A Weight-y Matter

America is so fat How fat is it?

October 16, 2007

39 Min Read
A Weight-y Matter


America is so fat ... two-thirds of U.S. adults are officially overweight and about half of those have graduated to full-blown obesity, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). New info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in 2006, only four states had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent. Twenty-two states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25 percent—in Mississippi and West Virginia, the prevalence of obesity was equal to or greater than 30 percent. 

America is so fat ... among kids 6 to 19 years old, one in six are overweight, and another 15 percent are headed that way. And studies have found overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become obese as adults, further weighing down the health care system with concomitant concerns with Type II diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and more. 

America is so fat ... even our pets need Jenny Craig! The National Academy of Science estimates one in four pets is overweight or obese. 

 However, the situation is not funny, and the consequences— much discussed—are even worse. Two recent revelations underscore the seriousness of the issue. A Finnish study in almost 1,300 men and women found teenagers who were obese had up to 38-percent fewer children in adulthood, due to negative effects on fertility.1 Dutch researchers who examined data from 21 previous studies of 302,000 people revealed being overweight independently increases a person’s risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).2 In fact, they found the adverse effects of excess weight on blood pressure and cholesterol levels could account for about 45 percent of the increased risk of CHD. The response of most Americans? Confusion and helplessness. ACNielsen reported in 2006 that 82 percent of consumers acknowledged individuals are the most responsible party for weight gain in the U.S. population; but very few recognize their own weight issues or heed advice to manage their weight and improve their diet. 

Further, many who decided to change their ways find it hard to go all the way. Market research company, InsightExpress, conducted a survey sponsored by PacificHealth Laboratories in which 400 women who had been on at least one diet in the past 24 months were profiled. Over 33 percent of the respondents stayed on a diet for two weeks or fewer, while 67 percent of the respondents lost 10 pounds or less. Half of the individuals in the survey were 20 to 40 pounds overweight. 

Unfortunately, for consumers seeking that “magic pill,” changing diet is a critical component in weight management. Eliminating sugars, watching overall caloric intake and balancing fat consumption are all keys, as is increasing consumption of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. 

Several diets have been studied for their impact on the battle of the bulge. Last year, members of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine reported vegetarian diets were linked to lower body weight and body mass index (BMI) scores than were diets containing meat.3 The 87 observational studies included also showed lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions linked to excess weight and obesity. 

Complete with fruits, vegetables, legumes and olive oil, the Mediterranean diet has been hailed for its impact on weight and complications of obesity, including diabetes and heart disease.4 Greek scientists observed an inverse relation between adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern and prevalence of obesity in a free-eating, population-based sample of men and women.5 Another recent Greek study supported the link, finding the food consumption pattern of overweight children showed less adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet.

Another option is eating foods based on glycemic index (GI). Low GI foods are often higher in fiber, supplying more long–term energy and satiety. A Mexican study concluded this approach “might contribute to the prevention of obesity by increasing the perception of satiety, while also improving metabolic control of diabetics,” and was a low-cost approach for the cash-strapped.

The low-GI approach is an offshoot of the low carb or Atkins approach, which emphasizes greater protein intake to aid satiety. A 2005 study from the University of Washington’s School of Medicine reported an increased intake of dietary protein to 30 percent of the overall diet, in conjunction with a reduction of dietary fat to 20 percent of the diet, resulted in significant weight loss.8 A study out of Maastricht University, Netherlands, reported: “A 20-percent higher protein intake, that is, 18 percent of energy versus 15 percent of energy during weight maintenance after weight loss, resulted in a 50-percent lower body weight regain, only consisting of fat-free mass, and related to increased satiety and decreased energy efficiency.”9 

