PhenQ is a weight loss supplement that advertises “five powerful fat scorchers in one simple, daily formula."
In this article we’ll review every ingredient in PhenQ, as well as its dosage, based on published medical research to provide our determination on whether this supplement is actually likely to be effective for weight loss, or whether it's a waste of money.
Because PhenQ has many ingredients, we will break our ingredient review into two sections: Active Ingredients and Inactive Ingredients.
Active Ingredient Review
We typically include an image of the Supplement Facts label when reviewing a supplement on Illuminate Health, but PhenQ published such a low-resolution Supplement Facts label to their website that we'll have to just list the ingredients; their label is barely legible.
The first two active ingredients in this formulation are the minerals calcium and chromium.
A medical review of chromium supplementation for weight loss, published in the Obesity Reviews journal, analyzed the results of more than 10 individual trials and found chromium to be effective for weight loss. However, the dose used in every single study was higher than the 80 microgram (mcg) dose in PhenQ.
The majority of clinical trials used a chromium dosage over 400 mcg, so we will consider this ingredient to be underdosed in PhenQ's formulation.
We do not recommend that consumers take supplemental calcium without a doctor's approval, because this mineral may increase risk of heart disease in some patients according to a 2018 medical review. Calcium is also easily obtainable from diet.
L-carnitine fumarate is included at a dose of 150 milligrams (mg). A medical review published in the Obesity Reviews journal found that l-carnitine (but not l-carnitine fumarate specifically) was modestly effective for weight loss. This review is cited by PhenQ on their website. Trial participants taking supplemental carnitine lost an average of 2.93 pounds, and trial durations ranged from 30 to 360 days.
However, the lowest dose used in any of the included clinical trials was 2,000 mg per day, or over 13x the amount in PhenQ. We find it to be highly questionable that PhenQ cites a medical study as evidence of efficacy, while that same study includes vastly higher doses than this supplement. We will consider this ingredient underdosed and likely ineffective.
Caffeine is an active ingredient at a dose of 100 mg, which is around the amount in one cup of coffee. We will consider this to be an effective weight loss ingredient based on a medical research review, but the linked study found higher doses of caffeine to be significantly more effective.
Nopal cactus fiber is included at a comically low 20 mg dose. The medical study that PhenQ cites to back this ingredient used a daily dose of 3,000 mg, or 150 times the amount in PhenQ.
This supplement contains a blend called "Capsimax Plus Blend" in reference to one trademarked ingredient called Capsimax. The total dose of the blend, which contains four ingredients, is 50 mg. This equates to an average ingredient dose of 12.5 mg.
Capsimax's own website lists the effective dose as 100 mg, or 8 times higher than the average ingredient dose in this blend.
The final active ingredient in this formulation is a trademarked blend called "a-Lacys Reset" which contains alpha lipioc acid, cystein and magnesium. We cannot identify any medical research proving this ingredient to be effective for weight loss. The two citations PhenQ makes to studies in medical journals in reference to this ingredient test the effects of alpha lipoic acid, but not this specific blend. Both trials also use significantly higher doses than that in PhenQ.
Overall we are underwhelmed by the active ingredients in PhenQ. This supplement may be effective for weight loss because many of its ingredients have proven efficacy for weight loss. However, we only consider one of the active ingredients to be effectively dosed based on medical research.
Questionable Inactive Ingredients
PhenQ contains several questionable filler ingredients that we recommend consumers avoid.
The supplement contains artificial food dye FD&C blue #1 to color the product. There is legitimate medical concern over the toxicity of food dye as an additive, and while the amount used in PhenQ is almost certainly low, we recommend avoiding products with artificial food dye altogether.
PhenQ also contains potassium sorbate which is a preservative. This ingredient is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but we typically recommend avoiding preservatives altogether as they provide no nutritional value and research on their long-term safety is still developing.
Questionable Medical Studies
PhenQ claims that their product is “backed by real science” and highlights an graph suggesting that one patented ingredient in their formulation is effective.
The citation for this graph is not medical research published in a legitimate medical journal, but rather references a clinical trial conducted by a for-profit research company called "Principium Beauty Systems Innovations." The full study is not shared or linked to on PhenQ's website.
We do not agree with their conclusion that this ingredient is proven to be effective for weight loss, because as stated in the Active Ingredient review section, we were unable to locate any clinical trials published in legitimate medical journals proving this ingredient to be effective.
We disagree with the practice of supplement manufacturers making health claims based on "clinical trials" conducted by for-profit research institutions, and we recommend that consumers only take into account clinical trials published in legitimate medical journals.
Our Clean Weight Loss Picks
There are food-based nutrients which have been shown in medical studies to be effective for weight loss.
Dietary fiber was shown in a medical review published in The Journal of Nutrition to cause 16 pounds of weight loss in 6 months when combined with moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline).
Supergut Fiber Mix is our recommended fiber supplement, because it contains three different types of fiber powder and no questionable additive ingredients. Interested consumers can check out Supergut Fiber Mix at this link to the product page on the brand's official website, where it retails for under $2 per serving at a subscription rate.
MCT oil is quickly absorbed by the body and increases metabolic rate, which causes fat loss. A 2015 meta-study on MCT oil documented more than one pound of weight loss over 10 weeks. This equates to potential annualized weight loss of 6 pounds per year with less than one tablespoon's worth of MCT oil per day.
Bulletproof MCT Oil is our top MCT oil product, because the only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts. There are no questionable additives. Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof MCT Oil at this link to the product page on the brand's official website, where it currently costs only $15.50 for over a month's worth of product.
Coffee is one of the few whole food ingredients associated with weight loss in clinical trials. A meta-analysis published in the Nutrients journal found that coffee intake was associated with reduced body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
VitaCup Organic Instant Coffee Sticks is our top coffee product for weight loss, due to its convenience. No preparation or machinery is needed. The sticks can be mixed into hot or cold water (or other beverages) and consumed. The only ingredient is organic instant coffee; no questionable additives.
Interested consumers can check out VitaCup Organic Instant Coffee Sticks at this link to the product page on the brand's official website, where they retail for $1 per serving at a subscription rate.