Get the skinny on weight loss. Discover what works for you to improve your chances of losing weight and keeping it off. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Aim for total nutrition with a multivitamin
Extra vitamins and minerals will help ensure your body gets the nutrition it needs, especially if you are avoiding certain foods.
Find a diet that fits
For long-term success, choose a healthy diet that you can stay with.
Create a custom exercise plan
Exercise you truly enjoy is much easier to stick to, so find activities that fit your personal style, fitness level, and workout opportunities.
Improve your chances for long-term weight loss by joining a group while you adjust to new diet and exercise habits.
Get a boost from pyruvate
Combining exercise with 6 to 10 grams a day of this supplement may help speed up your metabolism
Taking 600 to 900 mg of 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) per day may help curb your appetite.
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading for more in-depth, fully referenced information.
Follow in the footsteps of successful long-term dieters by avoiding too much fat and eating a regular breakfast.
Control appetite by controlling blood sugar
Choose foods with a low-glycemic index to help avoid blood sugar swings that can stimulate cravings.
Maintain your weight with exercise
Make exercise a regular habit to help keep body weight stable.
Avoid the yo-yo
Adopt realistic diet and lifestyle changes you can stick with, and get help forming healthier habits, to avoid frequent ups and downs in weight.
Spice up your diet
Add cayenne pepper to your meals to help curb appetite and increase calorie burning.
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading for more in-depth, fully referenced information.
About This Condition
About two-thirds of the adult U.S. population is overweight.1 Almost one-third not only exceeds ideal weight, but also meets the clinical criteria for obesity. In the 1990s, rates of obesity more than doubled, and are currently rising by over 5% per year.2, 3 Excess body weight is implicated as a risk factor for many different disorders, including heart disease, diabetes, several cancers (such as breast cancer in postmenopausal women, and cancers of the uterus, colon, and kidney), prostate enlargement (BPH), female infertility, uterine fibroids, and gallstones, as well as several disorders of pregnancy, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and gestational hypertension.4 The location of excess body fat may affect the amount of health risk associated with overweight. Increased abdominal fat, which can be estimated by waist size, may be especially hazardous to long-term health.5, 6
For overweight women, weight loss can significantly improve physical health. A four-year study of over 40,000 women found that weight loss in overweight women was associated with improved physical function and vitality as well as decreased bodily pain.7 The risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or other diseases increases in overweight men and women in all age groups.8 Losing weight and keeping it off is, unfortunately, very difficult for most people.9, 10 However, repeated weight loss followed by weight regain may be unhealthy, as it has been associated with increased heart disease risk factors and bone loss in some studies.11, 12 Rather than focusing on weight loss as the most important health outcome of a change in diet or lifestyle, some doctors advocate paying more attention to overall fitness and reduction in known risk factors for heart disease and other health hazards.13
Excess body mass has the one advantage of increasing bone mass—a protection against osteoporosis. Probably because of this, researchers have been able to show that people who successfully lose weight have greater loss of bone compared with those who do not lose weight.14 People who lose weight should, therefore, pay more attention to preventing osteoporosis.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
Many doctors give overweight patients a pill, a pep talk, and a pamphlet about diet and exercise, but that combination leads only to minor weight loss.15 When overweight people attend group sessions aimed at changing eating and exercise patterns, keep daily records of food intake and exercise, and eat a specific low-calorie diet the outcome is much more successful. Group sessions where participants are given information and help on how to make lifestyle changes appear to improve the chances of losing weight and keeping it off. Such changes may include shopping from a list, storing foods out of sight, keeping portion sizes under control, and avoiding fast-food restaurants.