Specific proteins have also been studied for their impact on weight. Researchers at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan divided 30 obese adults into two groups: a soy-based low-calorie group that consumed soy protein as its only protein source, and a traditional low-calorie group that consumed two-thirds animal protein and one-third plant protein.10 After eight weeks on the respective diets, the soy group “decreased serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, and had a greater effect on reducing body fat percentage than traditional low-calorie diets.” However, when compared to soy protein, a recent study in Iran concluded “short-term soy-nut consumption improved glycemic control and lipid profiles in postmenopausal women with the metabolic syndrome.”11 

A dairy diet has shown promise, with research results from the University of Tennessee (UT). A 2004 study noted clinical trials and epidemiologic data shows that three or more daily servings of dairy “result in significant reductions in adipose tissue mass in obese humans in the absence of caloric restriction and markedly accelerate weight and body fat loss secondary to caloric restriction compared with diets low in dairy products.”12 The researchers added 100 percent whey protein may be more effective in increasing muscle mass and strength, while decreasing fat, compared to casein. UT researchers also observed high calcium diets “elicit a shift in energy partitioning and reduction of weight gain” during the re-feeding of mice induced with obesity, but noted dairy sources of calcium had greater effects.13 

Long associated with dairy products, calcium garnered more support for its weight loss benefits in 2007. An animal study from the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain found “calcium intake decreases body weight and body fat depot gain under high-fat diet and accelerates weight loss under normal-fat diet, without differences in food intake.”14 The researchers also found dietary calcium did not cause thermogenesis, but that it might play a role in “decreasing cytosolic calcium in adipocytes and, therefore, contribute to the diminution of fat accretion.” Further research out of Spain found adults in the highest quartile of calcium intake significantly reduced their odds of having a high BMI.15 

Still, calcium’s reputation is dicey. A 2006 review in the British Journal of Nutrition reported 13 trials included in its systematic review and subsequent meta-analysis revealed no association between increased calcium intake—from either supplements or dairy foods— and weight loss.16 A 2007 study out of the Czech Republic examined whether the addition of calcium could affect the outcome of a three-week weight management program among 67 overweight and obese women with a hypocaloric diet, characterized by a decreased calcium intake.17 Researchers found “no significant difference in weight loss” between the two calcium groups and one placebo group; in addition, “body composition measured by bioimpedance demonstrated that added calcium led to a preservation of fat free mass.” The researchers noted that the greater loss of fat-free mass in placebo group could be due in part to a greater loss of water. 

Feeling Full ... But in a Good Way 

One of the hottest areas of research on nutritional ingredients for weight management is satiety and appetite. The highest profile appetite suppressant in this arena would be Hoodia gordonii. There isn’t a great deal of published research on this succulent, sourced from South Africa and used traditionally for reduction of appetite. Researchers at Brown University Medical School, Providence, R.I., reported a specific compound (branded P.57) extracted from hoodia increases adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the hypothalamus, helping to decrease food intake by as much as 40 percent.18 South African researchers recently identified extracts from the hoodia species, in particular Hoodia pilifera and Hoodia gordonii, as possessing appetite suppressing properties.19 

Another botanical with satiety properties is Garcinia cambogia, which has been studied for both appetite suppression and fat loss. Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) extracted from the plant works by diverting carbohydrates away from fat synthesis and toward stored glycogen, thereby signaling satiety and leading to reduced food consumption.20 Additional studies on the mechanism of appetite suppression of HCA (as Super CitriMax, from InterHealth Nutraceuticals) suggest HCA may upregulate genes involved in signaling activity of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and hunger;21 or reduce hypothalamus levels of neuropeptide Y, which can otherwise increase appetite.22 

HCA may also spark adipose oxidation, as was seen in a Japanese trial, in which untrained men taking 500 mg/d of HCA experienced significantly increased fat oxidation during endurance exercise.23 A Korean study produced similar results, reporting untrained men taking 250 mg/d HCA for five days significantly increased exercise time to exhaustion, as well as fat metabolism.24 In trained men, HCA supplementation increases fat oxidation, preserving glycogen stores and enhancing endurance performance.25 

