There are plenty of herbal supplement for weight loss out there. However, the best weight loss supplement is Forskolin. Losing weight is a long, difficult and sometimes discouraging journey. The key is not to get discouraged. There are so many weight loss programs, diets, diet pills and fad diets. It becomes important to be conscious of which one works for you and which one can lead to serious complications.
Herbal Remedies for Weight Loss
By Dónal P. O’Mathùna, PhD, Senior Lecturer in Ethics, Decision-Making & Evidence, School of Nursing, Dublin City University, Ireland. Dr. O’Mathùna reports no financial relationship to this field of study.
Obesity continues to raise concerns, in spite of greater public awareness of its associated problems and challenges. Many who seek to lose weight use herbal remedies and dietary supplements as one of their strategies. A 2008 U.S. survey found that one-third of adults making a serious attempt to lose weight had used a weight loss dietary supplement. In addition, half of those surveyed believed that dietary supplements were evaluated for safety and efficacy before being marketed, which is not always the case. Many herbal weight loss products have limited evidence of effectiveness. Adverse effects could become widespread if an unsafe herb is promoted, which happened before ephedra was banned.
Given the links between body weight and health, health care practitioners will be asked about ways to help people lose weight. Since many patients already are using herbal remedies, they may have questions about the products’ use or effects. Practitioners should therefore be aware of the available evidence for the most popular weight loss supplements. Given the large number of such products available, this article will focus on herbal remedies those prepared from plant material. Discussion also will be limited to products containing one herb, rather than combinations of herbs. The herbs are introduced
Acai berries come from a South American palm tree, Euterpe oleracea. The fruit has been an important source of protein for people living in the Amazon jungle. Because it leaves people feeling full, it developed a reputation as an appetite suppressant. After being mentioned (but not endorsed) on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2008, it was promoted widely as a weight loss supplement. According to the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, demand for the berries led to their wholesale price in Brazil increasing 60-fold in recent years. Soon the people in the Amazon could not afford the berries.
Acai berries and juice are nutritious, containing vitamins A, C, and E, along with calcium, iron, and several fatty acids. The juice and fruit pulp are relatively high in protein and fat, which may explain why people feel full after consuming them. The berries are high in antioxidants, and lead to significantly elevated plasma antioxidant capacity in humans. However, no studies have been published on acai’s ability to help people lose weight and how it might act to promote weight loss is not known.
Bitter orange is an extract from the rind of the fruit of the tree Citrus aurantium whose fruit is primarily used to make marmalade. Following the 2004 FDA ban of ephedra for safety reasons, many manufacturers replaced it with bitter orange to make “ephedra-free” supplements. Bitter orange contains synephrine alkaloids that are adrenergic agonists. At least six isomers of synephrine exist with varying alpha- and beta-adrenergic activity, though it is unclear how many of these isomers occur in bitter orange. Three small randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been conducted with bitter orange, but only in combination with other ingredients like caffeine, St John’s wort, ginseng, or gingko. These studies reported weight loss of 2-3 kg among those using the supplements, with the placebo groups losing 1-2 kg. Since synephrine has similar effects to ephedrine, concerns have been raised that it may cause similar adverse effects. A number of case reports of cardiac problems after taking bitter orange products have been published. However, a recent safety review noted that those experiencing adverse effects in these cases had consumed several supplements, while controlled studies have not identified adverse effects.
Cissus quadrangularis (or CQ) has been used medicinally in India and Africa as an anti-inflammatory and to promote healing, especially of bone fractures. Recent studies have examined its ability to reduce weight and body fat. In combination with its traditional use in promoting bone healing, this has made it popular among body-builders. Proposals have been made that CQ inhibits enzymes that metabolize food, thus making it more difficult to absorb.
The first study of CQ for weight loss involved 123 obese and overweight participants from Cameroon. People were randomly assigned to receive either placebo, CQ with a calorie-reduced diet, or CQ without the diet. After 8 weeks, those who were obese had significantly reduced weight, percent body fat, and BMI compared to placebo. Those who were overweight did not have significant reductions in weight or body fat, but did have lower BMI. All groups also had significant improvements in plasma cholesterol, C-reactive protein, and glucose levels.