According to most short-term studies, the effect of exercise alone (without dietary restriction) on weight loss is small,16, 17 partly because muscle mass often increases even while fat tissue is reduced,18 and perhaps because some exercising people will experience increased appetites. The long-term effect of regular exercise on weight loss is much better, and exercise appears to help people maintain weight loss.19, 20 People who have successfully maintained weight loss for over two years report continuing high levels of physical activity.21 Combining exercise with healthier eating habits results in the best short- and long-term effects on weight loss,22, 23 and should reduce the risk of many serious diseases.24, 25, 26
Avoid weight cycling
People who experience “weight cycling” (repetitive weight loss and gain) have a tendency toward binge eating (periods of compulsive overeating, but without the self-induced vomiting seen in bulimia), according to a review of numerous studies focusing on weight loss.27 The researchers also found an association between weight cycling and depression or poor body image. The most successful weight-loss programs (in which weight stays off, mood stays even, and no binge eating occurs) appear to use a combination of moderate caloric restriction, moderate exercise, and behavior modification, including examination and adjustment of eating habits.
The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.
Choose low-glycemic-index foods
Diets that emphasize choosing foods with a low glycemic index, such as vegetables and whole grains, have been shown to help control appetite in some studies.
Diets that emphasize choosing foods with a low glycemic index have been shown to help control appetite in some,28, 29, 30 though not all,31 controlled studies. A controlled study in two phases found no difference in weight loss between a low- and a high-glycemic-index diet in the first 12-week phase, but when the diets were switched for a second 12-week phase, the low-glycemic-index diet was significantly more effective for weight loss.32 A preliminary study reported that obese children using a low-glycemic-index diet lost more weight compared with a similar group using a low-fat diet.33
Feast on fiber
Fiber adds bulk to the diet and tends to produce a sense of fullness, helping people eat fewer calories.
Adequate amounts of dietary fiber are believed to be important for people wishing to lose weight. Fiber adds bulk to the diet and tends to produce a sense of fullness, helping people consume fewer calories.34 While research on the effect of fiber intake on weight loss has not produced consistent results,35 a recent review of weight-loss trials that did not restrict calories concluded that higher fiber diets improved weight-loss results, especially in people who were overweight.36
Try a low-carb, high-protein diet
Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are popular among people trying to lose weight. Some research suggests that their effectiveness is due to the fact that people eat fewer calories while on them.
Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets such as the Atkins diet are very popular among people trying to lose weight. In a preliminary study, overweight individuals who adhered to a very-low-carbohydrate diet (25 grams per day initially, increased to 50 grams per day after a certain weight loss target was achieved), with no limit on total calorie intake, lost on average more than 10% of their body weight over a six-month period.37 The participants also engaged in aerobic exercise at least three times a week, so it is not clear how much of the weight loss was due to the diet. An analysis of other preliminary studies of this type of diet concluded that its effectiveness is primarily due to reduced calorie intake.38 Recently, three controlled trials found people using low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets lost more weight in six months than those using diets low in fat and calories.39, 40, 41 However, 20 to 40% of these dieters did not stay on their diets, and were not counted in the results. In addition, one of these trials continued for an additional six months, at the end of which there was no longer a significant difference in weight loss between the two diet groups. A recent 12-week controlled trial found that overweight adolescents also lost more weight with a low-carbohydrate diet than with a low-fat diet, even though they consumed 50% more calories than did the children on the low-fat diet.42 That study suggests that the weight loss occurring on the Atkins diet is not due entirely to calorie restriction. Blood tests suggest that low-carbohydrate diets induce a condition called mild metabolic acidosis, which might increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones.
The effect of low-carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk is also an unresolved issue. The short-term studies discussed above found that blood cholesterol levels did not worsen with these diets. Other heart-disease risk factors (triglyceride levels and insulin sensitivity) actually improved with a low-carbohydrate diet. Some studies, however, have shown a worsening of certain cardiovascular risk factors in people using a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet for up to one year. Adverse changes included increases in blood levels of homocysteine, lipoprotein(a), and fibrinogen,43 and a decrease in blood flow to the heart.44 Individuals wishing to consume a very-low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss or for other reasons should be monitored by a doctor.
