Alan C. Logan, ND
Over half of all North Americans are considered overweight, so it's not surprising that there is great interest in weight loss supplement.
Over half of all North Americans are considered overweight, so it’s not surprising that there is great interest in weight loss supplements. A few supplements are supported by research and appear to be of value in weight loss efforts when used as part of a healthy diet and increased physical activity.
Do Meal Replacements Work?
Perhaps the supplement with the most robust research is the meal replacement. Although best known for short-term weight loss, emerging studies show that meal replacements are also effective over one to five years. The results of a recent 10-year study showed that those who regularly consumed meal replacements were an average 33 pounds thinner than matched controls. Researchers recently pooled the data from all meal replacement studies and concluded that meal replacements are safe and effective for weight loss. However, since many mass-marketed meal replacements are loaded with sugar, look for healthier versions available in health food stores.
Another weight loss star with collateral benefits in bone health is calcium. The data on calcium and weight loss has grown in strength. In 2003 the Journal of Nutrition published a study that concluded that high calcium diets can improve the effectiveness of weight loss regimens. Low dietary calcium intake signals an emergency stockpile of energy to the body. When adequate calcium is consumed, thermogenesis (the body’s ability to burn fuel) is increased, fat is broken down, and storage is inhibited. Usually, adding 500 mg to 600 mg to dietary intake is adequate.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) are two promising ingredients that do have the support of both laboratory and human studies. There are a host of studies in various animals showing that CLA can reduce overall body fat, decrease the size of fat cells, increase lean body mass, and decrease abdominal fat deposits. In support of the experimental research, a number of controlled studies have shown the value of CLA in human weight loss. One of these double-blind, placebo-controlled studies found that CLA could reduce abdominal body fat.
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is derived from green tea. Well documented as an antioxidant, recent laboratory testing suggested that it may also be of benefit in weight loss by increasing thermogenesis. In a human trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1999), 270 mg of EGCG daily led to a 4-percent increase in daily energy expenditure and a 43-percent increase in thermogenesis. An additional human trial published in Phytomedicine (2002) showed that 270 mg of EGCG could decrease body weight by 4.6 percent and waist circumference by 4.5 percent over 12 weeks in moderately obese patients.
While there is no quick fix, even the modest contributions of certain supplements can have significant and positive health effects for your weight loss program.