10 Popular Weight Loss Supplements Analyzed

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed on December 5, 2018

The rates of overweight and obese individuals are continually on the rise across the globe, including the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity among American adults in 2015-16 was 39.8%. In other words, 93.3 million people are overweight or obese (1). That’s a staggering number, right?

Weight gain occurs due to a number of reasons; predominantly unhealthy lifestyle characterized by lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet. Simple lifestyle modifications including dietary modifications such as limiting high salt, high fat, processed foods, incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly are vital for successful weight loss. Millions of people utilize dietary supplements to support their weight loss regimen, and this article focuses on different homeopathic options for weight loss that you can find today.

Green tea extract

Green tea is, besides water, commonly assumed to be one of the healthiest beverage in the world. Originating in China, green tea has an important role in traditional Chinese medicine and medicinal practices of other cultures. The health potential of green tea is attributed to its antioxidants and nutrients. Green tea is a popular ingredient in weight loss supplements today.

Studies have shown that green tea may assist in increasing fat burning (2) and boost metabolic rate (3), which might help people slim down. Intake of green tea contributes to weight loss because the extract enhances (4) the activity of norepinephrine, a hormone that participates in fat loss.

Studies have shown green tea to assist in burning abdominal fat (5), which is usually stubborn. However, other studies on the herb have failed to show similar results despite having identical patient populations. The study that demonstrated green tea’s effects on belly fat involved patients who were already engaging in moderate exercise 2-4 times a week. So while this study highlighted green tea’s results, keep in mind that weight loss differs with the individual. Nevertheless, green tea is well-tolerated and has a low risk of side effects.

Garcinia cambogia extract

Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit that looks like a cross between a tomato and a pumpkin. The fruit is native to Southeast Asia and India from where it is exported across the globe. Garcinia cambogia extract has become a popular ingredient in weight loss supplements over the years.

Weight loss benefits of garcinia could be down to hydroxycitric acid (HCA), the active ingredient of this fruit. Studies show that hydroxycitrate inhibits (6) a fat-producing enzyme in the body. The active compound also increases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a role in happiness, wellbeing, and our appetite. With increased serotonin our appetites and craving are curbed, leading to weight loss (7).

When it comes to the efficacy of garcinia, studies show mixed results. Some studies show that garcinia isn’t any different (8) compared to placebo while others reveal (9) the supplement exhibited mild weight loss effects. Subjects in studies experienced few adverse reactions to the supplement.

Caffeine

Most people can’t imagine starting their day without a cup of coffee. You need that caffeine kick to boost energy levels, keep you alert, and so much more. Although it has been demonized, caffeine has been shown to possess some important health benefits with weight loss being one of them. You’ve probably noticed caffeine is in the formula of a vast majority of weight loss supplements, and that’s not a coincidence.

Caffeine works by stimulating the nervous system which sends direct signals to release endorphins such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. These endorphins stimulate the body to increase its metabolic rate, to promote thermogenesis (10), and increase energy expenditure. Caffeine should not be consumed in excessive quantities due to health concerns about increased blood pressure and/or heart rate. The effects are also extremely user and dose-dependent. It might have weaker responses in an individual who consumes caffeine regularly compared to counterparts who don’t.

Cayenne pepper

Cayenne is a red chili pepper with amazing health potential. The pepper contains capsaicin which is responsible for a vast majority of its health benefits and potentially including weight loss. Studies reveal (11) that capsaicin can accelerate metabolism (in varying degrees), which would potentially increase the number of calories you burn during the day.

Capsaicin may also reduce the hunger by increasing the feeling of fullness (12). As a result, it can become easier to avoid overeating in some individuals; keep in mind that everyone’s tolerance to pepper is variable. While some individuals have low thresholds, this can impact their ability to continue eating meals if they feel as if their mouths are burning. Those with high affinity for cayenne pepper might not see as much of an effect on curbing overeating. A major reason why people gain weight so fast today is that they tend to overeat, but cayenne pepper can help skip that obstacle. One small study (13) found that capsaicin decreases levels of ghrelin (not statistically significant), a hormone responsible for stimulating hunger. Effects of cayenne pepper may dampen with long-term use.

Raspberry ketones

Raspberry ketones are phenolic compounds found in raspberries and dubbed incredibly beneficial for our health, particularly weight management. The molecular structure of ketones is very similar to capsaicin found in chili peppers.

Supplementation with raspberry ketones may help you slim down by increasing breakdown of fat (14) and enhancing levels of adiponectin, a hormone that is associated with weight loss. At this point, there are no studies which evaluated the effects of raspberry ketones on humans. Current evidence is based on research carried out on rats.

Ginger

Ginger is considered one of the healthiest spices on the planet. It contains powerful bioactive compounds that alleviate inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, and so much more. What many people aren’t aware of is that supplementation with ginger can possibly promote weight loss.

Evidence confirms that ginger and its constituents exhibit beneficial effects (15) against obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and related disorders. A meta-analysis of the available evidence found (16) that ginger intake reduces body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, hip ratio.
Ginger may promote weight loss by accelerating the metabolic rate and fat burning while reducing appetite and fat absorption at the same time. Ginger is a well-tolerated supplement and a common ingredient in meals.

Glucomannan

You’ve probably seen glucomannan on the ingredient list of many supplements and wondered what it is actually. Glucomannan is a complex sugar and a dietary fiber which has become a popular weight loss tool in Europe. The most frequently used type of glucomannan today is from konjac, a plant native to Asia.

