I need to make a confession: I was obsessed with researching GNC diet pills. This company is one of the leading online and offline vitamin shops today, but we want to know more about a specific part of the business – GNC diet pills. We looked at ingredients, side effects, customer service and clinical support. Reviews from hundreds of buyers were read. We then condensed and refined to give you what you need.
Here we are going to take a very close look at one of GNC’s massive lines, diet supplements, and see what we might find. But first, let’s learn a little bit about GNC itself.
GNC Company History
What is now known as GNC, or General Nutrition Centers, was founded by David Shakarian in 1935. Mr. Shakarian died on September 11, 1984. 
David Shakarian’s parents ran a dairy farm, and their enterprise led to his first store named Lackzoom. The early implementation of mail order was due to fuel shortages during World War II, which made traveling to the stores difficult. 
The renewed interest in nutrition in the ’60’s led to its meteoric rise and the expansion of stores to other states, and also to its move into the supplement market.
By the turn of the century, GNC’s emphasis veered towards the new trend of performance enhancement.
This shift may have been more accidental than savvy, as it has landed GNC in a considerable amount of legal trouble over the last decade. Nonetheless, GNC is considered the leading supplement purveyor in America.
GNC has undergone numerous changes in ownership and even business models, becoming a franchise opportunity and making their initial public offering on the stock exchange in 2011.
A statement from GNC’s 2015 form 10-K report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which was presented shortly after GNC had endured a number of legal battles about its herbal and diet supplements. The report states that manufacturing diet supplements make up only 9% of GNC’s net revenue.
These passages are quoted directly from GNC’s 2015 10-K to the Securities and Exchange Commission:
“The Dietary Supplement Labeling Act of 2013, which was introduced in August 2013 (S142510), would amend the FDC Act to, among other things, (I) require dietary supplement manufacturers to register the dietary supplements that they manufacture with the FDA (and provide a list of the ingredients in and copies of the labels and labeling of the supplements), (ii) mandate the FDA and the Institute of Medicine to identify dietary ingredients that cause potentially serious adverse effects and (iii) require warning statements for dietary supplements containing potentially unsafe ingredients. If the bill is reintroduced and enacted, it could restrict the number of dietary supplements available for sale, increase our costs, liabilities and potential penalties associated with manufacturing and selling dietary supplements, and reduce our growth prospects. […]
The FTC continues to monitor our advertising and, from time to time, requests substantiation with respect to such advertising to assess compliance with the outstanding consent decree and with the Federal Trade Commission Act. Our policy is to use advertising that complies with the consent decree and applicable regulations. Nevertheless, there can be no assurance that inadvertent failures to comply with the consent decree and applicable regulations will not occur.[…]
As a result of our efforts to comply with applicable statutes and regulations, we have from time to time reformulated, eliminated or relabeled certain of our products and revised certain provisions of our sales and marketing program.” 
It’s clear that GNC has been consciously playing cat and mouse with the FDC. But did the fun end in 2015? Will their magical ability to flex as a corporation lead them in yet another direction?
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GNC Diet Pills Lawsuits
GNC was the largest of a group of supplement retailers sued by the state of New York and in many class action and individual suits for selling mislabeled and adulterated products. 
GNC’s ginseng, for example, tested negative for any ginseng but did contain the DNA of powdered rice, wheat, pine, and houseplants.
In its agreement, GNC stated that it would institute further controls within 18 months of March 1, 2015.
This should be in effect by now, but a rigorous search of medical literature, archived studies, and newspaper articles found no records of follow up testing after the 18-month threshold had passed.
Additionally, this 2015 suit focused on herbal supplements. This implies that nonherbal weight loss supplements were not tested and that GNC never agreed to make its standards more rigorous regarding for them.
But GNC did find itself in trouble over nonherbal diet supplements. In 2015 the state of Oregon sued GMC for selling diet supplements that contained two illegal ingredients, picamilon and BMPEA. The results of this suit are unclear. 
GNC Weight Loss Products Ingredients
GNC Total Lean Waterex
GNC’s trademarked Total Lean Watertex comes in two versions, regular Waterex and Elite Waterex.
The goal seems to be the same, which is reducing water weight in 15 days, but the ingredient lists are entirely different. Regular Waterex ingredients include:
- Vitamin B6
- Uva Ursi
Other ingredients include elderberry, fennel seed, corn silk, hydrangea root, and juniper berry.
Elite Waterex contains:
- Green Coffee Bean
Other ingredients include corn silk, horsetail powder, parsley, elderberry, juniper berry, cabbage leaf, cranberry, tomato extract, MegaNatural Gold grapeseed extract, a Superfood Water Balance Blend, an Herbal Hydration Moderator, and a proprietary blend of asparagus, artichoke leaf, apple cider vinegar, and acid protease.
The Elite Watertex product cannot be sold in Canada. GNC does not clarify this.
Potassium is found in water pills. Diuretics may cause electrolyte imbalances. Vitamin B6 is also a proven diuretic.
Magnesium can help with water retention and edema, but it acts differently. A deficiency in magnesium is usually assumed. Excessive doses of can be toxic.
Juniper Berry, parsley, uva ursi and corn silk have all been associated with diuretic properties. Likewise for tomato. Elderberries are an antioxidant with no diuretic properties. 
Fennel seed has received mixed results in clinical trials, at least regarding its rumored diuretic properties.
Hydrangea root ‘shows promise’ in the treatment of autoimmune disorders. 
GNC Total Lean™ Appetrex Control™
This is GNC’s ‘clinically proven’ appetite suppressant. We were unable to find the clinical trial. Its label says that it contains:
- Vitamin B6
- Proprietary Herbal Blend
- Black Tea Leaf Extract
- Green Tea Leaf Extract
Other ingredients include yerba mate, grape skin extract, chrysin, ginger, grape seed extract, and dill weed extract.
