Use and perceived effectiveness of complementary medicines for weight loss in adult women

  • J Bussicott
  • R Patel
  • J Pellow
  • RK Razlog


Objectives: Complementary medicines (CMs) that are formulated to facilitate weight loss are a popular and widely available treatment option, particularly among women. There is limited research regarding their use in the South African context.
The aim of this study was to gather information on the use and perceived effectiveness of CMs for weight loss among adult women.
Design: A quantitative, descriptive survey design was used.
Setting: Johannesburg, South Africa.
Subjects: A purposive sample of women over the age of 18 years who had used CMs for weight loss within the past five years were recruited from health stores and a university campus healthcare centre.
Outcome measures: Data were obtained through a self-administered 29-item, paper-and-pen questionnaire. Responses were descriptively analysed using cross-tabulation, multiple response analysis and frequency tables.
Results: Data from 160 questionnaires were analysed and the results demonstrated that a wide variety of CM products are used for weight loss, with branded combination products, green tea, Garcinia cambogia and conjugated linoleic acid being the most popular. Most participants also adopted lifestyle interventions such as exercise and calorie restriction during their weight loss attempt. While minor side effects were experienced by over half of the participants, the majority were satisfied with their product choice as well as the amount of weight that they lost.
Conclusion: Most participants perceived their CM weight loss product of choice to be effective. However, other concomitant weight-loss strategies that were employed may have been responsible for these results. Despite their popularity, there is only very limited research surrounding the safety and efficacy of these weight-loss products, with most studies being conducted on single constituents rather than whole formulations as sold on the market. Healthcare providers should encourage the disclosure of the use of CM weight-loss products to ensure safe and effective patient care and mitigate the potential risks associated with their inappropriate use.

Keywords: complementary medicine, obesity, overweight, perception, weight loss, women

How to Cite
Bussicott, J., Patel, R., Pellow, J., & Razlog, R. (2023). Use and perceived effectiveness of complementary medicines for weight loss in adult women. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 36(1), 13-19. Retrieved from
Original Research