If you are struggling to lose weight, chances are, you’d be looking for a weight loss supplement. Trust me, it isn’t easy to find and buy the most appropriate (and health-friendly) weight loss supplement. This buying guide is all about finding, selecting, and buying the right dietary supplement.
“Changes in lifestyle are by far the substance of succeeding in lasting loss of weight. They also suggest that in achieving this, one must be involved in a healthy eating pattern as well as engage in several physical and regular exercises.”
Guess what, it works. It doesn’t only make a tremendous instant impact on your health but it also modifies your routine activities as well as behavior – helping you lose at least 15% of your body weight.
In most cases, based on feedback and experience, this approach is not as effective as presumed to be since it is quite difficult to make changes to your diet and lifestyle. This is one reason why most people opt for dietary supplements to stimulate weight loss. Thus, there is a need to shed more light on the other alternative to the conventional, ‘supplement’, which perhaps might be a solution.
The National Institutes of Health placed a data on their official website that shows that more than 15% of adults in the United State have, at one point or the other, used supplements for weight loss. It was noted that an appraised 15% of adults (mostly women between the ages of 18 to 34) have opted for weight loss supplements. About 10% of these partakers have been reported to have taken a supplement lasting for more than a year. Also, about 74% of them use a supplement that contains a stimulant like caffeine, bitter orange, or both.
This guide, therefore, is to take you around the realm of certain supplements, showing you the constituents and makeup of the ingredients used. It states the pros and cons, benefits, side effects, and how safe they can be, as well as the things to be considered before making a purchase. It is a comprehensive kit outlined for you to weigh so as to make an informed choice from several alternatives to weight loss supplements available in the market.
Table of Contents
- What is a Weight Loss Supplement?
- How Weight Loss Supplements Works
- Common Ingredients Used in Weight Loss Supplements
- 1. African Mango
- 2. Beta-Glucans
- 3. Bitter Orange
- 4. Conjugated Linoleic Acid
- 5. Fucoxanthin
- 6. Garcinia Cambogia
- 7. Green Coffee Beans
- 8. Guar Gum
- 9. Coleus Forskohlii
- 10. Hoodia
- 11. Probiotics
- 12. Pyruvate
- 13. Raspberry Ketone
- 14. Yohimbe
- 15. Caffeine
- 16. Calcium
- 17. Carnitine
- 18. Chitosan
- 19. Capsaicin
- 20. Chromium
- 21. Glucomannan
- 22. Vitamin D
- 23. White Kidney Beans
- Set Realistic Expectations
What is a Weight Loss Supplement?
Weight loss supplement includes a wide variety of products that come in various forms, shapes, and colors. Like other types of medication you are familiar with, they can be liquids, tablets, powders, bars, and capsules. They comprise tons of ingredients as constituents, and some even contain about a hundred ingredients.
The common ingredients mostly used for the preparation of these supplements are vegetal such as herbs and other medicinal plants, caffeine, nutritional fibers, and other minerals.
According to the Government Accounting Office (GAO) of the United States, most widely used supplement for weight loss is Ephedra. It comprises of various types of subordinate drugs. It is a medical constituent from the Ephedra sinica plant. This plant has been used traditionally by the Chinese for medical purposes for more than twenty centuries.
How Weight Loss Supplements Works
When you take any weight loss pill, it works in one of the following ways:
- Appetite suppression
- Boosting your metabolism rate
- Reducing fat absorption
It is paramount for you to have an idea of how diet supplements work because it will help you choose the right product. So let’s dig deep.
1. Suppress Appetite
A fairly large number of weight loss supplements work by suppressing your appetite. They close the mouth of worms in your stomach and thus making you feel full even if you haven’t eaten anything. This makes you eat less and help reduce weight.
Appetite suppressants must be used with care as excessive use can ruin your health and, in a worst case, it can lead to death. Therefore, you should understand the nature of weight loss supplement you’re about to use. Some of these suppressants have been withdrawn from the market. Several other modified natural alternatives are readily available with little or no side effects.
2. Boost in Metabolism Rate
Metabolism is the process of an advanced set of life-supporting chemical transformation within your body with three main functions:
- The transformation of food to generate energy that helps your body perform daily tasks
- Conversion of food to build muscles
- Elimination ofbody wastes.
