According to a 2015 review on ‘body sculpting cosmetics’, most available products were designed to mask issues related to weight gains such as double chins, fatty necks and flabby thighs. Despite this drawback, the review was optimistic about the novel approaches to anti-cellulite and nature-based products. 

Several natural ingredients reportedly possess safe and plausible fat-burning properties. If you’re interested in purchasing weight-loss products, you might want to consider formulations containing these ingredients: 


Caffeine is an ingredient in many weight loss products. It is used to prevent excessive fat cells from multiplying and stimulates their degradation. A 2017 study on caffeine’s use in the medicines for obese patients discovered that caffeine reduces the size and number of fat cells through its thermogenesis effect.


A plant native to the Amazon, guarana is another well-known natural ingredient in weight loss products. A 2019 study by Brazilian researchers on its efficacy revealed that guarana has the potential to be a therapeutic agent to treat obesity. The study said the ingredient works by inducing brown fat activation.

Bio-active Keratin

A natural way to tighten the skin is to build more collagen, and one of the ingredients that can achieve this is bio-active keratin. Derived from sheep wool, bio-active keratin has been shown to stimulate the expression of collagen in humans. This finding suggests that it contributes to effective wound-healing and improves wrinkles.

A woman wearing a surgical mask reading the label of a product displayed in the supermarket.
Be aware of the ingredients in weight loss products.

Niacin (Vitamin B3) 

Niacin or vitamin B3 has been a popular ingredient in weight loss products. A 2013 study published for the National Center for Biotechnology Information learned that niacin’s weight-loss properties rest on its ability to increase adiponectin. This is an anti-inflammatory hormone that is released by fatty tissues.


Another natural ingredient linked to weight loss would be herbs. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that obesity is a symptom of an underlying health condition, rather than the main problem itself. When treating weight gain, TCM physicians will first identify an individual’s issue before recommending the ideal herbs. Obesity is mostly caused by a dysfunction in the Liver, Spleen and Stomach. If the issue lies in the Stomach for example, suggested products will be those that promote digestion.

Some ingredients used in TCM claim to be able to break down fat and tone skin. These include natural red pepper oil, natural ginger extract, seaweed essence and cranberry essence. They’re supposed to be able to break down and burn excess fat, promote blood and lymph circulation, and accelerate metabolism. 

Like most things in life, losing weight requires effort. If you ever see weight loss products claiming they can change your life without having to alter your diet and exercise, you may want to steer clear. For extra precaution, choose weight loss products containing natural ingredients that burn fat or sculpt the skin organically.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Firm Truth Or Flabby Excuse?”, which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website


  1. Premium Beauty News. 2022. Indonesia and Malaysia: At the forefront of halal beauty innovation [online]. Available at: <https://www.premiumbeautynews.com/en/indonesia-and-malaysia-at-the,19799> [Accessed 25 May 2022]
  2. The Australasian College of Dermatologists. 2014. Cosmeceuticals [online]. Available at: <https://www.dermcoll.edu.au/atoz/cosmeceuticals/> [Accessed 25 May 2022]
  3. Pubmed. 2021. Comparing effectiveness of fat burners and thermogenic supplements to diet and exercise for weight loss and cardiometabolic health: Systematic review and meta-analysis [online]. Available at: <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33427571/> [Accessed 25 May 2022]
  4. Federal Trade Commission: Consumer Advice. 2019. The Truth Behind Weight Loss Ads [online]. Available at: <https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/truth-behind-weight-loss-ads> [Accessed 25 May 2022]
  5. Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences – UPM. 2019. The Use of Weight Loss Products Among Overweight and Obese Patients in Malaysia [online]. Available at: <https://medic.upm.edu.my/upload/dokumen/2019010811354704_MJMHS_Jan_2019.pdf> [Accessed 25 May 2022]
  6. Cosmetics and Toiletries. 2015. A Review of Natural Current and Future ‘Body-sculpting’ Cosmetics [online]. Available at: <https://www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/research/literature-data/article/21835402/a-review-of-natural-current-and-future-body-sculpting-cosmetics> [Accessed 25 May 2022]
  7. Walsh Medical Media. 2017. Underlying Mechanism of Coffee as Inhibitor Adipogenesis for Complementary Medicine Use in Obesity [online]. Available at: <https://www.walshmedicalmedia.com/open-access/underlying-mechanism-of-coffee-as-inhibitor-adipogenesis-forcomplementary-medicine-use-in-obesity-2157-7439-1000425.pdf> [Accessed 26 May 2022]
  8. Pubmed. 2019. Guarana supplementation attenuated obesity, insulin resistance, and adipokines dysregulation induced by a standardized human Western diet via brown adipose tissue activation [online]. Available at: <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30868680/> [Accessed 26 May 2022]
  9. Pubmed. 2012. Wool-derived keratin stimulates human keratinocyte migration and types IV and VII collagen expression [online]. Available at: <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22621188/> [Accessed 26 May 2022]
  10. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2013. Niacin Increases Adiponectin and Decreases Adipose Tissue Inflammation in High Fat Diet-Fed Mice [online]. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3742781/> [Accessed 26 May 2022]
  11. Eu Yan Sang. 2017. Chewing The Fat [online]. Available at: <https://www.euyansang.com.my/en_MY/chewing-the-fat/eysweight9.html> [Accessed 26 May 2022]

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