Some research has investigated weight-loss diets that are high in protein, but moderate in fat and not as low in carbohydrate content as the diets discussed above. While this type of diet does not usually lead to greater weight loss than other diets when calorie intakes are kept equal,45 one controlled trial found greater body fat loss in women eating a diet almost equal in calories and fat but approximately twice as high in protein and lower in carbohydrate compared with a control group’s diet.46 Another controlled trial compared two diets similar in fat content but different in protein and carbohydrate content. People allowed to eat freely from the higher protein diet (25% of calories from protein, 45% calories from carbohydrate) consumed fewer calories and lost more weight compared with people eating the lower protein diet (12% of calories from protein, 59% calories from carbohydrate).47
One small study has shown that the most effective weight-loss diet for any particular person might depend on whether or not they have insulin resistance. In obese people with insulin resistance, weight loss was greater with a low-carbohydrate (40% of calories), high-fat (40% of calories) diet than with a high-carbohydrate (60% of calories), low-fat (20% of calories) diet. In contrast, obese people who did not have insulin resistance lost more weight on the high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet.
Cut back on calories
People who have successfully lost weight report eating fewer snacks of low nutritional quality and eating breakfast regularly. They also report getting less calories from fat and more from protein.
Calories in the diet come from fat, carbohydrate, protein, or alcohol. Weight-loss diets are typically designed to limit calories either by restricting certain foods that are thought to result in increased calorie intake, and/or by emphasizing foods that are believed to result in reduced calorie intake. Some currently popular diets restrict fat while emphasizing fiber and a balanced intake of healthful foods. Others restrict carbohydrates, either to extremely low amounts as in the Atkins diet, or to a lesser degree, emphasizing foods low in the glycemic index or high in protein. Discussions of the research on these diets follow; however, it should be remembered that no diet has been proven effective for long-term weight loss, and many people find it difficult to stay on most diets.48, 49
Low-fat, low-calorie, high-fiber, balanced diets are recommended by many doctors for weight loss.50 According to controlled studies, when people are allowed to eat as much food as they desire on a low-fat diet, they tend to lose more weight than people eating a regular diet.51 However, low-fat diets have not been shown to be more effective than other weight-loss diets that restrict calories.52 Nonetheless, a low-fat, high-fiber, balanced diet has additional potential benefits, such as reducing the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer.53, 54
Preliminary research indicates that people who successfully lost weight got less of their total calories from fat and more of them from protein foods. They also ate fewer snacks of low nutritional quality and got more of their calories from “hot meals of good quality.”55 Other preliminary studies find that dieters who maintain long-term weight loss report using fat restriction and eating a regular breakfast as key strategies in their success.56, 57
Find a diet that fits
For long-term success, choose a healthy diet that you can stay with. With each weight fluctuation, it becomes easier to gain weight and harder to lose it, so make changes that last.
People who go on and off diets frequently complain that it takes fewer calories to produce weight gain with each weight fluctuation. Evidence now clearly demonstrates that the body gets "stingier" in its use of calories after each diet.58 This means it becomes easier to gain weight and harder to lose it the next time. Dietary changes need to be long term.
Choose breast-milk over formula
In one study, breast-feeding during infancy was associated with a reduced risk of developing obesity during early childhood (ages three to four).
In a preliminary study, breast-feeding during infancy was associated with a reduced risk of developing obesity during early childhood (ages three to four years).59
Uncover food allergies
Although the relationship between food sensitivities and body weight remains uncertain, chronic food allergy may lead to overeating and obesity.