Metabolic processes are expected to burn more calories thereby resulting in loss of weight. In other words, when you burn more calories, your body get rid of fats.
Most of the supplements assist to stimulate your body giving it a temporal mental boost. For example, caffeine which is a constituent of coffee. When you take a relatively high amount of caffeine, your body tends to feel very attentive, even nervous at times. This increases metabolic process and result in weight loss.
3. Decrease in Fat Absorption
Digestion involves the breakdown of food in the stomach and intestines by biological processes into substances that can be used by your body. Once food substances in your stomach are broken down, they are absorbed by your body via blood. If your body can prevent the absorption of some of these substances, they are channeled into your bowel and passes out as feces.
A widely known supplement in this category is Xenical. It prevents the consumed lipids or fats from further breaking down and thus disallowing them from absorbing in your body. Unbroken fats cannot be absorbed by your body, therefore, it prevents the build-up of fats in your body.
Common Ingredients Used in Weight Loss Supplements
The contents of the supplements known to aid in weight loss constitute several ingredients as stated earlier. They include herbs, green substances, fibers, and several minerals, in varying combination and amounts. The essence of getting you familiar with these ingredients is for you to know the constituents in the supplement you are about to purchase.
The following ingredients are constituents of most dietary supplements. They are outlined with the approximate level of efficiency and their safety. Whenever you’re about to buy a weight loss pill, go through these 23 ingredients and see which ones the supplement uses.
Needless to say, all these ingredients have their pros and cons and I have tried my best to list all the possible benefits and drawbacks (with scientific support) so that you can end up buying a supplement that will actually help you burn fat with minimal side effects.
1. African Mango
Irvingia gabonensis is a species of trees in Africa. The tree has edible mango-like fruits which are known as African mango. They possess nuts that are rich in fats and proteins. Research has revealed that African mango has a beneficial effect on obesity, diabetes, GI activity, antimicrobial, analgesic, and antioxidant.
The extracts from different parts of African mango tree as well as fruit such as kernels, leaves, roots, and bark are used to treat several ailments including obesity.
This extract is believed to limit fat tissue formation in your body. The extract has shown a significant level of success in reducing a relative amount of weight from the human body.
African mango is considered safe but this has not been studied properly. It has seen to pose certain side effects such as difficulty in sleeping, headache, allergy, and flatulence.
Beta-glucans are regarded as dietary fibers that are found in yeast, oats, bacteria, fungi, barley, and several other edibles. They’re known to help treat several diseases such as cancer and obesity. Beta-glucans improves your immune system as well.
As a weight loss ingredient, beta-glucans reduce the time required for food substances, such as glucose, to be transported through your digestive system. In other words, beta-glucans will make you feel full after ingestion.
Beta-glucans are majorly used as an appetite suppressant in weight loss pills. It is considered to be a very safe constituent, but in excess, it can lead to flatulence.
3. Bitter Orange
Bitter orange (citrus aurantium) is a plant. Its flower, fruit, peel, juice, and other parts are used in several medicines. Bitter orange that is used in supplements is made from the peel. It possesses a stimulant known as ‘synephrine’.
Bitter orange is known to treat skin infections, fungal infections, diabetes, indigestion, weight loss, anxiety, and several other diseases. It improves the breakdown of fats, helps your body burn more calories, and suppresses appetite.
A study by Mayo Clinic revealed that bitter orange can help you lose weight in combination with diet and exercise. This NCBI review revealed that bitter orange is an effective weight loss constituent that is used in supplements and it has no adverse side-effects in human beings. It is safe for use in dietary supplements as well as foods.
Another NCBI review revealed that:
“The results involving both published and unpublished clinical studies indicate that bitter orange alone or in combination with caffeine does not appear to produce significant adverse cardiovascular effects or pose a risk to human health at doses commonly ingested orally. No adverse effects have been directly attributable to bitter orange extract. Bitter orange extract alone as well as in combination with other ingredients results in significant increases in resting metabolic rate, and when taken for periods of time up to 12 weeks may result in modest weight loss.”
4. Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Conjugated Linoleic Acid is sometimes abbreviated as CLA which consists of a family of 28 isomers that are found in meat and dairy products. CLA is used to treat cancer, obesity, and food-related allergies.
