A consistently increasing number of people spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year on weight loss supplements hoping to boost their metabolism in the purusit of acheiving an higher level of attractiveness. The fitness industry is booming, but the majority of people are unable to shed those unwanted pounds in spite of all the efforts they put into exercise and dieting.
In the United States, more than sixty percent of adults are overweight and thirty percent are considered obese. Here in the U.S. we have become sedentary and have grown accustomed to an overabundance of food. We have grown dependent on convenience, which has led us to consume excess amounts of unhealthy fast foods and quick, easy to prepare meals that that aren’t as healthy as they should be. We have sacrificed the healthy, home-cooked meals of the past to cater to our around-the-clock lifestyles. As a result, we’re always on the lookout for a super duper weight loss miracle pill that will allow us to eat whatever we want, never exercise, and still maintain the figure of a supermodel.
Many products in the weight loss market try to sell us this so-called miracle pill using promises of unrealistic results and miracle transformations. The weight loss companies rely on the overweight person’s failure to achieve the desired results and turn to the supplements as a last ditch effort to get there.
A major problem with weight loss supplements is that much of the information available in the market is written by the companies trying to sell the supplements. The claims are hyped-up to unrealistic levels just to make the sale. This mis-information can lead to serious health problems for people who take these supplements.
One of the major supplements that has been known to cause serious problems in some dieters is ephedra. Ephedra, also known as ma huang has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for 5,000 years as a treatment for asthma, hay fever, and the common cold. Ephedra is both a stimulant (drug that temporarily increase alertness and awareness) and a thermogenic (dietary supplement used to stimulate the body’s burning of fat). Ephedra stimulates the brain, increase heart rate, constricts blood vessels (increasing blood pressure), and expands bronchial tubes (making breathing easier). Ephedra’s thermogenic properties cause an increase in metabolism, which is shown by an increase in body heat.
Ephedra has also been used for weight loss, sometimes in combination with aspirin and caffeine. Some studies have shown that ephedra, when taken in a regulated and supervised environment, is effective for marginal short-term weight loss, although it is unclear whether such weight loss is maintained. Side effects of ephedra may include severe skin reactions, irritability, nervousness, dizziness, trembling, headache, insomnia, profuse perspiration, dehydration, itchy scalp and skin, vomiting, hyperthermia, irregular heartbeat, seizures, heart attack, stroke, or death.
The safety of ephedra-containing dietary supplements was questioned as a result of a high rate of serious side effects and ephedra-related deaths. In response to accumulating evidence of adverse effects and deaths related to ephedra, the FDA banned the sale of ephedra-containing supplements in April of 2004 and the sale of ephedra-containing dietary supplements is still illegal in the United States.
Although the Food and Drug Administration has managed to successfully ban the majority of illegal marketers, some unsafe products are still available. Consumers are being deceived everyday by some labels on products that claim to be ephedra free when in actuality these supplements contain other ingredients that may pose the same health risks. Be wary.
Another popular supplement is Epigallocatechin gallate, better known as EGCG which is a found in green tea. Although most commonly known as a powerful antioxidant and for its potential to lower cancer risk by protectingcells from the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are associated with the development of diseases such as cancer, advanced aging and heart disease. Studies suggest EGCG may also help with weight loss and fat burning by promoting and stimulating thermogenesis – the burning of fat cells. Thermogenesis also results in more energy and improved endurance. EGCG may help you lose fat by stimulating fat oxidation, burning calories, suppressing cravings, and boosting energy levels.
Another popular claim of some weight loss products is that they contain ingredients to prevent the absorption of carbohydrates. A popular example of this is Chitosan. Chitosan is usually sold as a pill that claims to be a ‘fat attractor’. The claim is that the pill has the capability of attracting fat from the digestive system and expelling it from the body so that users can lose weight without changing their eating habits.
Some scientific research suggests that these claims are are hard to prove. Results show that at best, unmodified chitosan would remove only about 30 calories a day from a person’s diet. Modified chitosan is supposed to be able to absorb three to six times its weight in fat and oils. This is unproven and opponents claim that using chitosan may have the actually negate the effectiveness of certain minerals found in food that are required by the body in order to remain healthy.
Some products claim to make you feel more full and therefore you eat less. One of the popular supplements of this type is Guar Gum. Guar gum is a fiber that acts as a bulk forming laxative that is said to be effective in promoting regular bowel movements and relieving constipation and chronic related functional bowel ailments.
For weight loss purposes, Guar gum is a thermogenic substance. Its low digestibility makes it great for use in recipes as a filler, which can help to promote the feeling of fullness, or slow the digestion of a meal, which lowers the glycemic index of that meal. In the late 1980s, guar gum was used and heavily promoted in several weight loss products. The FDA recalled these products due to reports of esophageal blockage from insufficient fluid intake. For this reason, guar gum is no longer approved for use in over-the-counter weight loss supplements in the U.S. Additionally, several studies found that guar gum supplements were not effective in reducing body weight.
Some of the latest innovations in the weight loss industry are creams, gels, lotions and patches; basically things that aid in weight loss by way of skin absorption. Many of these products have not been proven or disproven to be effective; there have been studies showing both positive and negative results. One popular product is Cutting Gel, which is a top-selling fat loss cream. Claims are that you rub it on the spots where you want the fat to vanish. I have seen claims that it works and claims that it doesn’t.
Equally as popular are herbal patches. These patches are said to be precise, convenient, comfortable, and effective for taking natural health supplements without taking pills or liquids orally. These products allow nutrients to be absorbed through the skin. Some of these patches, such as the Hoodia Skin Patch claims to work as a continual appetite suppressant by releasing natural Hoodia Gordonii extract via a patch placed on the body that is said to work for 24 hours. It’s not clear whether these diet patches have undergone extensive scientific clinical trials or testing and therefore it can’t be shown that a hoodia patch is more effective than hoodia capsules, tablets, or liquids.
Overall, it seems that the best method for losing weight is the good old fashioned way: eat healthy and stay active. Maybe instead of investing in diet supplements, invest in a good pair of walking shoes, go for a walk, do brisk walking, go jogging, hop on the treadmill, go to the gym, and most-importantly maintain well-balanced diet.