Although the relationship between food sensitivities and body weight remains uncertain, according to one researcher, chronic food allergy may lead to overeating and obesity.60
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
Green Coffee Extract
Extract providing 400 to 450 mg of chlorogenic acids per day
Animal research suggests that green coffee extract and its major component, chlorogenic acid, may help with weight loss and reducing abdominal fat.61, 62 An uncontrolled human study found that people who drank 750 ml per day of coffee containing green coffee bean constituents for four weeks ate fewer calories and lost weight.63 In a controlled study, overweight people who drank a coffee beverage containing green coffee extract (providing 400 to 450 mg of chlorogenic acids per day) for 12 weeks lost an average of about 12 pounds and 3.6% body fat compared to less than 4 pounds and an insignificant amount of body fat lost by people who drank a similar amount of coffee without added green coffee extracts.64 Another controlled study reported a statistically significant 11 pound weight loss after 60 days when overweight people took 400 mg per day of green coffee extracts (providing 180 mg of chlorogenic acids per day), compared to about a five pound loss in people taking a placebo.65 The green coffee extracts group also significantly raised their ratio of lean body tissue to body fat compared to the control group. In a double-blind trial, overweight adults who took daily amounts of either 700 or 1,050 mg of green coffee extracts (providing 320 to 480 mg chlorogenic acids) for six weeks lost an average of almost 18 pounds and over 4% body fat, a statistically significant improvement compared to when they took a placebo.66 Since all of these studies lasted only 12 weeks or less, more research is needed to determine if green coffee extracts can help people accomplish long-term weight loss.
Diets that are low in total calories may not contain adequate amounts of various vitamins and minerals. For that reason, taking a multiple vitamin-mineral supplement is advocated by proponents of many types of weight-loss programs, and is essential when calorie intake will be less than 1,100 calories per day.67
6 to 10 grams daily combined with an exercise program
Pyruvate, a compound that occurs naturally in the body, might aid weight-loss efforts.68 A controlled trial found that pyruvate supplements (22 to 44 grams per day) enhanced weight loss and resulted in a greater reduction of body fat in overweight adults consuming a low-fat diet.69 Three controlled trials combining 6 to 10 grams per day of pyruvate with an exercise program reported greater effects on weight loss and body fat than that seen with a placebo plus the exercise program.70, 71, 72 Animal studies suggest that pyruvate supplementation leads to weight loss by increasing the resting metabolic rate.73
Take under medical supervision: 600 to 900 mg daily for no more than 12 weeks
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), the precursor to the chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) serotonin, has been shown in three short-term controlled trials to reduce appetite and to promote weight loss. In one of these trials (a 12-week double-blind trial), overweight women who took 600 to 900 mg of 5-HTP per day lost significantly more weight than did women who received a placebo. In a double-blind trial with no dietary restrictions, obese people with type 2(non-insulin-dependent) who took 750 mg per dayof 5-HTP for two weeks significantly reduced their carbohydrate and fat intake. Average weight loss in two weeks was 4.6 pounds, compared with 0.2 pounds in the placebo group. This amount has not been established as a safe long-term treatment and should not be tried without a doctor’s supervision; people taking antidepressants or other medications should be aware of potential drug interactions.
100 mg twice per day
The ability of 7-KETO (3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone), a substance related to DHEA, to promote weight loss in overweight people has been investigated in one double-blind trial.74 Participants in the trial were advised to exercise three times per week for 45 minutes and to eat an 1,800-calorie-per-day diet. Each person was given either a placebo or 100 mg of 7-KETO twice daily. After eight weeks, those receiving 7-KETO had lost more weight and lowered their percentage of body fat further compared with those taking a placebo. These results may have been due to increases in levels of a thyroid hormone (T3) that plays a major role in determining a person’s metabolic rate, although the levels of T3 did not exceed the normal range.
5 grams (providing 890 mg of gamma-linolenic acid) per day
In a double-blind study of obese people who had previously lost an average of about 66 pounds, supplementation with 5 grams of borage oil per day (providing 890 mg per day of gamma-linolenic acid) significantly reduced the average amount of weight regained over the next 12 months (4.8 pounds versus 19.3 pounds in the placebo group).76 It is believed that borage oil worked by correcting certain abnormalities of essential fatty acid metabolism that are common in people predisposed to obesity.