CLA is widely used in dietary supplements. This, this, and this study revealed that CLA dose of up to 4 g/day leads to a modest loss in body fat. CLA might have some adverse effects such as an increase in stress, intestinal tract issues, depression, and insulin resistance disorders.
Fucoxanthin is a xanthophyll and is found in brown algae. It is a pigment that gives color to the algae. The brown color in brown seaweed is due to fucoxanthin. It is believed to help you lose body weight.
There are limited clinical studies that have tested the impact of fucoxanthin on humans but results of animal studies reveal that it helps treat several diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. In any case, fucoxanthin is proved to have no side effects and can be consumed by humans.
It is safe to use but requires further research especially on humans.
6. Garcinia Cambogia
Garcinia cambogia, also known as Malabar tamarind and Garcinia gummi-gutta, belongs to Garcinia species and is native to Indonesia. It is widely found in Asia and Africa. The fruit is similar to pumpkin. Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia fruit which is said to help lose weight. HCA boosts your body’s fat burning ability and suppresses appetite – thus, you lose weight.
Dr. Oz promoted garcinia cambogia in 2012 as a natural weight loss breakthrough and since then, it has been used widely in dietary supplements. However, according to NCCIH, there aren’t a lot of recent reliable studies on the effectiveness of garcinia cambogia.
A review and meta-analysis of random clinical tests to check the effectiveness of garcinia cambogia as a weight loss supplement concluded that garcinia cambogia extract or HCA can result in short-term weight loss.
The good news is that garcinia cambogia has no known side effects in humans. However, in rare cases, it can result in stomach ache, headache, and funny feelings in the upper respiratory tract of your system.
NCCIH recommends that you should use garcinia cambogia for no more than 12 weeks. Using it for 12 weeks or less pose no threat and has no side effects. However, prolonged use exceeding 12 weeks might lead to certain rare side effects.
7. Green Coffee Beans
Green coffee beans or the green coffee extract is the extract of unroasted green coffee seeds of coffea fruits. Green coffee beans became popular when Dr. Oz featured them as a natural weight loss ingredient in his show in 2012. It is widely known as a powerful ingredient that burns fat fast. It is also found to be able to aid in converting sugar in your blood in consumable energy.
A review and meta-analysis of clinical studies on the effectiveness of green coffee bean extract as weight loss supplement reveal that green coffee extract helps in weight loss but the effect is moderate. Most of these studies, however, weren’t long-term and were significantly heterogeneous.
There are no known side effects of green coffee beans so it is safe to consume.
8. Guar Gum
Gaur gum or guaran is extracted from gaur beans. Gaur gum powder is used to thicken the texture of foods and several other products. Guar gum is also used for manufacturing certain dietary supplements.
An NCBI study showed that gaur gum might prevent an increase in appetite and hunger. This eventually leads to weight loss since you don’t feel hungry.
Prolonged use of gaur gum can lead to luminal obstruction, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea. Weight loss supplements that use guar gum are banned in Australia and at least one dietary supplement has been removed from the market in the United States.
If you’re taking such a supplement, make sure you take it with enough fluid (water).
9. Coleus Forskohlii
Coleus forskohlii, also known as plectranthus barbatus or forskohlii, is a native plant to India. It can also be found in other subtropical zones such as Thailand. The plant root produces an extract called Forskolin which is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry for its health benefits such as heart disorders, high blood pressure, angina, skin allergies, obesity, and several others.
Forskolin was also introduced by Dr. Oz in his show in 2014. As a weight loss supplement, Forskolin helps human body release stored fat from fat cells. There are several studies that prove the effectiveness of Forskolin as a weight loss supplement such as this, this, this, and this.
Hoodia is a South African plant. It is used by the natives to suppress their appetite and stay slim. One species of Hoodia, hoodia gordonii or bushman’s hat, has gained worldwide fame as a powerful appetite suppressant.
According to NCCIH, they know little about hoodia and its effectiveness as there is only one clinical study conducted on humans thus far. The effects are still unknown as to whether you’ll lose weight or not.
An NCBI study tested Hoodia gordonii on mice and it led to cardiovascular side effects. Other side effects include headache, dizziness, vomiting, and increase in blood pressure.
Therefore, you should consume hoodia dietary supplements with extreme care and caution.
