Have you seen the Metamucil commercial featuring Michael Strahan of the “Live With Kelly and Michael” morning TV show? In the commercial, Michael says Metamucil “helps me feel fuller between meals.” He called it “The Meta Effect.” If you’re like me, you may have wondered when Metamucil became a weight loss supplement. I became curious and wanted to take a closer look at it. So in this review, I'm going to review the weight loss benefits of Metamucil and see if there is anything to them. I even called the makers of Metamucil too to try to get to the bottom of this. Keep reading and see what I discovered.
I looked on the label of a bottle of Metamucil and saw 1 teaspoons contained the following ingredients: Psyllium husk, citric acid, natural and artificial orange flavor, yellow 6. The nutrition label lists this breakdown of nutrients:
Amount Per Serving
|Total Carbs 12g|
|Dietary Fiber 3 g|
|Soluble Fiber 2 g|
|Iron 0.8 mg|
|Sodium 5 mg|
|Potassium 30 mg|
Metamucil And Weight Loss
In the TV commercial Michael Strahan says Metamucil “It helps me feel fuller between meals.” The commercial also states Metamucil is “Now clinically proven to help you feel less hungry between meals.” They didn’t come right out and say Metamucil can help people lose weight, although the idea was planted when we see Michael Strahan’s producer waking past the vending machine.
They also say “One small change that can lead to good things,” where I take “good things” to be a another subtle reference to “weight loss.”
The TV commercial didn’t quote any clinical studies to support this claim of less frequent snacking between meals, so I went to the website mentioned in the TV commercial –MetaWellness.com – to see if I could find the evidence which clinically proves Metamucil helps people feel full between meals. That website is no longer viable. After the TV commercial stopped airing, the website went offline. Obviously, it was only used for marketing purposes.
I then called 800-983-4237 which is the phone number listed on the Metamucil.com website to see if they could tell me where the clinical studies were. The customer service person could not tell me although she did say she would look for it and call me back. I called her well over a week before I posted this review but she did not call me back.
Unfortunately, the Metamucil company was unprepared for the attention it was going to get when it started running those commercials. If they hired me as a consultant, I could have pointed them to the evidence. I'll present that evidence here for you to see.
Fiber And Weight Loss
The idea of fiber helping people lose weight is not new and it makes some sense. Here are 2 reasons why I say this:
- Fiber slows digestion –which can help us fell full longer.
- Fiber has no calories –so it does not contribute to gaining weight.
There are also studies showing fiber can help, such as this 2001 review titled Dietary Fiber and Weight Reduction which noted the addition of just 14 grams of fiber per day (1/2 oz) is associated with a an average of a 10% decrease in calories eaten and an average weight loss of 4.7 pounds if consumed for almost 4 months. This is one of the reasons nutrition experts are always stressing fiber for people trying to lose weight.
Because of research like this, it’s no surprise several weight loss supplements contain fiber supplements as their main ingredient. For example
- Skinny Fiber (click to see review)
- Bystricin (click to see review)
- Lipozene (click to see review)
All 3 of these supplements contain the same main ingredient – called Glucomannan (also known as Konjac root). This fiber swells in size when it’s in the stomach, making people feel full. The idea is if we feel full, we are less likely to snack between meals.
Metamucial contains Psyllium. This is a natural fiber which comes from the plant whose technical name is Plantago ovate. Psyllium also swells in size when in the stomach.
Metamucil is listed as gluten free because it adheres to the “gluten free rule” of containing less than 20 parts per million gluten. Because of this, they can legally say “gluten free” but for those who are sensitive to this, the label does say “may contain trace amounts less than 20ppm.”
Psyllium And Weight Loss
I checked the National Library of Medicine for these terms:
- Psyllium husk satiety (satiety means “makes you feel full”)
- Plantago ovata satiety
I decided to search for only these terms because I felt this best reflected what was being conveyed in the Metamucil TV commercial. I found these studies:
1. A study published in 1995 titled The effect of a Plantago ovata seed containing preparation on appetite variables, nutrient and energy intake. In this 3 day study, 20 grams of psyllium husk mixed with about 7 oz of water was given 3 hours before a meal and immediately before eating.
These researchers noted that psylllium made people feel fuller 1 hour after eating compared to a placebo. Total fat intake was also lower when people were given psyllium fiber.