800 mg daily
Caution: Calcium supplements should be avoided by prostate cancer patients.
In a study of obese people consuming a low-calorie diet for 24 weeks, those receiving a calcium supplement (800 mg per day) lost significantly more weight than those given a placebo.77 Calcium was effective when provided either as a supplement, or in the form of dairy products. In a second study, however, the amount of weight loss resulting from calcium supplementation (1,000 mg per day) was small and not statistically significant.78 In that study, participants' typical diet contained more calcium than in the study in which calcium supplementation was more effective. Thus, it is possible that calcium supplementation enhances weight loss only when the diet is low in calcium.
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Casein, the main protein in milk, may aid weight loss due to its effect on appetite, calorie burning, and body composition.79, 80 In a controlled trial, overweight women dieted for four months using a low-calorie diet that included three daily shakes made from either casein or soy protein.81 Both groups lost similar amounts of weight, with similar improvements in body composition, suggesting there was no difference in the weight-loss benefits of soy or casein protein. In another controlled trial, overweight men were given a low-calorie diet along with a weight training exercise plan for three months. Men who followed this plan and also took 1.5 grams per day of predigested casein protein per 2.2 lbs body weight lost a similar amount of weight as did men using a similar amount of whey protein along with the same diet and exercise plan. However, the men using casein protein gained more lean body mass and lost more body fat than the men using whey protein.82
Add 6 to 10 grams to each meal
Research has suggested that incorporating cayenne pepper into the diet may help people lose weight. Controlled studies report that adding 6 to 10 grams of cayenne to a meal or 28 grams to an entire day’s diet reduces hunger after meals and reduces calories consumed during subsequent meals.83, 84 Other controlled studies have reported that calorie burning by the body increases slightly when 10 grams of cayenne is added to a meal or 28 grams is added to an entire day’s diet 85, 86, 87 However, no studies have been done to see if regularly adding cayenne to the diet has any effect on weight loss.
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Chitosan is a fiber-like substance extracted from the shells of crustaceans such as shrimp and crab. Animal studies suggested that chitosan supplementation reduces fat absorption, but controlled human trials have found no impairment of fat absorption from supplementation with 2,700 mg of chitosan per day for seven days or 5,250 mg per day for four days.88, 89 A double-blind study found that people taking 1,500 mg of chitosan three times per day during a weight-loss program lost significantly more weight than did people taking a placebo with the same program.90 Similar benefits were seen in another double-blind study that used 3,000 mg of chitosan per day.91 Other studies using smaller amounts of chitosan have reported no effects on weight loss.92, 93, 94
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
3.2 to 4.2 grams daily
A double-blind trial found that exercising individuals taking 1,800 mg per day of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) lost more body fat after 12 weeks than did a similar group taking a placebo.95 However, two other studies found that amounts of CLA from 0.7 to 3.0 grams per day did not affect body composition.96, 97 Most double-blind trials have found that larger amounts of CLA, 3.2 to 4.2 grams per day, do reduce body fat;98, 99, 100, 101 however, one double-blind study of experienced strength-training athletes reported no effect of 6 grams per day of CLA on body fat, muscle mass, or strength improvement.102
5 to 7 grams daily
Fiber supplements are one way to add fiber to a weight-loss diet. Several trials have shown that supplementation with fiber from a variety of sources accelerated weight loss in people who were following a low-calorie diet.103, 104, 105, 106 Other researchers found, however, that fiber supplements had no effect on body weight, even though they resulted in a reduction in food intake.107
Adults: 3 to 4 grams daily; adolescents: 2 to 3 grams daily
Supplementing with 3 to 4 grams per day of a bulking agent called glucomannan, with or without calorie restriction, has promoted weight loss in overweight adults,108, 109, 110 while 2 to 3 grams per day was effective in a group of obese adolescents in another controlled trial.111
An extract supplying 270 mg of EGCG and 150 mg of caffeine per day
Green tea extract rich in polyphenols (epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG) may support a weight-loss program by increasing energy expenditure or by inhibiting the digestion of fat in the intestine.112 Healthy young men who took two green tea capsules (containing a total of 50 mg of caffeine and 90 mg of EGCG) three times a day burned significantly more calories and oxidized significantly more fat than those who took caffeine alone or a placebo. In a preliminary study of moderately obese individuals, administration of a specific green tea extract (AR25) resulted in a 4.6% reduction in average body weight after 12 weeks. The amount of green tea extract used in this study supplied daily 270 mg of EGCG and 150 mg of caffeine.
