Top Ingredients Used in Weight Loss Supplements
Weight loss can be a tedious task. At times, exercise and caloric restriction just don’t seem to be enough to help you shed pounds. Thus, weight loss supplements have been hyped up due to claims that they can fill in the weight loss gap where calorie restriction and exercise fall short. However, there is also ongoing controversy surrounding weight loss supplements and their true effectiveness. Weight loss supplements come with their own risks, and if abused, may lead to serious health problems.
What ingredients are used in weight loss supplements?
This article takes a brief look at the main ingredients in many weight loss supplements that are being marketed today.
The following list includes ingredients that are often found in combinations of weight loss supplements.
Caffeine: Caffeine is a common ingredient in beverages like tea and coffee and has been widely recognized for its stimulation effects on the brain. As a weight loss supplement, caffeine may help suppress the appetite and reduce one’s tendency to overeat. At the same time, it has been shown to temporarily increase the body’s metabolism and promote fat burning, thus aiding in increased calorie burn. However, too much caffeine can do more harm than good and has been shown to cause anxiety, sleeplessness, diarrhea, dizziness, and overstimulation of the central nervous system. It is advised to consume caffeine in moderation.
Green Tea: This tea is rich in potent antioxidants. Green tea contains sufficient amounts of caffeine, enough to provide mild boosting effects on metabolism. However, the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a type of catechin, is what truly provides weight loss benefits. EGCG stops the breakdown of norepinephrine, a hormone that helps mobilize fat from the fat cells and brings it into circulation in order for the body to utilize it for energy.
Some studies have revealed EGCG’s ability to increase the body’s metabolic rate, thus helping the body burn more calories throughout the day. Green tea has also been shown to regulate cortisol, which is critical for blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. Remember, a moderate amount of caffeine enhances the efficacy of EGCG, but too much caffeine can mitigate its effects.
However, there is concern that Green Tea Extract supplements may pose harm to some people because it’s green tea but in a very concentrated form. Consumer Reports actually advises against the use of Green Tea Extract in pill form.
Taurine: Taurine is an important amino acid that possesses many benefits for the human body. It has many essential roles and is located in the brain, retina, heart, and muscle tissue and has been studied for a myriad of reasons, including its potential fat-burning abilities. In research studies, taurine demonstrated anti-adipogenesis activity in the weight-gain promoting “white” fat. Adipogenesis is the process of building fat cells in the body. Taurine may also help reduce body fat by supporting the breakdown of fat and may help enhance fat-burning during exercise. Taurine may also improve sports performance, regulate blood sugar, and protect liver cells. When taken in moderation, it is considered very safe, with no known side effects.
Sesamin: Sesamin is the main polyphenol compound in sesame seeds/oil that has been shown to activate a particular receptor located in several organs, including the kidneys, heart, and liver. It can also be found in the muscle. This receptor is called Peroxisome Proliferator-Activator Receptor Alpha (PPARalpha) or PPAR. Studies revealed that PPAR plays a role in fat metabolism. When PPAR is activated, the genes responsible for fat burning are stimulated, and the genes that are responsible for fat storage are reduced.
Additionally, findings from a Japanese study showed that sesamin may also help with fat burning by boosting the fat-burning abilities of the liver, and may help the body retain its lean muscle. However, if one takes sesamin for weight loss, they should be mindful that it could slightly lower levels of important healthy omega-3 fat, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in the body. Extra supplementation of EPA may be necessary.
L-tyrosine: L-tyrosine is an amino acid essential for the synthesis of brain neurotransmitters (e.g. dopamine). It has a role in the regulation of certain glands like the adrenals and the thyroid, which play a vital role in weight management. Regarding L-tyrosine’s direct role in weight loss, there have been mixed results, as there have been zero studies conducted to test its direct effect on weight loss. L-tyrosine is not recommended for people with hypertension (high blood pressure).