The same research group carried out another RCT using a commercial CQ extract and another combination product containing CQ and other ingredients (called CORE). The 168 participants were randomly assigned to one of the supplements or placebo and either to a normal diet or a calorie-restricted diet. After 8 weeks of CORE or 6 weeks of CQ, participants had significantly reduced weight compared to placebo (P < 0.05). Although reductions occurred in percent body fat and BMI, these were not reported as statistically significant compared to placebo. All groups also had significant improvements compared to placebo in antioxidant capacity and total cholesterol levels, but not glucose levels.
A third study of CQ randomly assigned 72 obese or overweight participants to either placebo, CQ, or a combination of CQ and Irvingia gabonensis. After 10 weeks, those receiving CQ alone had significant weight loss compared to placebo (8.7 kg loss; P < 0.001), with those receiving the combination losing more weight (11.8 kg loss; P < 0.0001). Percent body fat, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose levels also improved significantly. Adverse effects reported in these studies were similar to those in the placebo group, and included headache, flatulence, diarrhea, and difficulty sleeping.
Garcinia cambogia has developed a reputation among those seeking to lose weight and build muscle. Extracts of the fruit contain up to 50 percent hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which is thought to be the active ingredient. This is believed to interfere with fatty acid metabolism, but precisely how it works is not known. One of the first RCTs evaluating this agent involved 135 participants, mostly women. All subjects went on a high-fiber, low-calorie diet and took either 3 g daily standardized extract of Garcinia or placebo. After 12 weeks, both groups lost weight and decreased percent body fat, but without significant differences between the two groups. In another RCT, 89 overweight women started a low-calorie diet and took either 2.4 g Garcinia daily or placebo.16 After 12 weeks, the Garcinia group had significantly more weight loss (3.7 kg vs 2.4 kg), but the groups did not differ in measures of appetite suppression.
Several other RCTs have had conflicting results. A systematic review published in 2011 identified 12 RCTs involving Garcinia products for weight loss.17 Nine studies provided sufficient data to permit a meta-analysis. The combined results found significantly more weight loss among those using Garcinia compared to placebo (P = 0.05; CI = -1.75 to 0.00). However, the mean difference was 0.88 kg, or 1 percent more weight loss, which led the reviewers to question if this was clinically significant. When sensitivity analyses were performed to take heterogeneity and study quality into account, the weight loss was no longer significant.
Controlled studies, animal studies, and traditional consumption of Garcinia fruit have not identified serious adverse effects beyond those of placebos. However, in 2009, FDA warned consumers to stop a range of Garcinia products called Hydroxycut. The recall was based on 23 serious adverse events reported after people consumed Hydroxycut. Most reports related to liver damage, including one liver transplant and one death. Its manufacturer withdrew the products, though they have since returned to the market reformulated with Garcinia replaced by Cissus quadrangularis. Others have questioned the association with HCA or Garcinia as Hydroxycut products contain up to 20 different ingredients.
Another traditional food that has become a popular weight loss supplement is Hoodia gordonii. This is believed to be one of the most widely consumed herbal weight loss products. The hoodia plant looks like a cactus and grows in the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa. The San people used it to suppress their hunger when they went on long hunting expeditions. A South African research council identified hoodia as a potential appetite suppressant. Western pharmaceutical companies obtained licenses to develop it as a pharmaceutical, but in 2003 this was halted for reasons that remain unclear. Hoodia has since been incorporated into supplements and foods as a slimming agent, and become a test case for issues in bio-piracy and indigenous knowledge. This has led to hoodia becoming an endangered species and to stringent conservation regulations.
A UK pharmaceutical company, Phytopharm, isolated one ingredient from hoodia and named it P57. This appears to stimulate the brain to trigger a full feeling in mice. Phytopharm issued a press release stating that a 15-day RCT with 18 people found that those taking P57 had significantly reduced calorie intake and body fat. An uncontrolled study found that 7 participants lost an average of 3.3 percent body weight after taking hoodia for 28 days
Can dietary supplements help me lose weight?
“Eat! Eat! Eat! And Always Stay Thin! No Diet, No Exercise!” Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, you’ll have a hard time responding to this particular ad. For one thing, it dates to the early 1900’s. And, to make matters worse, pharmacies no longer sell the miracle product: sanitized tape worms.
Weight loss products have changed in the last century, but the pitches remain the same. Indeed, many herbs, supplements, and diet pills promise results that would put even the most efficient tape worms to shame. Of course, it’s no secret that many of these products are fraudulent. But is it possible that a few of them really can live up to their claims?
