Top Ingredients Used in Weight Loss Supplements
Weight loss can be a tedious task. At times, exercise and caloric restriction doesn’t seem to be enough to help you shed pounds. Thus, weight loss supplements get 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 effectiveness. Weight loss supplements come with their risks, and if abused, they could lead to serious health problems.
This article takes a brief look at the main ingredients in many weight loss supplements marketed today.
What ingredients are used in weight loss supplements?
The following list includes ingredients that are often combined in weight loss supplements:
Caffeine: Caffeine is a common ingredient in beverages like tea and coffee. It is 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 may 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 may 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 and contains sufficient amounts of caffeine, enough to provide mild boosting effects on metabolism. However, the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) 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 for the body to utilize for energy.
Some studies have revealed that EGCG may increase the body’s metabolic rate, thus helping burn more calories throughout the day. Green tea has also been shown to regulate cortisol. Regulating cortisol is critical for blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. Remember, a moderate amount of caffeine enhances the efficacy of EGCG, but too much caffeine can mitigate its effects.
There is concern that Green Tea Extract supplements may harm some people because it’s green tea but in a very concentrated form. Consumer Reports advises against the use of Green Tea Extract in pill form.
Taurine: Taurine is an amino acid that possesses many benefits. It is located in the brain, retina, heart, and muscle tissue and has been studied for various reasons, including its potential fat-burning abilities.
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 may activate a particular receptor in several organs, including the kidneys, heart, muscles, and liver. 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 get stimulated. And the genes responsible for fat storage get reduced.
Additionally, findings from a Japanese study showed that sesamin could also help with fat burning by boosting the fat-burning abilities of the liver and may help the body retain its lean muscle. One word of caution, sesamin could lower the omega-3 fat and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) levels in the body. Extra supplementation of EPA may be necessary.
L-tyrosine: L-tyrosine is an amino acid essential for synthesizing brain neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine). It has a role in regulating 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 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 do not get exposed to heat. The lack of exposure to heat preserves the antioxidant properties of coffee beans.
In a 2016 study with mice, researchers discovered that chlorogenic content may promote fat catabolism and aid weight loss. It may also help regulate blood sugar as witnessed in a reported 2013 study with human participants. Thus, it may be helpful for people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
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 are in apples, artichokes, 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, could help with weight loss.
Forskolin may have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and appetite suppressant effects. The anti-inflammatory qualities of the herb may also ease the symptoms of inflammatory conditions of the bowel.
At the molecular level, forskolin appears 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 the body to burn them.
Synephrine (Bitter Orange): Synephrine is an alkaloid in a few weight loss supplements. According to references, synephrine may help weight loss by blocking specific receptors that stop fat from leaving the fat cells. Synephrine may 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.”
Synephrine works best when combined with exercise.
Yohimbe Bark Extract (Yohimbine HCI/L): This is an extract from a central African tree. It has specific chemicals that may block alpha-2 adrenergic receptors. Blocking these receptors helps the body burn more fat efficiently.
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 dangerous effects on one’s heart and blood vessels, resulting in several side effects. In weight loss supplements, it usually goes under Yohimbine HCI or HCL.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine: This amino acid plays a role in transporting fatty acids to muscle cells, where they get used for energy. Low levels of this amino acid lead to the accumulation of unhealthy fatty acids, thereby increasing fat storage in the body. Acetyl-L-carnitine is also known for enhancing insulin sensitivity and improving metabolism, both of which aid weight loss.
Raspberry Ketones: Raspberry Ketones may promote weight loss by increasing lipolysis. Lipolysis is the process of mobilizing fat from the fat cells. This process brings the fat into circulation, where the body can use it for energy.
In a mice study, raspberry ketones were also responsible for inducing fat cells to release adiponectin, a hormone in the fat cells with several functions, including glucose, appetite, and weight regulation.
It is important to note that the effects of raspberry ketones may not be as significant as the companies who manufacture supplements using them like to claim.
Irvingia Gabonensis (African mango): Irvingia Gabonensis or African mango is a tree that produces fruit nearly identical to mangoes. Its seeds contain the ingredients for potential weight loss as witnessed in a 2009 study with overweight human participants. A 2018 study with human participants suggested this extract may aid in regulating blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels.
Aframomum Melegueta (Grains of Paradise): This seed is a constituent of the ginger family. It is a native West African remedy known to treat diarrhea, and stomach aches and helps ease hypertension. Aframomum Melegueta may increase the metabolic rate by stimulating fat burning in brown adipose tissue (i.e., brown fat) as witnessed in a 2013 men’s study.
