Recent Weight Management Ingredient Research Reflects Emerging Trends

Emphasis on fat and protein intake, reduced carbohydrate intake and gut health for managing weight are trends affecting the global weight management category.

Rachel French

February 8, 2018

13 Min Read
Recent Weight Management Ingredient Research Reflects Emerging Trends

Several trends are affecting the global weight management category, as represented by emerging research. Among these trends, longtime heroes of the category are standing strong, such as protein; researchers are finding potential for popular ingredients such as probiotics in weight management; and recent trends are gaining momentum, including the focus on fat for weight loss.

Fat Is Back and Bigger Than Ever

Fat’s reputation in the eyes of consumers has been tumultuous, to say the least.

For years, fat was bad. Saturated fat, trans fat, unsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat. You name it, consumers were avoiding it. The goal was to eliminate fat from the diet and, in response, the market saw a surge in non-fat and low-fat products.

Today, the regime behind the “fat is bad” trend has stepped down and, not only are consumers more comfortable consuming fat, they’re actually seeking it in the form of supplements, dairy products and beverages to help with weight loss efforts and improve health. This trend is largely supported by interest in the ketogenic diet, a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.

A meta-analysis published in Obesity Review in 2015 attributed the clinical benefit of a ketogenic diet for weight loss to prevention of an increased appetite during calorie restriction.1 Additional recent research found following a ketogenic diet improved all pathologies of metabolic syndrome in patients previously diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, including weight, body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI), compared to those who followed a standard American diet without or with exercise;2 reduced visceral fat tissue in a long-term (24 months) study of obese patients;3 reduced fat and visceral mass while maintaining muscle mass and strength in obese patients over a four month period;4 and produced small increases in energy expenditure compared to a baseline diet in addition to body fat loss in overweight or obese men.5

In endurance athletes, those opting for a low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet experienced a greater decrease in body mass and body fat percentage compared to those who opted for a high-carbohydrate diet, per a study published in 2017 in Metabolism.6

While fats’ favor is increasing, some fats are still on the naughty list; one such is trans fat, which has been established as a contributor of cardiovascular disease (CVD).7 Saturated fat, too, still maintains a less-than-stellar reputation. Long pegged as a risk factor for CVD, consumers were encouraged to remove or significantly reduce the amount of saturated fat in the diet (remember when whole eggs were bad?). However, research indicates removing saturated fat from the diet and replacing it with refined carbohydrates or sugars does not reduce CVD in clinical trials.8 Yet, when saturated fat was replaced with polyunsaturated vegetable oil, CVD was reduced by about 30 percent, according to the review published in Circulation in 2017. Thus, the latest concern on fat has shifted from total fat intake to the types of fats consumed.

“Recently, the science behind the criticism of dietary fat was proven to be falsified; the increased consumption of sugar and other refined carbohydrates correlates with the rise in obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, not dietary fats,” said Alice Hirschel, Ph.D., nutritional business development manager, Abitec Corp.

“Saturated fats in particular have many benefits that are often overlooked due to the inaccurate belief that fat is bad,” she said, pointing to medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) for their benefits to health.

MCTs are “an essential ingredient in a ketogenic diet,” Hirschel said. “A body in ketosis uses MCTs as a source of quick energy that continues to support satiety and sustained energy.” MCTs have been shown to provide sustainable energy, increase thermogenesis and promote prolonged satiety.9,10,11

Abitec offers Captex® MCT oils and Nutri Sperse® MCT powders from biorenewable plant materials including palm and palm-free options.

Carbs No More

Another trend reflected by the interest in ketogenic diets is the aversion of refined carbohydrates and sugar.

“Medical and scientific experts are finally coming to some sort of consensus around the main contributors to obesity, one of which is sugar,” said Becky Wright, marketing manager of innovation, OmniActive Health Technologies. “In fact, many believe the road to obesity is exclusively paved with sugar, sugar and more sugar. And while fat has historically been blamed for the rapid rise in obesity, too much recent evidence has come to light that relatively exonerates the macronutrient, instead catapulting sugar into the spotlight.”

Mitch Skop, senior director, Pharmachem Laboratories Inc., division of Ashland, detailed a research article on diet and mortality recently published in Cell Metabolism , which found people who ingested the most carbohydrates (more than 70 percent of total calories) died sooner than those who consumed lower levels.12

The authors reviewed a prospective cohort study, named PURE 9 (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology), which found that in more than 135,000 participants from 18 countries, carbohydrates increase human mortality, whereas dietary fat reduce it. “The evidence was so compelling, the researchers asserted that there should be a fundamental change of current nutritional guidelines," Skop said.

“The good news is a majority of consumers are ready to take on the battle of the bulge via sugar/carb reduction,” Wright said, pointing to a 2017 survey conducted by OmniActive showing more than 50 percent of consumers said if they could eliminate one thing from their diet, it would be sugar/carbs. Additionally, 83 percent of survey respondents said blood sugar management was very or somewhat important in trying to lose weight.