HCA may benefit more than just active people. A new study out of the University of Houston reported seven weeks of Super CitriMax supplementation in obese Zucker rats reduced food intake and body weight gain, and attenuated obesity-related increases in inflammation, oxidative stress and insulin resistance seen in untreated animals.26 

One way to feel full on less food is to get more fiber. University of Minnesota, St. Paul, reviewers detailed strong epidemiologic support that fiber intake can prevent obesity by promoting satiety, decreasing absorption of other macronutrients, such as fat, and altering secretion of gut hormones.27 Taking glucomannan, a fiber derived from the konjac root, with a meal may slow carbohydrate absorption and postprandial glucose response by up to 50 percent.28 Norwegian researchers comparing glucomannan supplementation alone and in combination with both guar gum and alginate in 176 overweight men and women found supplemental glucomannan, but not in combination, significantly increased weight loss compared to diet alone.29 

A popular botanical in the satiety arena is an extract of the Indian succulent Caralluma fimbriata. A clinical trial conducted in India demonstrated C. fimbriata (as Slimaluma™, from Gencor Pacific) has significant appetite suppressant properties compared to placebo.30 The study, which involved 50 patients taking either Slimaluma or placebo for eight weeks, also showed statistically significant reduction in the waist circumference of the participants taking Slimaluma, posting additional improvements in fat loss, weight loss and BMI reduction. A follow-up study on 26 patients in Los Angeles found overweight or obese subjects lost between six and nine pounds, while normal weight subjects lost inches in their hips and waist. The dosage used in all these studies was 1 g/d, given in two divided doses of 500 mg, 30 to 45 minutes before morning and evening meals. 

Another succulent traditionally used for weight management is prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus indica), a Mexican folk remedy. Investigating mechanism of action in a gastrointestinal (GI) model, researchers found 2 g prickly pear fiber extract (as NeOpuntia®, from BioSerae Laboratories) prevented the absorption of 2.7 g of fatty acids during a four-hour GI exposure.31 The prevailing theory is NeOpuntia binds to fat, resulting in a gel-like complex that is less bioavailable and excreted more rapidly. In a pilot study, healthy volunteers taking 1.6 mg NeOpuntia with every meal experienced a 27-percent increase in fat excreted vs. fat ingested, compared to placebo.32 

It seems as if every portion of the weight management category has a controversial figure; in the case of satiety, that honor could fall to chitosan. Derived from crustacean shells, it attaches to fat, limiting its absorption in the GI tract. A 2006 study from the Health and Medical Research Center in San Antonio examined 134 overweight adults divided into three groups—placebo, control (who could follow the diet of their choice) and treatment (which took six 500 mg chitosan capsules per day).33 The treatment group lost more weight and fat mass than the control group. Compared to the placebo group, those who took chitosan daily lost more weight, percentage of fat, fat mass and had a greater body composition improvement index. 

However, New Zealand researchers conducted a systematic review of 14 trials involving a total of 1,071 participants and reported “high quality trials indicate that the effect of chitosan on body weight is minimal and unlikely to be of clinical significance.”34 When looking at all trials, chitosan only resulted “in a small but statistically significant greater reduction in body weight compared to placebo.” Another study in 250 obese men and women taking 3 g/d of chitosan found no significant impact in weight loss.35 

On the proprietary side, Roxlor had a DNA microarray study performed on its ingredient JamboLean™, a proprietary extract of the Jambol tree, which is native to Eastern India, to determine the effect the ingredient had on the gene sets known to control the onset and progression of diabetes, the sets that control aspects of the onset and progression of obesity, and alpha amylase activity. In the unpublished trial, JamboLean showed a significant down regulation in gene activity for diabetes and obesity and significant alpha amylase inhibition. According to the company, “JamboLean also helps to maintain healthier blood sugar levels, which helps provide satiety and reduce[s] cravings in weight loss products.” 