Here’s a look at some popular herbs and dietary supplements that have at least some potential to help people lose weight. As you’ll see, however, the search for a “magic fat burning pill” is far from over. In the meantime, it’s good to know which of these supplements are not only unproven, but potentially dangerous.
This mineral, found in tiny amounts in almost all foods, helps the body burn fat, build muscle, and control blood sugar. A little chromium is essential to good health, but does that mean extra chromium must be extra healthy?
Supplement marketers and manufacturers claim that chromium pills are a shortcut to the perfect body, but the benefits are far from certain. For one thing, chromium is a nutrient and not a drug, which means it can only help people who don’t get enough chromium in their diet. And while a few studies have found that chromium supplements apparently lead to small gains in muscle and modest weight loss (as in roughly 2 pounds of fat lost per month), several recent studies have found no such effects.
Richard A. Anderson, lead scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, has studied chromium supplements in many contexts over the last 20 years, and he’s never seen the supplements change a person’s body weight. Dr. Anderson summed up his opinion of the supplements in the journal Nutrition Reviews: “Chromium is only a small part of the puzzle in weight loss and body composition, and its effects, if present, will be small compared with those of exercise and a well-balanced diet.”
Ephedra (ma huang)
Watch out for this one. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of pills containing ephedra in 2004, but unscrupulous suppliers still offer it online. Ephedra was a key ingredient in so-called “natural” herbal alternatives to the now-banned prescription anti-obesity drug known as “fen-phen”. The FDA considers “herbal fen-phen” products to be unapproved drugs that have not been proven safe or effective and that contain ingredients linked to numerous injuries.
Ephedra is the natural source of the amphetamine-like stimulant ephedrine. Its key ingredient can act as a powerful decongestant, suppress appetite, and speed the burning of fat, but in diet pills, the dangers of ephedra far outweigh the benefits. Before banning ephedra products, the FDA logged over 1,000 serious reactions that may have been linked to the herb, including 38 deaths. The reactions included soaring blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, tremors, seizures, heart attack, and stroke. In any case, ephedra can’t make a big dent in your waistline. According to a report in the journal Obesity Research, Danish researchers found that ephedrine combined with caffeine helped obese patients on a strict diet lose an extra 7.5 pounds over six months compared with patients who simply dieted. Any product that promised to “melt away almost eight pounds in just six months” wouldn’t exactly fly off the shelves.
HCA, short for hydroxycitric acid, is an herbal extract found in at least 14 commercial weight-loss drugs. The chemical, which is distilled from a family of plants native to India, supposedly suppresses the appetite and slows down the conversion of carbohydrates into fat.
While the compound really can help fat rodents slim down, it may not have the same effect of people. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from Columbia University gave HCA supplements (1,500 milligrams each day) to 66 overweight patients. Another 69 patients took a daily placebo, or dummy pill. All of the subjects were on a high-fiber, low-calorie diet throughout the study. Twelve weeks later, patients in both groups had lost weight, but researchers concluded that HCA failed to produce significant weight loss.
This natural compound found in all plants and animals has gained wide popularity as a muscle builder and weight-loss aid. Our cells produce pyruvate when we take energy from sugar, and some studies suggest that pyruvate supplements help burn calories.
Marketers claim pyruvate is a natural alternative to prescription diet drugs such as phentermine and fenfluramine (phen-fen), but a recent report in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition calls such statements false and misleading. There’s no evidence that pyruvate comes anywhere close to matching the slimming powers of prescription drugs. In one of the few human studies of pyruvate, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that overweight patients who took the supplements lost an extra 1.3 pounds over six weeks compared with patients who took a placebo. You should also be aware that ingesting large amounts of pyruvate can cause intestinal distress, bloating, and diarrhea.
Herbs for Weight Loss: Pros
Consuming certain herbs is one of the many approaches to reducing weight. Although herbs don’t make the pounds melt away magically, they promote weight loss by –
- increasing the metabolism (thermogenesis) thus encouraging the body to burn more calories, i.e., they act as stimulants;
- causing the body to excrete toxins and excess water, or in other words, they function as diuretics;
- suppressing appetite (reducing hunger);
- causing evacuation of the bowels; and
- reducing calorie consumption by tricking the brain into thinking the stomach is full