Thiamin and riboflavin are both types of B vitamins.
Chromium has shown some potential as a weight loss product, with certain forms of the mineral showing promise for weight loss in some research studies.
Yerba mate has stimulant properties and ginger is an anti-inflammatory.
Chrysin, or 5,7-dihydroxyflavone (sic), is a flavone found in honey and honeycomb, which is being researched for medicinal qualities. It is also found in blue passion flowers. 
As for the other ingredients, why waste our time? We will never know what is in the fourth ingredient, the ‘Proprietary Herbal Blend’. Trying to find out would undoubtedly result in a lawsuit.
GNC Total Lean™ Phase 2 Carb Controller®
GNC Total Lean Phase 2 Carb controller contains 1000 mg of white kidney bean extract, which GNC claims to help stop the absorption of carbs, something that would lead to weight gain.
White kidney bean extract has indeed been proven to block starch absorption in some studies. However, more comprehensive research is needed. 
The FDA has declared it safe to consume. It’s hard to imagine that a manufacturer would bother to adulterate such an inexpensive ingredient.
GNC Total Lean™ Advanced Premium CLA 3-6-9
GNC states that this product is effective for fat metabolism and body sculpting.
The ingredients are listed as:
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid Isomers as Clarinol® (CLA)
- Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)
- Oleic Acid
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
- Medium Chain Triglycerides
CLA is an isomer of linoleic acid, which is found in red meat and has been studied since the 1970’s for anticarcinogenic properties. It is frequently used in diet supplements. 
GLA is also an isomer of linoleic acid but found primarily in vegetable oils. It is also considered an Omega-6. 
Most people consume enough CLA and GLA in their diet, between consumption of meats and seed oils. Both ingredients are sourced from safflower oil in this supplement.
No correlation exists between CLA, GLA and weight loss.
Oleic acid is a monosaturated fat. Monosaturated fats may lower blood pressure, but there is some debate about this. 
Both EPA and DHA are among the famous ‘fish oils,’ or Omega 3’s. Both are proven to lower triglycerides, but DHA may raise LDL-c values, which is considered the “bad cholesterol”. 
Some studies have found medium chain triglycerides to assist excess calorie burning, promote fat oxygenation, and decrease appetite. It is found primarily in coconut oil. 
Do GNC Diet Pills Work?
GNC diet pills are not backed by science in all cases. There are no links to clinical research on the official website.
At DietSpotlight, we believe it is important to give dieters detailed information that a supplement is scientifically proven. If that’s not available, that’s when we throw the red flag.
GNC Diet Pill Side Effects
In 2012 two soldiers died from taking DMAA, or methylhexanamine, purchased from GNC stores located on military bases, which led the Armed Forces to ban DMAA use. 
In 2013, another young man died from taking excessive DMAA that he had procured from GNC.
DMAA, first produced by Eli Lilly and chemically related to amphetamine, was known as an effective weight loss and body sculpting product.
In all, six deaths have been attributed to DMAA but only three directly to GNC. By 2013 the US had declared it to be an unsafe additive, and GNC agreed to destroy its stock after the FDA obtained seizure orders, having received 86 reports of illness or death. 
The GNC products were called OxyElite Pro and Jack3D.
DMAA is not yet officially banned in the US and is still marketed under approximately 30 different names. A list of these, from 2017, can be found on the FDA’s website.
Among other names, this drug is sometimes masked as ‘geranium oil,’ but real geranium oil does not contain DMAA. 
In 2015 GNC publicly severed its ties with USPLabs, which had been accused in a number of criminal suits over the continued use of DMAA. Nonetheless, GNC continued to declare that DMAA is ‘safe’.
Some customers are irked by a lack of knowledge about GNC products on the part of GNC employees. Employees are not privy to the secrets of the proprietary ingredients.
Also, employees are paid commission for selling products. This has led to complaints about salespeople being unclear about which products are free of certain allergens or compliant with special dietary requirements.
The GNC brand has not been associated with any deaths since 2013. 
GNC Weight Loss Product Alternatives
Store brand diet products, such as those from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, offer comparable supplement lines concerning price.
Many manufacturers, such as Nature’s Way, are in the same price range as GNC products and are vegetarian, gluten-free and often organic.
An extensive search revealed that many people, particularly weight lifters, actively source DMAA and related substances in performance enhancement products. Such diet supplements are still available.
What Users Are Saying
“I have been using these supplements along with a new diet and exercise program and they’ve really helped. I’ve experienced no adverse side effects, just weight loss. I feel like they’ve done as promised, and I’d definitely buy again!”
“I didn’t notice any noticeable change in appetite. I did notice a little boost in energy which was nice. And surprisingly, the flavor was quite pleasant. Overall, these really didn’t cut it for me.”
“These did nothing. Waste of money.”
The Bottom Line – Do GNC Diet Pills Work?
So, are we searching the online store for our next purchase? Our look into GNC diet pills was an interesting time. We like that the business has a strong BBB rating and it has been around for decades, but we have reservations recommending a supplement company that doesn’t offer clinical support for the products. We’re also concerned that the selection could be a bit overpowering for some dieters.
If you’re looking to shed those extra pounds, we suggest going with a supplement from a company that offers clinical evidence that the formula is proven to help with weight-loss. One that’s simple to understand.
Among the best products we’ve seen this year is one called Burn HD. The company lists four ingredients in a proprietary blend that’s shown in published clinical research to help spark metabolism and ignite fat loss. With this supplement you don’t have to worry about negative side effects. Dieters are happy with the good results they’re seeing, according to reviews.
Also, we are encouraged by the fact that the makers of Burn HD are so confident in the formula that they’re offering a 2-Week Sample.Learn More About Burn HD »