Another new ingredient in the appetite suppression area is pinolenic acid, extracted from the Korean pine-nut. Unpublished research on the compound (as PinnoThin™, from Lipid Nutrition) found 3 g of pinolenic acid enhanced the release of the hunger-suppressing hormones cholecystokinin (CCK) and GLP1 (glucagon-like peptide 1). 

Burn, Baby, Burn 

Satiety is not the only way to keep weight under control. Some ingredients try to burn fat through thermogenesis, which is highlighted by an increased metabolic rate. One of the stalwarts of the category is bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), which was looked upon by many as the successor to ephedra. Like ephedra, which was banned for use in dietary supplements by the federal government in late 2003, bitter orange has had its share of scandal, starting with its content. 

Bitter orange’s effectiveness hinges on its active alkaloids, including synephrine, hordenine and octopamine. Some have argued bitter orange contains m-synephrine, which is potentially harmful. However, independent lab testing conduced by Chromadex Inc. on the patented bitter orange extract Advantra Z® (supplied only by Nutratech) found no traces of m-synephrine. 

While there has been debate about bitter orange’s side effects on blood pressure and heart activity, several studies have shown little cause for concern. A 2005 study in Pharmacotherapy found test subjects who were given placebo or bitter orange dried-fruit extract (450 mg standardized to 27 mg of synephrine) had similar corrected QT intervals (the part of normal heart electrical activity seen in an EKG), systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.36 A 2005 study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, involved 10 healthy adults taking single daily doses of 47 mg Advantra Z, a formula (as Xenadrine, from Cytodyne) containing 5.5 mg Advantra Z, or a placebo, with one-week washout periods between each regimen.37 While the low-aurantium Xenadrine generated increases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, the high dose of straight Advantra Z had no effect on blood pressure. 

Safety is good, but efficacy also matters. Scientists at Greenwich Hospital, Conn., found a significant loss of body weight and fat in subjects taking 975 mg Advantra Z, 528 mg caffeine and 900 mg St. John’s wort daily, compared to those in the placebo and control groups.38 Researchers found Advantra Z produced increased metabolic rates in men and women. Men showed higher metabolism when taking the supplement on an empty stomach; women exhibited higher rates when taking it with a meal. There was no significant change in blood pressure and heart rate for those who took Advantra Z. 

Another all-star in the fat-burner category is the metabolite of dehydroepiandrostereone (DHEA), -acetyl-7-oxodehydroepiandrosterone, also known as 7-oxo-DHEA. The name may be hard to remember, but the research is not easy to forget. 

In one double blind, placebo-controlled trial, 30 obese subjects took either 100 mg/d 7-oxo-DHEA (as 7-Keto®, from Humanetics Corp.) or placebo twice daily.39 Those taking 7-Keto showed significantly increased weight loss and three times more fat reduction than those taking placebo. Confirming its thermogenic effect on metabolism, a 2005 trial found 7-Keto administered to overweight adults in conjunction with a calorie restrictive diet could mitigate the decline in resting metabolic rate (RMR) normally associated with dieting.40 Results specifically showed a 7-Keto and diet regimen led to a RMR increase of 1.4 percent, compared to a 3.9-percent RMR decline in control subjects. Researchers noted 7-Keto achieves thermogenesis by upregulating the activity of fat-burning enzymes, as opposed to acting as a stimulant. Other research has shown obese patients given a formula containing 7-Keto—plus Ltyrosine, asparagus root extract, choline, inositol, copper, manganese and potassium—for eight weeks exhibited increased weight loss and BMI reduction.41 

Green tea also deserves consideration as a thermogenic headliner, although various theories have been offered for its effectiveness. Animal trials suggest green tea can decrease leptin levels and suppress adipose tissue development,42 while other research has theorized it can regulate the glucose uptake system in adipose tissue and limit expression of certain transcription factors.43 Some credit green tea’s thermogenic action and fat oxidation to its caffeine content,44 while others argue the high amount of adipose thermogenesis is far more than could be accounted for by caffeine.45 