While caffeine is known to stimulate metabolism, it appears that other substances besides caffeine were responsible for at least part of the weight loss. Although the extract produced few side effects, one individual developed abnormal liver function tests during the study. In another study, consuming approximately 12 ounces of oolong tea (a semifermented version of green tea) daily for 12 weeks reduced waist circumference and the amount of body fat in a group of normal-weight to overweight men. However, in another study, 300 mg per day of EGCG was no more effective than a placebo for promoting weight loss in overweight postmenopausal women.113 Additional studies are needed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of green tea extracts for promoting weight loss.
3 grams per day or 17 mg per pound of body weight per day
Biochemical and animal research show that HMB has a role in protein synthesis and might, therefore, improve muscle growth and overall body composition when given as a supplement. However, double-blind human research suggests that HMB may only be effective when combined with an exercise program in people who are not already highly trained athletes. Double-blind trials found no effect of 3 to 6 grams per day of HMB on body weight, body fat, or overall body composition in weight-training football players or other trained athletes.114, 115, 116, 117, 118 However, one double-blind study found that 3 grams per day of HMB increased the amount of body fat lost by 70-year old adults who were participating in a strength-training program for the first time.119 A double-blind study of young men with no strength-training experience reported greater improvements in muscle mass (but not in percentage body fat) when HMB was used in the amount of 17 mg per pound of body weight per day.120 However, another group of men in the same study given twice as much HMB did not experience any changes in body composition.
Take under medical supervision: enough to supply 5 mg of yohimbine four times per day
The ability of yohimbine, a chemical found in yohimbe bark, to stimulate the nervous system, 121, 122 and to promote the release of fat from fat cells,123, 124 has led to claims that it might help weight loss by raising metabolic rate, reducing appetite, or increase fat burning. Although a preliminary trial found yohimbine ineffective for weight loss, a double-blind study found that women taking 5 mg of yohimbine four times per day along with a weight-loss diet lost significantly more weight than those taking a placebo with the same diet after three weeks.125 However, a similar study using 18 mg per day of yohimbine for eight weeks reported no benefit to weight loss compared with a placebo.126 A double-blind study of men who were not dieting reported no effect of up to 43 mg per day of yohimbine on weight or body composition after six months.127 All of these studies used pure yohimbine; no study has tested the effects of yohimbe herb on weight loss.
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Amylase inhibitors are also known as starch blockers because they contain substances that prevent dietary starches from being absorbed by the body. Starches are complex carbohydrates that cannot be absorbed unless they are first broken down by the digestive enzyme amylase and other, secondary, enzymes.128, 129 When starch blockers were first developed years ago, they were found not to be potent enough to prevent the absorption of a significant amount of carbohydrate.130, 131, 132, 133 Recently, highly concentrated starch blockers have been shown to be more effective,134, 135, 136 but no published human studies exist investigating their usefulness for weight loss.
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Although historically used to stimulate appetite, bitter orange is frequently found in modern weight-loss formulas because synephrine is similar to the compound ephedrine, which is known to promote weight loss. In one study of 23 overweight adults, participants taking a daily intake of bitter orange (975 mg) combined with caffeine (525 mg) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum, 900 mg) for six weeks lost significantly more body weight and fat than the control group.137 No adverse effects on heart rate or blood pressure were found. Bitter orange standardized to contain 4 to 6% synephrine had an anti-obesity effect in rats. However, the amount used to achieve this effect was accompanied by cardiovascular toxicity and mortality.138
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Blue-green algae, or spirulina, is a rich source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. In one double-blind trial, overweight people who took 2.8 grams of spirulina three times per day for four weeks experienced only small and statistically nonsignificant weight loss.139 Thus, although spirulina has been promoted as a weight-loss aid, the scientific evidence supporting its use for this purpose is weak.
