Article edited for scientific accuracy by Illuminate Labs Blog Editor Taylor Graber MD
Every year more consumers are looking for supplements to aid in their weight loss goals. With an increasing percentage of the global population dealing with obesity due to modern conveniences and diet, the potential for a pill that melts off weight can seem enticing.
As we noted in our Drink2Shrink review and our review of dicyclomine 10 mg for weight loss, weight loss supplements can sometimes offer minor benefits but are generally a cost-inefficient option relative to lifestyle changes.
In this article we’ll review some of the peptides used for weight loss, explain why we believe this is generally an unsafe way to spur weight loss, and offer some better alternatives.
What are Peptides and How Can They Help With Weight Loss?
Peptides are chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Generally proteins contain 50 or more amino acids, while peptides can contain as few as two.
Certain peptides are sometimes used for weight loss because of how they affect biological processes in the body.
MOTS-C, for example, is a peptide that has been shown in medical research to decrease fat accumulation in an animal study. It’s theorized to work by downregulating certain metabolic pathways that become dysfunctional in obese animals and people.
Ipamorelin is another peptide which has been used for weight loss because it’s a precursor of human growth hormone (HGH). We know from medical studies that exogenous HGH supplementation increases body fat loss, so users of ipamorelin figure that by taking the peptide they’ll reap the same benefits.
It is actually proven in medical research that ipamorelin causes release of HGH, but there haven’t been any studies on ipamorelin directly causing weight loss.
Why Peptides for Weight Loss are Unsafe
Most peptides are only cleared for medical research, and don’t have nearly the same safety and toxicology studies that pharmaceutical drugs and many herbs have.
A compound can be both effective but unsafe due to the unknown nature of the long-term risks associated with its ingestion.
It’s surprising to us that so many health sites online are touting the magical benefits of peptides for all types of health outcomes including weight loss, without linking to one single safety study in most cases.
We can’t determine an effective dose if we don’t have both efficacy and safety testing, and most peptide research tends to be missing the latter.
Increased Fiber Intake
By far the cheapest and most effective weight loss strategy (outside of the obvious recommendations to reduce caloric intake to below maintenance and increase exercise) is to increase fiber intake.
We’ve mentioned this before in other articles, but fiber is an extremely underrated weight loss aid which can be obtained from food alone (no need for expensive supplements) and is proven in medical research to be effective for weight loss.
When you consume high-fiber meals, you get full faster because the fiber contains essentially zero calories and occupies space in the stomach. Fiber is the reason why it’s so much easier to eat 1,500 calories of ice cream than 1,500 calories of beans and salad: the ice cream has virtually no fiber while the second meal has a lot. Most processed foods have very little fiber.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is one of the few weight loss supplements we’ve come across that’s actually proven to be both effective and safe. It’s a fatty acid with a relatively extensive safety profile for an OTC supplement, and has been conclusively proven to reduce body fat when supplemented at a dose of around 2 g/day and above.
CLA is the main ingredient in several expensive weight loss supplements including Modere Trim, but it would be more cost effective to supplement alone. We recommend speaking with your doctor before starting any supplement.
Certain peptides may be effective for weight loss but the risk is not worth the reward in our opinion. We strongly advise against taking supplements without significant safety and toxicology research, and believe these compounds should only be used if prescribed by a licensed physician.
There exist alternative weight loss aids which are much safer, such as increased fiber intake and CLA supplementation, and should be just as effective if not more, considering that most peptides used for weight loss haven’t been directly proven to be effective for weight loss in human studies.
We recommend against using research peptides without a doctor’s approval.