Still, another factor behind green tea’s weight management benefits may be the presence of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). A study from DSM in Switzerland looked at the prevention and regression of diet-induced obesity by dietary supplementation with EGCG (as Teavigo®, from DSM) in C57BL/6J mice and Sprague-Dawley rats, respectively.46 According to the researchers, “In C57BL/6J mice, EGCG supplementation prevented diet-induced increases in body weight and in fed state plasma levels of glucose, triglycerides, and leptin. EGCG decreased subcutaneous and epididymal adipose tissue weights. Supplementation of EGCG reversed the established obesity in Sprague-Dawley rats.” Similarly, a 2004 Japanese study found a green tea extract rich in EGCG increased endurance capacity, energy metabolism and fat oxidation in mice.47 

Green tea alone has been shown to be effective, but a 2005 Japanese study showed eye-opening results on high-fat fed mice that received green tea extract and were on an exercise regimen.48 Green tea extract plus regular exercise caused an 89-percent reduction in body weight gain induced by a high-fat diet, while visceral fat saw an 87-percent decrease over 15 weeks. Researchers concluded a combination of green tea extract and regular exercise stimulated fat catabolism not only in the liver but also in skeletal muscle. 

Tea’s counterpart, coffee, may also turn up the burn. Japanese researchers studied the effects of green coffee bean extract (GCBE) on fat accumulation and body weight in mice and found it could be effective on both fronts by inhibiting of fat absorption and activation of fat metabolism in the liver.49 Caffeine suppressed fat absorption, while one of its constituents, chlorogenic acid, was found to be partially involved in the suppressive effect of GCBE that resulted in the reduction of hepatic triglyceride levels. 

A 2006 French study found among volunteers with a BMI over 25 who took placebo or a capsule of green coffee extract (Svetol®, from BERKEM) with a bland, low-calorie diet, those in the Svetol group lost more weight and had a better muscle mass to fat mass ratio (4.1 +/- 0.7% vs. 1.6 +/- 0.6) than placebo.50 

Turn that Keg into a Six-Pack 

Weight management encompasses more than just losing unsightly pounds. Some are interested in shifting the balance from fat to muscle. Several natural ingredients can help in that area, starting with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally occurring fatty acid. It’s not clearly understood how CLA reduces body fat and maintains lean muscle mass; however, studies suggest it may decrease the amount of fat that is stored after eating, increase the rate of fat breakdown in fat cells increasing the rate of fat metabolism, and decrease the total number of fat cells. 

Despite its potential beneficial actions, CLA has taken some critical hits from the scientific community. A 2007 French study of 44 healthy subjects who were randomly assigned to consume either a CLA-supplemented, yogurt-like product or a placebo yogurt daily for 98 days found the CLA dairy product did not alter body composition.51 The researchers did note “a significant increase” in RMR. A study from Denmark’s Department of Human Nutrition, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, was also less than favorable.52 Researchers studied the effects of CLA against placebo for one year in 101 obese healthy subjects after they lost more than 8 percent of their initial body weight. The conclusion: After one year, there was no significant difference in body weight or fat regain between the two groups. 

However, the last year or so has seen a series of studies supporting CLA’s role in weight management. A meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition included 18 CLA studies and found among participants given 3.2 g/d, CLA reduced fat mass by 0.2 pounds a week or 0.8 pounds a month compared to those not taking CLA.53 (Tonalin® CLA from Cognis Nutrition & Health was used in 15 of the 18 studies.) More positive findings were reported in early 2007 by researchers from the University of North Carolina, who conducted a 12-week, double blind, placebo-controlled study on healthy obese subjects.54 Not only did lean body mass increase by 0.64 kg in subjects taking CLA (6.4 g/d), but the treatment group saw decreases in serum HDL-cholesterol and sodium, as well as increases in white blood cells and serum alkaline phosphate. 