2. A 2008 study titled Effect of two doses of a mixture of soluble fibres on body weight and metabolic variables in overweight or obese patients: a randomised trial. This study lasted 16 weeks and included 200 people who were given either:
- A placebo
- 3 grams of psyllium husk + 1 gram of glucomannan (given either 2x or 3x per day)
After the study, the researchers noted people who used the fiber combination felt fuller after eating compared to the people who took the placebo.
The group getting the fiber combination also saw significantly better:
- LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Total cholesterol to HDL ratio
- HDL to LDL ratio
Based on these studies, I can understand why the marketing would be altered to try to make people aware of its potential weight loss benefits.
Psyllium vs. Glucomannan
Many weight loss supplements contain another type of fiber called glucomannan (also called konjac root). There is some research suggesting glucomannan can help weight loss. Some supplements containing glucomannan include:
- Skinny Fiber (click to read review)
- Lipozene (click to read review
- Skinny Body Max (click to read review)
As to which is better for weight loss – psyllium or glucomman, this topic needs more research. Stay tuned.
The Meta Effect
The “Meta Effect” is what Michael Strahan called the ability of Metamucil to reduce hunger between meals. This is a term invented term used for marketing purposes and has no scientific meaning except within the world of Metamucil. Meta is a reference to META-Mucil.
It’s normal for marketing people to come up with catchy words and phrases in advertisements and there is nothing wrong with that. I just wanted to point this out because the geek in me thought it sounded scientific. It’s not.
Metamucil And Heart Health
The TV commercial also stated Metamucil “Helps promote heart health by lowering cholesterol.” Unlike the “Meta Effect”, at the bottom of the TV screen, they did have reference for this statement which stated:
“diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 7 grams of soluble fiber from psyllium husk, as in Metamucil may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. 1 adult serving of Metamucil has 4 grams of fiber.”
There are multiple studies on how fiber can reduce LDL cholesterol so I won’t into that here. The American Heart Association mentions not only psyllium as having this effect but also
They go on to say every 1 gram increase in soluble fiber can reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) by an average of 2.2 mg/dl. That’s a lot. Given most people in America – and I suspect other industrialized nations too —only get 12-15 grams of fiber per day—many people can benefit from having more fiber in their diet.
How Much To Use?
According to the Metamucil label:
- For feeling less hungry between meals, use 2 rounded teaspoons in at least 8 oz of water, with meals. Use up to 3 times per day.
- For helping blood sugar levels, use 1 rounded teaspoons, mixed in 8 oz of water and use 3 times per day.
- For lowering cholesterol, use 1 rounded teaspoons, mixed in 8 oz of liquid and use 3 times per day.
- For promoting/maintaining digestive health, use 1 rounded teaspoons mixed in 8 oz of liquid and use up to 3 times a day.
So, it looks like, with the exception of curbing hunger, all of these recommendations are rather similar to each other.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The American Heart Association often recommends adults get 20-35 grams per day. Since there are 28 grams in an ounce, this is about and ounce to a wee bit more than an ounce. This is similar to the USDA which recommends 25-30 grams per day for adults.
But how much fiber for weight loss? Unfortunately, there is no formal amount for dieting or weight loss.
Two teaspoons of Metamucil provides 6 grams of dietary fiber. This classifies it as a “high fiber” supplement.
The recommendations also don’t differentiate between soluble and insoluble fiber either. In other words, nobody says “you should have this much soluble fiber and this much insoluble fiber.” The idea is just eat more fiber and let nature take care of the rest.
Here is a summary of fiber in several different foods
|Food||Fiber content in grams|
|Oat Bran 1 oz||12 g|
|Fiber One Cereal, ½ cup||12 g|
|All Bran Cereal, ½ cup||10 g|
|Lima Beans, 1 cup||14 g|
|Broccoli, 1 cup||5 g|
|Apple, 1||4 g|
|Blueberries, 1 cup||4 g|
|Oatmeal, 1/2 cup||4 g|
Adapted from the July 2008 issue of Today’s Dietitian Magazine.
Note that some of the cereals in the above list may get their fiber from inulin, a prebiotic from chicory, which may or may not have the same effects as Psullium Huskand other types of fiber. When in doubt, it’s best to get most fiber from natural sources for the most part.
Where To Buy
You can purchase Metamucil at any supermarket. Its likely also available at Walmart, CVS, Target and Walgreens too.