A 2014 study with human participants demonstrated Aframomum Melegueta’s potential to increase caloric burn and reduce body fat. In a 2011 study with mice, 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 substance that could aid weight loss by inhibiting an enzyme called citrate lyase. Citrate lyase has an essential role in fat synthesis (i.e., the process of creating fat). Blocking citrate lyase may reduce 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 compounds may 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. They may also assist fat cells with burning their fat. Sphaeranthus Indicus may regulate blood glucose levels.
Bacopa Leaf Extract: This extract may boost metabolism and decrease weight by working directly on the thyroid gland. A study with mice noted its potential to increase thyroid hormones, which affect every cell in the body, and their efficiency results in a higher metabolism. Bacopa leaf extract may enhance the performance of the liver.
L-theanine: This is a common ingredient in green teas. It has the potential to rev the metabolism and help the body burn fat. According to PyshcologyToday.com and supporting research, L-theanine is also capable of reducing stress levels, potentially reducing cortisol levels in the body.
Chronically high cortisol levels can have serious consequences, inducing weight gain, especially in the abdominal area. L-theanine may possess mood-enhancing properties as well.
Ursolic Acid: This phytochemical may regulate ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger. Regulating ghrelin helps to control appetite, which in turn encourages weight loss. According to a published 2012 study with mice, ursolic acid may promote muscle development and increase brown fat, thus, helping the body burn fat.
As lean muscle increases, the basal metabolic rate of the body also goes up. Studies revealed that ursolic acid may help with fatty liver disease and reduce obesity. Ursolic acid is in foods and herbs such as rosemary, holy basil, peppermint, lavender, thyme, oregano, apples (with the skin), 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.
While chrysin is mainly known for inhibiting testosterone conversion, some studies have noted its potential negative effect on thyroid hormones.
Chaga Mushroom: This mushroom is often consumed as tea but is available in pill and powder forms. Mainly researched for its potential cancer-prevention properties, the Chaga mushroom may act as an appetite suppressant, which also helps reduce cravings for certain foods.
Chaga mushroom contains many vitamins and minerals such as copper, zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, and D2.
Capsaicin: This active ingredient in hot chili peppers and some weight loss supplements 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 spice studied for everything from Alzheimer’s to libido may also have weight loss benefits. The herb has an inherent ability to increase the secretion of a neurotransmitter called serotonin (a.k.a. the happy hormone). Serotonin improves mood and increases feelings of satiety while acting as an appetite suppressant simultaneously.
All these herbs and extracts influence the body in their own way. 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 on mice and humans. But keep in mind, that 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 to supplement a healthy eating and fitness plan.
Regardless of the number of weight loss supplements taken, if specific issues do not get addressed that prevent these supplements from working to their capacity, it may result in wasted money.
If you are interested in taking weight loss supplements, be sure to discuss options with your doctor or a medical professional first. Just because an herbal supplement is natural, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe.
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5 Metabolism-Boosting Foods; By Lisa Lillien Updated on June 24, 2019; https://www.verywellfit.com/metabolism-boosting-foods-3865913
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Saffron for Emotional Health; Research shows some strong benefits for brain and mood;Posted Jan 10, 2016; Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc
Saffron Powerfully Modulates Anxiety and Depression; Trial pits saffron against antidepressant medication
By Mark Davis, ND; https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2016-12/saffron-powerfully-modulates-anxiety-and-depression
More specifically, a saffron extract might inhibit serotonin reuptake in synapses. Inhibiting synaptic serotonin reuptake keeps serotonin in the brain longer, thereby enhancing its positive effects while combating depression.; Siddiqui MJ, Saleh MSM, Basharuddin SNBB, et al. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.): As an Antidepressant. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2018;10(4):173‐180. doi:10.4103/JPBS.JPBS_83_18; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266642/#:~:text=More%20specifically%2C%20a%20saffron%20extract,positive%20effects%20while%20combating%20depression.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SAFFRON; MOODAUGUST 2, 2016BY BRAINMD LIFE; https://brainmd.com/blog/4-surprising-health-benefits-of-saffron/
Saffron spices up mental health research; by Cahli Samata, Particle; https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-04-saffron-spices-mental-health.html
The Health Benefits of Saffron; Learn if this spice can boost your mood and help with weight management; By Cathy Wong Medically reviewed by Richard Fogoros, MD