Another study at Link Medical Research AS in Norway examined 118 healthy, overweight/obese subjects who took CLA or placebo for one year.55 Researchers found body fat mass decreased significantly at month three and month six, with the reduction coming mostly from the legs and in women with a BMI over 30kg/m2. Lean body mass increased within the CLA group and the hip-waist ratio “decreased significantly” compared to placebo. Perhaps most telling is that these positive changes were independent of diet and physical exercise. For those adverse to any physical activity, a study out of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, concluded mixed isomer CLA supplementation, but not placebo, positively altered fat oxidation and energy expenditure during sleep.56 

CLA may also prove to be an asset during the holidays, which is a time of family, gifts and gorging. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found healthy, overweight participants who took Tonalin® CLA for six months—including November and December—reduced their body fat mass by 2.2 pounds and their body weight by 1.3 pounds.57 In comparison, those in the placebo group gained 1.5 pounds of body fat mass and 2.4 pounds of body weight. 

Chromium picolinate has also received mixed results in regards to muscle composition. A study out of the University of Vermont published in Diabetes Care examined 29 subjects over six months, 12 of whom were given sulfonylurea plus placebo. The rest were given sulfonylurea plus 1,000 mcg/d of chromium picolinate (supplied by Nutrition 21). The researchers found the placebo group had significant increases in body weight (2.2 kg vs. 0.9 kg), percent body fat (1.17 percent vs. 0.12 percent,), and total abdominal fat (32.5 cm2, vs. 12.2 cm2) from baseline. 

Other studies have been less favorable. A study of 15 female softball players who took either a daily 500 mcg/d dose of chromium picolinate or placebo found no significant differences in muscular strength or body composition after six weeks of resistance training.59 A study in Nutrition followed 83 women taking 200 mcg/d of chromium (Cr), compared with an equivalent amount of picolinic acid (1,720 mcg) in chromium picolinate and placebo.60 The women were also fed nutritionally balanced diets. Researchers used anthropometry and dual x-ray absorptiometry to assess body composition, and measured serum and urinary Cr and biochemical indicators of iron status before and serially every four weeks for 12 weeks in a double blind, randomized trial. All groups lost weight and fat, but chromium picolinate “did not independently influence body weight or composition or iron status,” according to the researchers. 

Scientists from the University of Alabama concluded in 2003 that “over a decade of human studies with [chromium picolinate] indicate that the supplement has not demonstrated effects on the body composition of healthy individuals, even when taken in combination with an exercise training program.”61 

Also tipping the balance from fat to muscle are botanical and specialty supplements, including Coleus forskholii and its root extract forskolin. Several studies involving Sabinsa’s ForsLean® forskolin extract have shown promise. In one study, 50 subjects were randomized to receive 250 mg/d of ForsLean or placebo for 12 weeks.62 The treatment group saw its mean percentage lean body mass increase by 1.78 percent, compared to a mean decrease of 0.2 percent in the treatment group. The mean percentage body fat content in the ForsLean group was 34 percent at the end of the trial, while it was 39 percent in the placebo group. A similar 12-week study at the University of Kansas on 30 overweight or obese men showed those who took ForsLean during the period significantly decreased their body fat percentage and fat mass compared to placebo.63 Studies on ovariectomized rats and young rats with obstructive cholestasis found Coleus forskohlii and a water soluble extract of coleus barbatus reduced the rats’ food intake.64,65 

Another botanical with a history of addressing weight gain and adipose tissue is banaba (Lagerstroemia species), which may do so via a few different mechanisms. Research has shown ellagitannins from banaba appear to increase glucose uptake by adipocytes, lowering blood glucose levels, addressing diabetic parameters related to obesity.66 Still other research suggests banaba extract may increase the expression of PPAR-gamma, a transcription factor that regulates the development of adipocytes.67 Studies out of Ohio University, Athens, detailed how banaba may target adipogenesis, the differentiation and proliferation of adipocytes that is a major mechanism leading to weight gain and obesity.68 The researchers pinpointed tannic acid in banaba as useful for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes and associated obesity. Further studies from the same team reported banaba both stimulated glucose transport and inhibited adipocyte differentiation in 3T3-L1 cells.69 