An herbal extract of Salacia chinensis (as OmniLean, from OmniActive) has been closely evaluated for its blood sugar and weight management benefits, and offers benefits to weight management via its ability to control blood sugar and reduce hunger. When taken with a meal, Omnilean improved glycemic response and changes in gut hormones in healthy overweight/obese individuals, thereby reducing blood sugar spikes and impacting appetite and satiety.13

An extract of white kidney bean (Phase 2 Carb Controller®, from Pharmachem Laboratories Inc., a division of Ashland) has been shown to support weight loss via its ability to help delay the digestion and absorption of dietary starches, thus promoting satiety. “Carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion in the small intestine are delivered to the large intestine where they act more like dietary fiber—feeding the microbiome and upregulating GLP-1 [glucagon-like peptide-1] which regulates satiety signaling,” Skop explained. Early placebo-controlled human trials demonstrated significant weight and inch loss with consumption of Phase 2.14,15,16

In the largest and most recent human study conducted on Phase 2 Carb Controller, those subjects taking a proprietary extract of the white bean, PhaseLite (Phase 2 Carb Controller), lost an average of seven pounds more than those on placebo after 12 weeks. In addition, 73.5 percent of participants in the weight management phase successfully maintained their body weight after 24 weeks. After 12 weeks, the active arm in the weight loss study experienced a statistically significant decrease in their desire as well as their frequency and strength of food cravings for chocolates and other sweet foods, whereas the placebo group experienced a significant increase in the difficulty resisting particular types of food.17

Protein Power

Protein’s benefits to weight loss have been well established and have remained an alluring benefit of the nutrient among consumers.

“When it comes to weight management, protein intake is critical,” said Michele Braun, research scientist, DuPont Nutrition & Health. “Because the body uses more calories or energy to break down protein compared to fat or carbohydrates, higher-protein diets are associated with increased thermogenesis,18 which can also influence satiety and speed up metabolism. Diets higher in protein can help curb appetite by increasing feelings of fullness and satiety.19 In addition, protein can help maintain muscle mass on a calorie-restricted diet.”20

As Braun noted, soy protein has shown benefits to weight management such as improved satiety and reduction of abdominal fat, and also has been clinically proven to lower cholesterol and may help with glucose regulation.21

Healthy Guts for a Healthy Gut

Increasing interest in the potential of the gut microbiome to improve health has reached the weight management arena, as emerging research explores the potential of probiotics and prebiotics to modulate gut bacteria and impact weight.

A review of 14 randomized, controlled trials published in 2017 evaluated the effects of Lactobacillus on weight loss and/or fat mass in overweight adults.22 Nine of the studies showed decreased body weight and/or fat, leading researchers to conclude the beneficial effects on weight are strain-dependent.

A unique probiotic strain (Bifidobacterium lactis B420™, as HOWARU® Shape, from DuPont Nutrition & Health), when taken for six months in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, resulted in 4.5 percent less body fat mass compared to placebo, 6.7 percent less truck mass and a waist circumference 2.6 cm smaller compared to placebo.23 The results were obtained without changes in diet or exercise behaviors. 

Nutrition Support

Adequate nutrition is key to keeping the body functioning properly. This is especially true for managing weight.

Norbert Fuchs, pharmacist and general manager of Vis Vitalis gmbh/Austria, pointed to the benefits of B vitamins for healthy weight support. “B vitamins play a metabolic key role in the stoichiometric combustion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats within our cellular mitochondria,” he said. Specifically, low concentrations of serum folate and vitamin B12 are associated with higher body adiposity,24,25 while vitamin B1 helps release nutrients from food.26 “It is the precursor for thiamine diphosphate, which is a co-enzyme for numerous reactions involved in carbohydrates and protein metabolism and central energy-yielding metabolic pathways,” Fuchs explained.

Vitamin B12 also supports the metabolism of fat and carbohydrates and the synthesis of proteins; vitamin B2 and niacin aid in the release of energy from foods; and vitamin B6 contributes to normal protein and glycogen metabolism in addition to its role in the release of energy from foods.27

Vis Vitalis gmbh/Austria’s PANMOL® B-COMPLEX (distributed in the United States exclusively by Stauber) is obtained from quinoa sprouts and contains all eight essential B vitamins, in several herbal modifications and per part as biologically active compounds, Fuchs said.

An ingredient composed of saponins extracted from the vine of Gynostemma pentaphyllum (ActivAMP® by Gencor Pacific) has been shown to support healthy weight management by activating adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK).28 “This regulates energy metabolism by increasing β-oxidation and glucose oxidation and down-regulating acetyl coA carboxylase, a health-promoting metabolic configuration identical to that induced by physical exercise; and one which, like exercise, ultimately reduces cholesterol, blood glucose levels and abdominal adipose tissue,”29 explained Paul Clayton, Ph.D., chief scientific advisor, GE Nutrients Inc.