Glucomannan works through several mechanisms (17) such as reduced absorption of protein and fat and taking up space in the stomach to promote the sensation of fullness. At the same time, this dietary fiber delays stomach emptying to help you stay full and avoid overeating. Once ingested, it increases in size, and you consume a lower amount of food. Concerns should be known that this substance can cause choking and bowel obstruction when not consumed with adequate amounts of fluid. It can also induce bloating, diarrhea, and increased triglyceride levels.

A study (18) carried out on human subjects found that glucomannan can, indeed, induce body weight reduction. However, other research (19) since then has found that glucomannan didn’t promote weight loss, the feeling of fullness, and other parameters. So while it may appear to be a super weight loss drug, it still cannot be deemed as an effective weight loss element.

Turmeric

Turmeric is one of the most potent plants in the world and a reason why curry has its vibrant color. Health benefits of turmeric are numerous, and they come down to the active compound called curcumin. Curcumin has the amazing potential to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, improve heart health, and support our overall health and wellbeing which also includes weight loss.

A small study (20) of 44 overweight subjects found that supplementation with curcumin twice a day for a month has the potential to enhance weight loss by up to five percent and it decreases body fat. However, this study focused on patients who currently suffer from diabetes mellitus and predominantly have abdominal fat, which does not necessarily cover the bulk of overweight individuals. Curcumin can potentially decrease body weight and body fat by blocking the synthesis of fat (21). While additional studies on this subject are necessary, current evidence is seen as promising due to the fact that turmeric has been associated with improving health conditions commonly linked with obesity.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a group of chemicals found in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid found mostly in plant oils. The main dietary sources of CLA are meat and milk of cows, sheep, and goats. Initially, CLA was researched for cancer-fighting purposes, but in the meantime, it was discovered it could also promote weight management. In fact, CLA is among the most researched weight loss supplements in the world.

CLA promotes weight loss through various mechanisms (22) such as decreasing energy intake by suppressing appetite, increasing energy expenditure, reducing lipogenesis or adipogenesis, enhancing lipolysis or delipidation, and it can also decrease inflammation and address insulin resistance. Even though most studies involved animals, human research (23) shows that CLA can lead to modest weight loss. Some persons may experience various digestive side effects due to supplementation with CLA, but generally, it is well-tolerated.

Green coffee bean

Green coffee bean is, as you can already conclude, an extract obtained from coffee beans that aren’t roasted, i.e. while they are still green. Many weight loss supplements contain this ingredient due to high chlorogenic acid content, an active compound associated with weight-reducing effects.

Evidence of the efficacy of green coffee bean on weight loss is promising. A study (24) of 20 healthy participants found that supplementation with green coffee bean extract could possibly reduce BMI and body fat even without changes in caloric intake. Also, a review (25) and meta-analysis of evidence on this subject showed that green coffee bean extract has the potential to decrease body weight by 5.5 lbs (2.5kg) on average, but quality and size of the studies is limited.

Green coffee bean extract works by increasing fat burning in the body, and it slows the breakdown of carbs in the gut. The same ingredient has been linked to other positive effects such as regulation of blood pressure and lowering of blood sugar levels. High amounts of green coffee bean can cause side effects such as jitteriness, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, diarrhea all which also happen to be adverse reactions associated with caffeine.

Forskolin

Although the word forskolin may seem unfamiliar to some people, it’s safe to say we’re going to hear (or read) more about it in the near future. Forskolin is made from a root of the plant that belongs to the mint family. This particular plant grows in India, Nepal, and Thailand.
At this point, evidence on this subject is limited, but due to the increasing popularity of the supplement, it’s necessary to address the subject. One animal study (26) found that forskolin-stimulated lipolysis and inhibited body weight increase by increasing concentration of cAMP, a compound plays a role in the fat burning process. Forskolin is particularly effective when used in combination with rolipram. That particular study was conducted on rats.

Forskolin studies on humans are limited, but they’re not nonexistent. In one study (27) oral ingestion of forskolin for 12 weeks had a favorable influence on body composition while increasing bone mass and testosterone levels in overweight and obese men. Forskolin decreased fat mass and body fat percentage (but not statistically significant). A different study (28) focused on women and found that supplementation with forskolin was able to mitigate gains in body mass, but it didn’t change body weight. Subjects reported less fatigue and hunger. Scientists concluded the supplement could be more effective in managing weight rather than boosting weight loss.

Conclusion

The dietary supplement industry keeps growing, and weight loss products are among the best-sellers. People across the globe take supplements to support their weight loss endeavors. These products use various ingredients, and, as seen in this article, many of them are associated with weight loss. When choosing a supplement, it’s useful to read the label thoroughly and opt for products that contain truly powerful compounds that make a difference in your weight and body fat percentage. Also, make sure to discuss significant changes in your diet/routine with your primary care doctor in order to avoid any possible complications.

References

(1) https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16840650
(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23235664
(4) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938410000703
(5) https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/139/2/264/4750912
(6) http://www.jbc.org/content/246/3/629.long
(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12349913
(8) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/188147
(9) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2011/509038/
(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2912010
(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21093467
(12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15611784
(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2695870/
(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20425690
(15) https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/nyas.13375
(16) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29393665
(17) https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/2/272S/4686350
(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15614200
(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3892933/
(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26592847
(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19297423
(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2826589/
(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17490954
(24) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4123567/
(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2943088/
(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24520882
(27) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2005.162
(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129145/

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