L-carnitine, a vitamin-like nutrient that occurs naturally in the body, helps turn fat into energy. A 2004 study from Lonza, makers of L-Carnipure™, found supplementation with L-carnitine increased fatty acid oxidation in healthy, slightly overweight adults without causing loss of muscle mass.70 A placebo-controlled, randomized, double blind, two-phase study on 84 elderly subjects with onset of fatigue following slight physical activity found those who took 2 g of L-carnitine twice a day for 30 days, showed significant improvements in such parameters as total fat mass, total muscle mass and total cholesterol compared to placebo group.71 L-carnitine has also been proven effective when used with other ingredients. One study proclaimed the soy isoflavone genistein paired with L-carnitine “exerts anti-obesity effects, probably by modulating peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-associated genes.”72 

A study from the University of Connecticut in the February/March 2007 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrated taking only 1 g/d of L-carnitine in the form of Carnipure tartrate significantly reduced metabolic stress, minimized muscle damage, and promoted recovery after resistance exercise.73 

Prolibra®, a whey-derived complex containing bioactive peptides from Glanbia Nutritionals, has also been studied for its role in targeting fat and maintaining a lean body. Glanbia has submitted for review a double blind, placebo-controlled study in 59 obese individuals who were told to reduce their caloric intake to 500 calories per day while receiving dietary counseling. At the end of 12 weeks, the Prolibra group lost 82-percent more fat and retained twice as much lean muscle mass. Another study, published in Functional Dairy Products, had 41 men and women with a BMI of 27 to 42 take Prolibra or placebo over 16 weeks.74 The Prolibra group had a reduction in body fat mass of 5.81 percent; the placebo group only had a 2.29-percent reduction. 

Cinnamon may also have a positive effect on body composition. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition included 22 subjects with pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome who received a water-soluble cinnamon extract (Cinnulin PF®, from Integrity Nutraceuticals) or placebo for 12 weeks.75 Subjects in the Cinnulin PF group saw an increase in lean mass and a “small, but statistically significant decrease” in body fat. A study presented at the 47th American College of Nutrition Annual Meeting in 2006 revealed a daily supplement of Cinnulin PF may boost antioxidant defenses and reduce the oxidative stress related to metabolic syndrome.76 A pilot study on another ingredient from Integrity Nutraceuticals, Razberi-K, a raspberry ketone ingredient, found a single dose in highly-trained men and women produced a trend toward greater fat oxidation 30 minutes after participants performed two exercise bouts. “These preliminary data support the efficacy of Razberi-K supplementation for the management of body fat in healthy men and women, particularly when used in conjunction with exercise,” said Tim Ziegenfuss, CEO, Ohio Research Group, which conducted the study. 

The Best of the Rest 

Some natural ingredients in the weight loss category don’t easily fit into the categories of satiety, fat burner, or muscle builder. Some ingredients take a different approach. Gymnema Sylvestre—A study from Tottori University in Japan examined the effect of gymnemate, extracted from the herb, on rats that were overweight and had hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia.77 Those treated with gymnema water extract decreased their food and water intake about one-third and two-thirds, respectively, along with reductions in body weight by 57 g at week one, and 75.5 g at week two. In the end of the experiment (three weeks after gymnemate withdrawal), the body weight was decreased to no significant difference with normalcontrol. “Supplementation with gymnemate promoted weight loss by its ability to reduce hyperlipidemia, which was no withdrawal rebound: an important discovery,” the researchers concluded. “Supplementation with gymnemate is a novel therapeutic tool for weight management, especially in multifactor syndrome.” 