How Much Fiber Is In MetaMucil?
The product label tells us 2 rounded teaspoons (11.6 g) provides 6 grams of fiber with 5 of those grams coming from soluble fiber. If you used one teaspoons (5.8 g), then you would be getting 3 grams of dietary fiber, with 2 of those coming from soluble fiber.
When I started this review, I had no idea that, in addition to Powder version, that there was now a series of Metamucil supplements. There are:
When in doubt, I think they probably all work about the same. My hunch is the companies marketing department is behind making these other versions.
How Does It Taste?
I mixed 2 rounded teaspoons of Metamucil in about 10 oz of cold water and stirred for about 10 seconds. The picture above shows what it looked like in the glass. Metamucil has an orange taste to it. That makes sense since the container is orange. It doesn't taste bad. I actually liked the taste. It sort of reminded me of “Tang” (the drink Astronauts took to the moon…I'm dating myself with that).
The product label does say to drink it quickly. If you wait more than a minute or two, the fiber begins to form a thicker slurry mixture. It's still drinkable, but I preferred it when it was more of a liquid than a gel-like liquid.
Is It Gluten Free?
Yes. The label says it's gluten free, but also mentions it might have trace amounts of gluten (less than 20 parts per million is the FDA guideline for gluten free foods).
Metamucil Appetite Control
In addition to regular Metamucil, there is also an “appetite control” version. Is it different? Based on what I could see when I looked at the label, it appears the Appetite Control version has a bit more fiber than regular Metamucil. Here is the breakdown in 2 rounded teaspoons (11.6 g):
|Amount Per Serving||Percent Daily Value|
|Total Carbohydrate 11g||4% DV|
|Dietary Fiber 6 g||24% DV|
|Soluble Fiber 5 g||N/A|
|Iron 1.4 mg||8% DV|
|Sodium 10 mg||<1% DV|
|Potassium 70 mg||2% DV|
Appetite Control vs. Regular
There are several different types of Metamucil now. One popular type is the Appetite Control version. Is it different than regular Metamuscil described here? Here's how they stack up to each other side by side using 2 teaspoons of each:
|Metamucil Appetite Control (2 teaspoons)||Regular Metamucil (2 teaspoons)|
As can be seen, there doesn't appear to be a significant difference between them. Both types would be expected to work the same.
Metamucil Side Effects
Metamucil has been around a long time and I’m not aware of problems when it is used as directed. For healthy people Metamucil is very safe. With this in mind, here is a list of things worth mentioning for those who may try Metamucil for weight loss. This list is not a complete so if anyone has any medical issues, speak to their doctor for more personalized information.
- The product label tells us each teaspoon of Metamucil has 25 mg of phenylalanine. This is an amino acid some people have trouble processing. This can lead to a buildup of phenylalanine. For more information on this condition, called PKU, see this website.
- Like all fiber, taking in too much for dieting can lead to diarrhea. Really bad cases of diarrhea can lead to electrolyte imbalances which can cause irregular heart beating. Granted, this is a worst case scenario but I wanted to mention this just in case some took things to extreme by munching on fiber wafers all day and washing it down with Metamucil. That’s probably not a smart thing to do.
- Psyllium may lower blood sugar levels. This might interact with some diabetes medications.
- People with problems swallowing may be at a greater risk of choking and need to speak to their doctor first.
- Because Psyllium absorbs water, it’s important to drink enough liquids so as to allow the fiber to move smoothly though the intestines. Theoretically, lack of enough fluids might cause intestinal blockages. I think this is unlikely in most healthy people. Those who get intestinal blockages should speak to their doctor.
- Fiber may interfere with the absorption of iron as well as some medications, such as blood thinners. Stop taking Metamucil at least 2 weeks before surgery. If you take any medications, show Metamucil to your doctor or pharmacist to see if it is right for you.
IF you have specific questions about Metamucil, you can call their customer support number, 800-893-4237.
Does It Work?
The idea of fiber helping people lose weight is nothing new and, fiber has been the main ingredient in several weight loss supplements previously reviewed on this site. Because there are studies showing it works, I would not be surprised if some people said Metamucil curbed their appetite and helped them lose weight.
Personally, while I wouldn't call it the “Metamucil diet,” I have no problem with something that adds extra fiber, especially if it leads to people eating foods which also have fiber.
What do you think?