Weight Loss Supplements—Are They Worth the Cost and Potential Risks?

dietStory at-a-glance 

Weight loss pills are a nod to the pharmaceutical Band-Aid mentality, and actually run counter to the idea of a healthy lifestyle. This is why I stopped selling weight loss supplements, and it’s why I encourage Continue reading

Weight Loss Supplements Are Misleading

Weight Loss Supplements Are Misleading

Weight-loss supplements are not merely getting hit up by regulatory bodies for alleged safety infractions (Hydroxycut), but fully 46 per cent of all industry executives at the NBJ Summit last year believed that “more than 70 per cent” of weight-loss supplement products contain illegitimate claims. In second place, at 25 per cent of respondents, was the belief that “between 50 and 70 per cent” of products were beyond the pale. Perhaps it’s been easy enough to float fluffy claims when the feds were predisposed to look the other way, but in the early days of the Obama administration, it certainly appears as if the sheriff is back from being gone fishing. The industry will continue to flout integrity at its peril.

On May 1, 2009, the FDA issued a warning to consumers to stop using Hydroxycut weight-loss products. Although it is not yet known which specific ingredient in the multi-ingredient formula was responsible for the alleged liver problems. The actives in an example product in the Hydroxycut line include Garcinia cambogia, Chromium polynicotinate, Gymnema sylvestre, caffeine, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, ginger, raspberry and quercetin.

Sabinsa, supplier of Citrin and GarCitrin brands of Garcinia cambogia but which are not used in Hydroxycut products, issued a position paper on the safety of its hydroxycitric acid as found in its branded-ingredient products, specifically Citrin and GarCitrin.

The US weight-loss supplements market is valued at $1.7 billion, according to Nutrition Business Journal. The market has not found its footing since ephedra was pulled from the market in 2004, with no clear ingredients emerging to lead the next generation of weight-loss ingredients.

“Decreasing nutrient absorption, inhibition of appetite, and increasing thermogenesis are all currently being considered as possible pharmacological methods of treatment for obesity,” says Scott Hagerman, president, Chemi Nutra and Chemi Pharma, which offers the category PhosphoLean, a phospholipids/green tea combination. “More specifically, through discovery of special nutrients and newly discovered metabolic pathways, management of appetite suppression is opening new science doors to both the understanding and treatment of overweightness and obesity.

Americans tend to look at weight management as a problem best solved by diet pills. But, of course, food is the real key. Satiety product launches have increased by nearly 50 per cent from 2007-08, according to a report by Business Insights.

Weight management, diabetes and heart disease are the top three conditions for which US adult consumers say they would be willing to use dietary supplements, according to NMI’s 2007 Health and Wellness Trends Database study.

“We know that a higher-protein diet can be an excellent way to feel fuller longer and may help reduce the desire to reach for unhealthy snacks between meals,” says Matt Pikosky, registered dietitian and director of research transfer at the National Dairy Council. “Whey protein added to foods and beverages can help increase daily protein intake to achieve a higher protein diet, which can help promote a feeling of fullness.”

A May 2009 study even found almonds may boost satiety by increasing absorption of unsaturated fat.

Food-grade ingredients such as CarboStar from Saatwic Foods is part of the better-for-you food-ingredient movement. CarboStar is composed of naturally derived ingredients such as carrageenan and pectin, which is added to a flour formulation at a concentration of between one and three per cent, depending on product application. In soup noodles, it reduces calories by 25 per cent; in a brownie mix, calories from carbs are cut by 35 per cent.

“If the nutritional value of foods that people enjoy could be increased without affecting taste and enjoyment, those products presumably could gain widespread acceptance in the marketplace,” said Ajay Chawan, president of Saatwic Foods. “Thanks to numerous in-depth studies and pilot consumer trials over the past four years, we are finally gaining acceptance of our CarboStar Method from consumer packaged-goods firms. The primary hurdles we had to leap to reach this point were proving that our technology really worked and consumers would embrace it.”

And finally, we should probably note that the addition of vitamin D to a reduced-calorie diet will lead to better weight loss.