Green Coffee Bean Extracts: The elements of the coffee bean, extracted before they are roasted, are called green coffee bean extracts. These extracts are rich in chlorogenic content since they are not exposed to heat. This triggers the antioxidant properties of the coffee beans. Their high chlorogenic content promotes fat catabolism and may aid weight loss. It may also help regulate blood sugar, proving that green coffee bean extract may have an anti-diabetic effect on the body. Thus, it may be helpful for people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, WebMD cautions that very high doses of chlorogenic acid “for a short duration has caused increased plasma homocysteine levels, which may be associated with conditions such as heart disease.“
Lower concentrations of chlorogenic acid can be found in apples, artichoke, carrots, eggplants, grapes, honeysuckle, kiwi fruit, pears, plums, potatoes, and tea.
Coleus Forskohlii: Coleus Forskohlii is an herb that has a significant role in Ayurveda medicine. Studies suggest the role of forskolin, an active ingredient of Coleus Forskohlii may help with weight loss. At the molecular level, forskolin is thought to activate an enzyme called adenylate cyclase, which is involved in several natural processes, including weight regulation. Activation of adenylate cyclase results in the release of free fatty acids from cells, allowing them to be burned by the body.
Forskolin is believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and appetite suppressant effects. Decreasing the appetite helps to reduce the desire to eat, which ultimately helps cut down on calories consumed. Anti-inflammatory qualities of the herb may also ease the symptoms of inflammatory conditions of the bowel.
Synephrine (Bitter Orange): Synephrine is an alkaloid present in a few weight loss supplements. According to LegionAthletics.com, one way that synephrine may help drop stubborn fat is by blocking certain receptors that make it difficult for fat to leave the fat cells. Synephrine has been shown to impede the function of the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors in fat cells. Alpha-2-receptors in fat cells make it difficult for people to drop “stubborn fat.”
Other ways of blocking the activity of the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors for fat cells include improving blood flow and intermittent fasting. To get the most of synephrine, it is recommended to combine it with exercise.
Yohimbe Bark Extract: This is an extract from a central African tree that is used as a weight-loss supplement. It contains specific chemicals that act on alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, which causes the mobilization of fats from adipose tissue (fat cells). Once the fats are in the bloodstream, they can be effectively used for energy. Yohimbine, the active chemical in the extract, has been prescribed to treat several conditions (e.g. erectile dysfunction) and is also used for weight loss. However, caution is needed with the dosage of this extract, as it may have serious effects on one’s heart and blood vessels, resulting in a number of side effects. Use caution when taking Yohimbe bark extract in combination with other medications since this can also lead to serious heart problems.
L-Carnitine: This amino acid plays an essential role in transporting fatty acids to muscle cells where they can be used for energy. Low levels of this amino acid lead to the accumulation of fatty acids, thereby increasing fat storage in the body. L-carnitine is also known for enhancing insulin sensitivity and improving metabolism, both of which aid weight loss.
Raspberry Ketones: These are the aromatic compounds in red raspberries that give these berries their powerful smell. However, they do much more than just act as a flavor and an aroma- they may also promote weight loss. Raspberry ketones may increase lipolysis by making the cells respond to norepinephrine, a hormone that helps mobilize fat from the fat cells. This brings it into circulation so the body can use it for energy.
In studies with mice, raspberry ketones were also responsible for inducing fat cells to release adiponectin, which is a hormone in the fat cells that has several functions including glucose, appetite, and weight regulation. Note that the effects of raspberry ketones may not be as significant as the companies who manufacture these supplements like to claim.
Irvingia Gabonensis (African mango): This is a tree producing a particular fruit that resembles mangoes. The fruit is juicy and widely preferred by the local community, but its seeds are what contain the useful ingredients for weight loss. The extract may aid in regulating blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels.
Aframomum Melegueta (Grains of Paradise): This seed is a relative of the ginger family. It is a native West African remedy known to treat diarrhea, stomach aches, and helps ease hypertension. The compounds in Aframomum Melegueta may increase the metabolic rate of the body by stimulating fat burning in brown adipose tissue (i.e., brown fat). Part of the weight-loss ability of Aframomum is also due to its potential effect on blood glucose. In studies, Aframomum Melegueta lowered blood glucose levels, potentially having a positive blood sugar regulation effect on the body.