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The mineral chromium plays an essential role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and in the action of insulin. Chromium, usually in a form called chromium picolinate, has been studied for its potential role in altering body composition. Chromium has primarily been studied in body builders, with conflicting results.140 In people trying to lose weight, a double-blind study found that 600 mcg per day of niacin-bound chromium helped some participants lose more fat and less muscle.141 However, three other double-blind trials have found no effect of chromium picolinate on weight loss,142, 143, 144 though in one of these trials lean body mass that was lost during a weight-loss diet was restored by continuing to supplement chromium after the diet. A recent comprehensive review combining the results of ten published and unpublished double-blind studies concluded that chromium picolinate supplementation may have a small beneficial effect on weight loss.145
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Although no clinical trials have been done, there are modern references to use of the herb coleus for weight loss.146 Coleus extracts standardized to 18% forskolin are available, and 50 to 100 mg can be taken two to three times per day. Fluid extract can be taken in the amount of 2 to 4 ml three times per day.
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One double-blind trial found 100 mg per day of DHEA was effective for decreasing body fat in older men,147 and another double-blind trial found 1,600 mg per day decreased body fat and increased muscle mass in younger men,148. However, DHEA has not been effective for improving body composition in women or in other studies of men.149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156
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Fucoxanthin is a member of the carotenoid family, and is found naturally in some types of seaweed, such as wakame. Animal studies by one group of researchers suggest that fucoxanthin might prevent the growth of fat tissue and reduce abdominal fat.157, 158, 159 However, no studies have been done to see if this effect is achievable in humans, and one study found that fucoxanthin present in seaweed was absorbed quite poorly from the human digestive tract.160 Human research is needed to understand the value, if any, of fucoxanthin for helping with weight loss.
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Guar gum, another type of fiber supplement, has not been effective in controlled studies for weight loss or weight maintenance.161, 162, 163
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The herb guaraná contains caffeine and the closely related alkaloids theobromine and theophylline; these compounds may curb appetite and increase weight loss. Caffeine’s effects are well known and include central nervous system stimulation, increased metabolic rate, and a mild diuretic effect.164 In a double-blind trial, 200 mg per day of caffeine was, however, no more effective than a placebo in promoting weight loss.165 Because of concerns about potential adverse effects, many doctors do not advocate using caffeine or caffeine-like substances to reduce weight.
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Coupled with exercise in a double-blind trial, a combination of guggul, phosphate salts, hydroxycitrate, and tyrosine has been shown to improve mood with a slight tendency to improve weight loss in overweight adults.166 Daily recommendations for guggul are typically based on the amount of guggulsterones in the extract. A common intake of guggulsterones is 25 mg three times per day. Most guggul extracts contain 5 to 10% guggulsterones and can be taken daily for 12 to 24 weeks.
