October 15, 2012
The dynamics of weight loss are ultimately more than just about the old adage "calories in, calories out." It is mental, physical, and emotional. It is genetic; it is socioeconomic; and it is cultural. Can we really expect a pill or a powder to make a difference?
Maybe, but let’s be smart about it. Let’s realize that a natural compound which, for example, blocks starch absorption is only as good as the behavior which puts the starch there in the first place. Let’s also realize that perhaps some new approaches to developing and marketing weight loss and weight management supplements are needed. Wouldn’t a supplement recommending taking the dose with 5 minutes of physical activity work better than a supplement recommending the dose be taken with a meal?
Easier said than done, of course, but the takeaway is that mass behaviors are not changed (and lifelong customers not acquired) by only focusing on selling the pill or powder itself.
Yet some exciting research news on various ingredients is emerging. Green coffee is overtaking green tea, perhaps due to potential safety issues with purified EGCG, and perhaps also due to the Starbucks-Dr. Oz-fad supplement effect. Also on a downward trend: CNS stimulants such as purified caffeine. Although it makes us feel more energy and eat less in the short term, it may not lead to long-term weight loss due to slowed metabolism. Likewise, while some research suggests a small amount of caffeine combined with catechins is a good thing, other evidence shows it may interfere with the weight management mechanism of green tea catechins.
We all know that skipping meals is not a good thing. Yet fiber, a non-calorie ingredient, is a good thing to slow gastrointestinal absorption of fats and sugars. The data on various fiber sources suggests that to combine cardiovascular and weight management support, a mixture of both soluble and insoluble fiber is beneficial. Adding lean protein to your fiber adds lean calories that balance metabolism. The lesson? Whole-food sources of fiber may be best for maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your heart healthy than the isolated, purified forms of fiber.
The mental side of a healthy weight is critical as well, and the brain and stomach are forever connected. In fact, FDA just approved its first new obesity drug in more than a decade, a combination of two satiety compounds (topiramine and phentermine) which act on the serotonin receptor in the brain. While humans have thousands of years less exposure to this drug than bacopa, for example, it works in a similar fashion the brain.
And while we are on the topic of drugs, it is important to note in any conversation about weight loss supplements that the best ingredients require strong QC and traceability programs to block adulterants such as drugs from being added.
The wicked downward spiral of diabetes goes hand in hand with obesity, and many ingredients working to regulate blood sugar also have a secondary benefit of blocking absorption of sugar calories, thus reducing calories absorbed and then body weight. Smoothing out blood sugar spikes by inhibiting amylase and glucosidase are a powerful specialty of many botanicals, including gymnema, bitter melon, and cinnamon. Emerging pathways, including FGF21, the “Starvation Hormone” that is a precursor to PPAR’s targeted by diabetes drugs like rosiglitazone, but may have an added safety factor in that they are localized mainly in specific tissues such as those in the liver, may be the next big target mechanism responsible for fat and sugar burning which help manage body weight.
The best research, and the best products, are yet to come. The most effective weight supplements of tomorrow are likely to take a multi-pronged, pull-out-all-the-stops type of approach to tackle one of the most difficult and pressing public health issues of our time.
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