Garcinia Cambogia: This fruit contains Hydroxycitric acid (HCA), a compound that may aid in weight loss. HCA may inhibit an enzyme called citrate lyase, which has an essential role in fat synthesis (the process of creating fat). Blocking citrate lyase reduces the production of new fat in the body. High-quality Garcinia Cambogia products have at least 50-60% HCA.
Sphaeranthus Indicus (flower) and Garcinia Mangostana (herb): When combined, these two items have been shown to induce weight loss. According to Healthline.com, researchers claim they may aid in weight loss by slowing down the rate at which fat cells multiply, reducing fat cells’ ability to absorb fat from the bloodstream, and assisting fat cells with burning their own fat. Sphaeranthus Indicus has been shown to regulate blood glucose levels.
Bacopa Leaf Extract: This may boost metabolism and decrease weight by working directly on the thyroid gland. A few studies noted its ability to increase thyroid hormones, which affect every cell in the body, and their efficiency results in a higher metabolism. Bacopa leaf extract has also been shown to enhance the performance of the liver.
L-theanine: This is a common ingredient in green teas that are directed toward weight loss. It has the potential to rev the metabolism and help the body burn fat. L-theanine is also capable of reducing stress levels and this can reduce cortisol levels in the body. Chronically high cortisol levels can have serious consequences, including inducing weight gain, especially in the abdominal area. L-theanine possesses mood-enhancing properties as well.
Ursolic Acid: This has been shown to decrease the secretion of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger. Decreasing ghrelin helps to decrease appetite, which in turn encourages weight loss. Ursolic acid has also been shown to promote the development of muscle and increase brown fat, thus helping the body burn fat. As lean muscle increases, the basal metabolic rate of the body also goes up. This raises metabolism, helping one to burn fat and lose weight at a faster rate. Studies revealed that ursolic acid has also been shown to help with fatty liver disease and may reduce obesity levels. Ursolic acid can be found in foods and herbs such as rosemary, holy basil, peppermint, lavender, thyme, oregano, apples, pears, bilberries, cranberries, pears, and prunes.
Chrysin: This is known in the bodybuilding world for its aromatase inhibitor properties. Aromatase is an enzyme in the body capable of converting androgens (like testosterone) into estrogen. Testosterone enhances the development of lean muscle and promotes weight loss. While chrysin is mainly known for inhibiting testosterone conversion, some studies have noted its potential to adversely affect thyroid hormones.
Chaga Mushroom: This is often consumed as a tea but can also be purchased in pill and powder forms. Mainly researched for its potential cancer-preventing properties, Chaga mushroom has been found to act as an appetite suppressant, which also helps reduce cravings for certain foods. Chaga mushroom is rich in many vitamins and minerals such as copper, zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, B3, and D2.
Capsaicin: This is an active ingredient in hot chili peppers which may induce weight loss by reducing the appetite and cravings for certain foods. Capsaicin may also aid metabolism by giving it a much-needed boost to burn calories.
Saffron Extract: This is an ingredient commonly found in the kitchen, but it may have immense benefits for weight loss as well. The herb has an inherent ability to increase the secretion of a neurotransmitter called serotonin (a.k.a. the ‘happy hormone’). Serotonin has been shown to improve mood and increase feelings of satiety while acting as an appetite suppressant simultaneously.
All these herbs and extracts influence the body in their own manner. However, it should be noted that, while these supplements could offer some assistance with weight loss, there is no guarantee they will work for you. They demonstrated fat-burning effects in research studies. But keep in mind, the results may not be as significant as the companies who manufacture these supplements like to claim. There are no magic weight loss pills, and each supplement has different effects on every individual. Weight loss supplements are just that: supplements. The ingredients listed here are mere to supplement a healthy eating and fitness plan.
Regardless of the number of weight loss supplements taken, if certain issues are not being addressed, that prevent these supplements from working to their full capacity, then it may result in wasted money. Just because an herbal supplement is natural, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe for the individual to ingest it.
If you are interested in taking weight loss supplements, be sure to discuss options with your doctor or a medical professional first.
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