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One small, double-blind study in humans found that hoodia latex and inner plant can significantly reduce food intake. However, in another double-blind study, hoodia extract taken twice a day for 15 days had no effect on caloric intake or body weight compared with a placebo. Adverse effects of hoodia included nausea, vomiting, and increases in blood pressure and bilirubin levels (a possible indicator of liver stress).167 Available products are of unknown quality and much more work remains to be done to determine if hoodia has a role in treating obesity.168
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(-)-Hydroxycitric acid (HCA), extracted from the rind of the Garcinia cambogia fruit grown in Southeast Asia, has a chemical composition similar to that of citric acid (the primary acid in oranges and other citrus fruits). Preliminary studies in animals suggest that HCA may be a useful weight-loss aid.169, 170 HCA has been demonstrated in the laboratory (but not yet in clinical trials with people) to reduce the conversion of carbohydrates into stored fat by inhibiting certain enzyme processes.171, 172 Animal research indicates that HCA suppresses appetite and induces weight loss.173, 174, 175, 176 However, a double-blind trial found that people who took 1,500 mg per day of HCA while eating a low-calorie diet for 12 weeks lost no more weight than those taking a placebo.177 A double-blind trial of Garcinia cambogia (2.4 grams of dry extract, containing 50% hydroxycitric acid) found that the extract did not increase energy expenditure; it was therefore concluded that this extract showed little potential for the treatment of obesity at this amount.178 Nonetheless, another double-blind trial found that using the same amount of Garciniacambogia extract significantly improved the results of a weight-loss diet, even though the amount of food intake was not affected.179
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The amino acid L-carnitine is thought to be potentially helpful for weight loss because of its role in fat metabolism. In a preliminary study of overweight adolescents participating in a diet and exercise program, those who took 1,000mg of L-carnitine per day for three months lost significantly more weight than those who took a placebo.180 A weakness of this trial, however, was the fact that the average starting body weight differed considerably between the two groups. A double-blind trial found that adding 4,000 mg of L-carnitine per day to an exercise program did not result in weight loss in overweight women.181
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Animal research and preliminary human reports suggest that serotonin precursors such as L-tryptophan or 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) might help control appetite and promote weight loss.182, 183 In a controlled study, increasing L-tryptophan supplementation one hour before a meal from 1 gram to 2 grams to three grams resulted in progressively fewer calories and carbohydrates being consumed during the meal at the higher L-tryptophan dosages.184 While this effect might lead to weight loss over time, a small double-blind trial did not find a significant benefit from taking 1 gram of L-tryptophan before each meal as part of a six-week weight loss program.185 Weight-loss diets result in lower L-tryptophan and serotonin levels in women,186 which could theoretically trigger cravings and make dieting more difficult.187 More research is needed to determine whether L-tryptophan might improve the results of a long-term weight loss diet.
Refer to label instructions
Manufacturers of relora, a product derived from Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense bark, claim that the extract helps balance hormones such as cortisol, which are associated with weight gain. Healthnotes has not seen published research demonstrating that relora promotes weight loss.
Refer to label instructions
Dieters who are gluten or dairy sensitive and looking to supplement protein might consider rice protein, though its actual benefits for weight loss have not been studied.
Refer to label instructions
Sesamin is substance present in sesame oil that manufacturers claim may enhance fat burning by increasing the activity of several liver enzymes that break down fatty acids. It is believed that optimizing the liver’s fat-burning capacity may promote fat loss; however, Healthnotes has not seen published research to support the claims.
Refer to label instructions
Animal and human studies have suggested that when soy is used as a source of dietary protein, it may have several biological effects on the body that might help with weight loss.188 A preliminary study found that people trying to lose weight using a meal-replacement formula containing soy protein lost more weight than a group not using any formula.189 However, controlled studies comparing soy protein with other protein sources in weight-loss diets have not found any advantage of soy.190, 191, 192 When soy protein is used for other health benefits, typical daily intake is 20 grams per day or more.
Refer to label instructions
Whey protein may aid weight loss due to its effect on appetite. In a preliminary study, people were given 48 grams of either whey protein or milk protein (casein). Whey consumption resulted in more hunger satisfaction and reduced the amount of food eaten 90 minutes later compared with casein consumption.193 However, a double-blind study found that men taking 1.5 grams per 2.2 lbs body weight per day of whey protein for 12 weeks along with a low-calorie diet and a strength training exercise program lost the same amount of weight and body fat as did a control group that followed a similar program, but took a casein supplement instead of whey protein.194
Weight Management Health Center
Glycemic Index Diet
Get Your Diet Back on Track
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