A standardized extract of Caralluma fimbriate (as Slimaluma® by Gencor Pacific) has been shown to exhibit appetite-suppressing properties,30 leading to weight loss.31 “The anorexigenic effects are attributed to pregnane glycosides, compounds which also—fascinatingly—inhibit pre-adipocyte cell division, a novel mechanism which holds great potential for the prevention of long-term weight gain,” Clayton said. 

Managing weight is no easy feat for consumers and requires a multiprong approach that largely rests on lifestyle factors. However, natural ingredients backed by science can offer support to those seeking to maintain or achieve a healthy waistline.


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  2. Gibas MK, Gibas KJ. “Induced and controlled dietary ketosis as a regulator of obesity and metabolic syndrome pathologies.” Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2017 Nov;11 Suppl 1:S385-S390. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsx.2017.03.022.

  3. Moreno B et al. “Obesity treatment by very low-calorie-ketogenic diet at two years: reduction in visceral fat and on the burden of disease.” Endocrine. 2016 Dec;54(3):681-690. DOI: 10.1007/s12020-016-1050-2.

  4. Gomez-Arbelaez D et al. “Body Composition Changes After Very-Low-Calorie Ketogenic Diet in Obesity Evaluated by 3 Standardized Methods.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Feb 1;102(2):488-498. DOI: 10.1210/jc.2016-2385.

  5. Hall KD et al. “Energy expenditure and body composition changes after an isocaloric ketogenic diet in overweight and obese men.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Aug;104(2):324-33. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.133561.

  6. McSwiney FT et al. “Keto-adaptation enhances exercise performance and body composition responses to training in endurance athletes.” Metabolism. 2017. pii: S0026-0495(17)30328-1. DOI: 10.1016/j.metabol.2017.11.016.

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  8. Sacks FM et al. “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association.” Circulation. 2017 Jul 18;136(3):e1-e23. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510.

  9. St. Onge MP, Jones PJH. “Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity.” J Nutr. 2002;132:329-332.

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  14. Cellano L et al. “A Dietary Supplement Containing Standardized Phaseolus vulgaris Extract Influences Body Composition of Overweight Men and Women.” Int J Med Sci. 2007;4(1):45-52. DOI: 10.7150/ijms.4.45.

  15. Udani J, Hardy M, Madsen D. “Blocking Carbohydrate Absorption and Weight Loss: A Clinical Trial Using Phase 2 Brand Proprietary Fractionated White Bean Extract.” Altern Med Rev. 2004;9(1):63-69.

  16. Udani J, Singh B. “Blocking Carbohydrate Absorption and Weight Loss: A Clinical Trial Using a Proprietary Fractionated White Bean Extract.” Alternative Therapies. 2007;(13)4:32-37.

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  19. Anderson GH, Moore SE. “Dietary proteins in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans.” J Nutr. 2004;134:974S-979S.

  20. Cava E, Yeat NC, Mittendorfer B. “Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss.” Adv Nutr. 2017 May 15;8(3):511-519. DOI: 10.3945/an.116.014506.

  21. Cope MB et al. “Soy’s Potential Role in Weight Management, in Soy: Nutrition, Consumption and Health.” Nova Science. 2012:57-78.

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  23. Stenman LK et al. “Probiotic With or Without Fiber Controls Body Fat Mass, Associated With Serum Zonulin, in Overweight and Obese Adult Randomized Controlled Trial.” EBioMedicine. 2016;13:190-200. DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2016.10.036.

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  25. Gunanti I et al. “Low Serum Vitamin B-12 and Folate Concentrations and Low Thiamin and Riboflavin Intakes Are Inversely Associated with Greater Adiposity in Mexican American Children.” J Nutr. 2014;144(12):2027-33.

  26. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). “Scientific Opinion on substantiation of health claims related to thiamine and energy-yielding metabolism (ID 21, 24, 28), cardiac function (ID 20), function of the nervous system (ID 22, 27), maintenance of bone (ID 25), maintenance of teeth (ID 25), maintenance of hair (ID 25), maintenance of nails (ID 25), maintenance of skin (ID 25) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on request from the European Commission.” EFSA Journal. 2009;7(9):1222. DOI: 10.2903/j.efsa.2009.1222.

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  29. Park S et al. "Antiobesity effect of Gynostemma pentaphyllum extract (actiponin): A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Obesity. 2014;22(1):63-71.

  30. Kuriyan R et al. "Effect of Caralluma fimbriata extract on appetite, food intake and anthropometry in adult Indian men and women." Appetite. 2007;48(3):338-344.

  31. Astell KJ et al. "A pilot study investigating the effect of Caralluma fimbriata extract on the risk factors of metabolic syndrome in overweight and obese subjects: a randomised controlled clinical trial." Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2013;21(3):180-189.

About the Author(s)

Rachel French

Rachel French joined Informa’s Health & Nutrition Network in 2013. Her career in the natural products industry started with a food and beverage focus before transitioning into her role as managing editor of Natural Products Insider, where she covered the dietary supplement industry. French left Informa Markets in 2019, but continues to freelance for both FBI and NPI.

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