Probiotics are helpful and healthy microorganisms that are found in foods substances like yogurt. Their main function is to maintain or re-establish bacteria that are beneficial for your digestive tract.
Due to their health benefits, probiotics are widely used in weight loss supplements. There is, however, little evidence of probiotics helping humans lose weight. A study revealed that probiotics can help men lose weight. Another 2014 study sponsored by Nestle Research center revealed that women who consume probiotics in the form of supplement lost weight while men didn’t.
According to an NCBI study, probiotics can improve the health of gut microbiota, give control on appetite, improve body weight, and improves metabolic function. It can help you reduce weight eventually.
All probiotics are safe to use.
Pyruvate, also refers to Pyruvic acid, is a natural acid that is found in human body. It is a major part of several metabolic pathways. It upsurges the rate of fat breakdown in the human body which lead to weight loss. It also improves performance by providing your body with consumable energy and zeal to carry out physical activities.
There aren’t, however, any clinical studies to prove the effectiveness of pyruvate for weight loss. The studies conducted on human resulted in no significant weight loss. Since it is safe to use, therefore, consuming it is considered safe.
13. Raspberry Ketone
Raspberry ketone is a chemical compound found majorly in red raspberries and other fruits like peaches, kiwifruit, berries, apples, and others. It gained attention when raspberry ketone was introduced by Dr. Oz (once again) as a miracle fat burner in 2012.
There are little scientific evidence and clinical studies whether raspberry ketone really helps in weight loss. One study tested the effect of raspberry ketone on mice and it worked. Another study tested the effect of ketone in 40 mice and it helped mice to get rid of fatty liver.
There is only one human study that used several ingredients including raspberry ketone, caffeine, ginger, garlic, synephrine, and capsaicin. The respondents did lose weight but it isn’t clear if it was really raspberry ketone or any other ingredient.
Nevertheless, raspberry ketone is an active ingredient in several dietary supplements. It is considered safe as it is a fruit extract and this is why FDA has put raspberry ketone in Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) category.
Yohimbe is a tree native to West African. An extract from its bark is known as yohimbine is used in medicines primarily to enhance libido. Yohimbine is a prescription drug in the US. It is used to treat several male sexual dysfunctions as well as to grow muscles in Africa. Yohimbine is believed to help with weight loss.
A study on athletes revealed that yohimbine is a suitable fat loss supplement for athletes. A review of several studies in 2010 noted that there isn’t enough evidence to use it as a weight loss ingredient.
The good news is that yohimbine is safe as long as you don’t exceed dosage. When taken at a higher dosage, it can lead to headache, anxiety, and even heart failure. Use with care and caution.
Caffeine is a stimulant found in yerba mate, natural tea, Kola nut, guarana, and other herbs. It keeps your body alert and boosts energy level. Caffeine as a dietary supplement might result in weight loss, appetite suppression, calorie burn, and a boost in energy level.
There are several studies that prove that caffeine can help in weight loss. For instance, this study concluded:
“Increase in caffeine intake may lead to a small reduction in long-term weight gain.”
It is safe to use caffeine. In rare cases, it can lead to certain side effects such as poor sleep and nervousness.
Calcium is a mineral constituent found in the hard part of human bones. It is vital for strong bones and teeth. It is also essential for your heart, muscle contraction, and blood clotting. Calcium can be found in food substances like milk and certain green leafy vegetables like broccoli, oysters, soyabeans, and others. Calcium is believed to reduce fat absorption in the human body and helps with weight loss.
There are several studies that show calcium along with other compounds and ingredients can help you lose weight. This study noted that increase in dietary calcium can lead to weight and fat loss significantly. According to this study, calcium and vitamin D3 helped respondents lose weight significantly.
There are several other studies that noted that calcium isn’t related to weight loss. Nevertheless, calcium is used in weight loss supplements and it is generally safe to use all such dietary supplements.
Carnitine (D-Carnitine and L- Carnitine) is a compound involved in metabolism in several mammals, bacteria, and plants. Human beings are no exception. It is found in protein-rich foods such as fish, meat, eggs, milk, and others. Carnitine is responsible for breaking down fats in your body. This is what makes it a suitable dietary supplement where it is mainly used to increase calorie expenditure.