White Kidney Bean Extract (Phaseolus vulgaris)—This starch blocker has been shown to inhibit the activity of the digestive enzyme alpha amylase. This may prevent or delay the digestion of complex carbohydrates, potentially resulting in weight loss. A four-week randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine looked at 25 healthy subjects consuming 1,000 mg of a proprietary fractioned white bean extract (as Phase 2®, from Pharmachem Laboratories) or an identical placebo twice a day before meals in conjunction with a multi-component weight-loss program, including diet, exercise and behavioral intervention.78 

Both groups reduced their weight and waist size significantly from baseline, with researchers noting that the difference between the two groups was not significant. The active group lost 6.0 lbs (P=.0002) and 2.2 inches (P=.0050), and the placebo group lost 4.7 lbs (P=.0016) and 2.1 inches (P=.0001). However, when subjects were stratified by total dietary carbohydrate intake, the probative analysis revealed that the group of subjects who had consumed the most carbohydrates demonstrated significant reductions in both weight (8.7 lbs vs. 1.7 lbs, P=.0412) and waist size (3.3 in vs. 1.3 in P=.0100) compared with placebo subjects in the same group of carbohydrate intake. 

White kidney bean extract may also have a positive effect on body composition.79 A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted on 60 pre-selected, slightly overweight volunteers, whose weight had been essentially stable for at least six months. The volunteers were put into two groups, homogeneous for age, gender and body weight. They took either a white kidney bean extract tablet (Phase 2) or placebo for 30 straight days before a main, carbohydrate-rich meal. After 30 days, subjects in the treatment group “had significantly (p<0.001) greater reduction of body weight, BMI, fat mass, adipose tissue thickness, and waist,/hip/ thigh circumferences while maintaining lean body mass compared to subjects receiving placebo.” 

Relora®—This branded ingredient from Next Pharmaceuticals contains proprietary extracts of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense. In a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, 28 healthy, overweight premenopausal women who said they typically ate more in response to stressful situations consumed placebo or 250 mg/d of Relora.80 Paired t-tests comparing baseline to posttreatment weight showed an average gain of 1.5 kg in the placebo group and no change in the treatment group (P=0.89). When groups were divided into gainers (i.e., participants who gained at least 1 kg or more) and maintainers or losers, 75 percent of the control group were gainers vs. 37 percent of the treatment group (P < .04). Researchers concluded the reduction of cortisol levels and possibly perceived stress helped participants maintain body weight. In another open labeled, single center, clinical trial sponsored by Next Pharmaceuticals of 1,291 subjects, 86 percent of them reported Relora helped prevent stress related eating. The confidential study was conducted at the Living Longer Clinic in Cincinnati. 

Citricoma™—HP Ingredients markets this clinically formulated proprietary blend of polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs) and Eurycoma longifolia. In a six-week placebo-controlled study in 50 moderately overweight men and women, those taking Citricoma while following a holistic program of nutritional diet, exercise and stress management lost 2.7 kg (compared to 0.78 kg for the placebo), and 2.4 kg of body fat loss (0.55 kg for the placebo).81 Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were also lower in the Citricoma group. 

Fucoxanthin—Relatively new to the natural products market, fucoxanthin, a major carotenoid found in brown algae, appears to impact adipocyte differentiation. Japanese researchers reported fucoxanthin and its metabolite, fucoxanthinol, could prevent the differentiation of preadipocytes to adipocytes, and also down-regulate adipogenic gene expression.82 Additional research from the team reported mice fed fucoxanthin could reduce the weight of abdominal white adipose tissue, possibly by expressing a mitochondrial protein for metabolic thermogenesis.83 While the obesity statistics in the United States are daunting, properly formulated nutritional products are helping to turn that around. Of course, whether marketers can get a nation to improve their eating and lifestyle habits may be beyond the industry’s talents. And that’s no joke. 

Pete Croatto is a New Jersey-based freelance writer who has been covering the natural products industry since 2003. He is also a professional book and movie reviewer. 


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76. Presented at 47th American College of Nutrition Annual Meeting, 2006

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