More than 15% of American adults now use a diet supplement to help them lose weight, opting for a range of products that claim either to suppress appetite, block fat absorption, or increase metabolism.
As a group, these products are called nutraceuticals, and many of them continue to be controversial. The FDA does not evaluate nutraceuticals, and most weight loss experts hesitate to recommend particular supplements because of a pervasive scarcity of clinical evidence. Many of the popular supplements currently on the market have undergone testing and have proven to contribute to weight loss, but even these products have skeptics due to the absence of long term clinical studies of possible side effects.
Currently Popular Supplements
The following is a summary of what is currently known (and not known) about the some of the most popular weight loss supplements:
Raspberry ketones gained instant notoriety in early 2012, when Dr. Mehmet Oz (TV’s “Dr. Oz”), called them “unquestionably the Number 1 Fat Burner on the Market.” Although their scientific mechanism is not yet fully understood, raspberry ketones are known to stimulate the body’s production of adiponectin, a hormone which modulates body fat.
It is believed that high potency doses of this supplement tend to break down (or “burn”) fat molecules. This theory has been corroborated in numerous studies on animals. Dr. OZ emphasizes that the raspberry ketones will only accomplish the best results when used as part of an overall weight loss plan that includes low calorie meals and exercise. You can watch the Dr. Oz video by clicking here.
Hydroxycut was introduced in 2002 by a Canadian Company called Muscle Tech research and Development. From 2002 until 2004 the product contained Ephedra. Ephedra is a chemical presumably effective for weight loss but also for boosting heart rate and blood pressure. Adverse effects resulting from Ephedra use included heart attacks, strokes, and seizures, and the FDA officially banned Ephedra in 2004.
In that same year Hydroxycut was purchased by lovate Health Sciences and the product was completely reformulated without Ephedra. Today’s Hydroxycut contains four principal ingredients, which are lady’s mantle, wild olive extract, wild mint extract, and Komijin extract. All four ingredients have individually and as a group been shown to be effective for weight loss, but probably as a result of its uneven history Hydroxycut remains somewhat controversial.
Hoodia Gordonii, is a stem succulent plant that grows in the Namib and Kalahari Deserts in Southern Africa. The plant has been used as an appetite suppressant for generations by the Bushmen who inhabit these deserts. In 2007 Unilever, PLC, one of world’s largest food companies, developed ambitious plans to use Hoodia Gordonii in a wide variety of its diet products.
However, in a document entitled “Sustainable Development 2008: An Overview,” Unilever stated that, after having invested 20 million pounds in R & D, it was ending its Hoodia project because “our clinical studies revealed that products using Hoodia would not meet our strict standards for safety and efficacy.” Despite Unilever’s decision, Hoodia has remained a popular appetite suppressant, and is available in tablet and capsule form.
Garcinia Cambogia is a small, pumpkin-shaped fruit, sometimes called a Tamarind. It comes from Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The natural extract from Garcinia is hydroxycitric acid (HCA), and its adherents claim it can double or triple weight loss. Garcinia acts as both a fat burner and an appetite suppressant.
It blocks fat by restricting an enzyme called citrate lyase, and it suppresses your appetite by increasing serotonin levels. Detractors often claim that prolonged use may cause testicular atrophy in men, but research on humans has never confirmed this. Dietary experts believe that for maximum effectiveness a Garcinia Camogia capsule should contain at least 60% HCA, it should contain some potassium as an ingredient, it should be taken on an empty stomach, and the daily dosage should be 1,600 milligrams.
Green Coffee Bean Extract
Green Coffee Beans are simply coffee beans that have not been roasted. Roasting reduces the amount of chlorogenic acid (GCA) in the coffee beans, which is their desirable weight loss component. GCA, in addition to assisting with weight loss, is believed to have benefits for heart disease and diabetes.
This supplement is a fat burner, and it works by inhibiting the release of sugar into the blood stream.
To be effective, Dr. Oz recommends the product you choose a) should contain either GCA or Svetol, b) have no fillers or binders, c) must be 100% vegetarian, and d) you should take 1,600 milligrams daily. To learn more about a product that meets all Dr. Oz’s criteria, click here.
As you can see, there is pretty much universal agreement that these supplements can aid in weight loss when used in conjunction with a low calorie diet and exercise, but there is less unanimity with regard to long term outcomes and side effects. It is very hard to really get the “warm fuzzies” about any of these products because of the scarcity of long term studies. So before deciding on the best supplement for you should do all the reading and research that you can, and use your supplement only as one part of your overall weight loss plan.