Carnitine is safe but comes with certain deficiencies such as abdominal cramps and body odor. In rare cases, it can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Chitosan is a constituent that is available in the shells of shrimps, crabs, and lobsters. It has several uses in multiple industries ranging from medicine to agriculture to wine-making and more. Chitosan is used in dietary supplements to reduce fat absorption.
Several studies have been conducted to inspect the effectiveness of chitosan for weight loss but there is little supporting evidence. In some studies (like this and this), there wasn’t any significant difference in before and after weight. Some other studies (like this and this) resulted in minor weight loss. At the end of the day, you might lose a few pounds.
Since chitosan is safe, therefore, there is no harm in using supplements that have chitosan as an active ingredient. However, in rare cases, it can result in flatulence, slight nausea, bloating, heartburn, and constipation.
Capsaicin is an active component found in chili peppers. It is believed to make you feel full after consuming less meal and it also helps burn fat and calories. These health benefits of capsaicin make it a suitable ingredient of dietary supplements.
Scientific studies show that capsaicin can help with weight loss and fat burn but the impact won’t be significant. In one study, 2.56 mg capsaicin a meal increases fat oxidation. Another study noted similar results where it boosted fat oxidation during weight maintenance. This study noted that capsaicin improves metabolic health for weight loss in obese people. This study revealed that capsaicin boost metabolism rate modestly.
Any supplement that uses capsaicin as an active ingredient will help you lose weight.
Capsaicin is very safe under normal usage. It is observed to cause nausea, scorching sensations, and stomach discomfort when abused.
Chromium is a mineral that regulates sugar level in human body. It supports food digestion. It is found in several foods like meat, potato, yeast, cheese, fruits, vegetables, cereals, and others. Chromium helps turn fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy. Its ability to convert fat into energy makes it a suitable candidate for weight loss supplements.
Clinical studies on humans and research, however, doesn’t support the claim that chromium is helpful in losing weight. Several studies have been conducted on humans that show that there is either no effect on weight loss or weight loss is negligible. This is one reason why chromium is used with other ingredients in weight loss supplements.
But since it is safe to use and has several other health benefits (diabetes, eyesight, menopause, etc.), you can use (and try) dietary supplements that contain chromium as an active ingredient.
Glucomannan is a dietary fiber that is water-soluble and is found in the root of the konjac plant. It is widely used in medicines, supplements, tablets, and capsules to treat constipation, weight loss, blood sugar, type 2 diabetes, and cholesterol level. It is believed to absorb water in the gut so as to make you feel full after ingesting little meal. This is why it used in several dietary supplements as an appetite suppressant.
Glucomannan is safe and used in several drugs, therefore, you can safely use dietary supplements but keep in mind that such supplements won’t help you much weight loss.
22. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is required by your body to maintain healthy bones and good health. It is noted that obese people have vitamin D deficiency, but it doesn’t show that an intake of vitamin D will aid them or others lose weight. It is used in dietary supplements to help boost weight loss process by removing vitamin D deficiency.
However, vitamin D doesn’t help you reduce weight. In a meta-analysis of vitamin D and weight loss studies, it was concluded that vitamin D doesn’t aid weight loss.
Any dietary supplement having vitamin D as an active ingredient won’t help you lose weight.
23. White Kidney Beans
White kidney bean is a leguminous produce that is in shape of a kidney. An extract of white kidney beans is believed to reduce the carbohydrate absorption rate and helps you conquer your desire for food ingestion. This is why white kidney bean extract is used in dietary supplements.
Studies and research on humans always reported small but variable weight loss with the use white kidney beans. In the long-run, it can help you lose significant weight.
White kidney bean and extract are safe to use with no known side effects.
Now that you know about the ingredients, their effectiveness, and side effects that are used in dietary supplements, you can now proceed to see if you are buying the right weight loss supplement.
Set Realistic Expectations
Using weight loss supplements without setting a realistic expectation is like wearing a perfume without washing up. Of course, you know how that feels.
Buying supplements with all your hard-earned cash to help you get rid of fat overnight or maybe in a week won’t work. You have to understand how a dietary supplement works and that it is not magic.
You cannot get slim in a couple days.
So don’t look for a shortcut.
Weight loss supplement alone won’t do anything. You have to control your diet, cut junk food, do exercise, and switch to a healthy lifestyle.
That’s how you’ll lose weight.
Avoid shortcuts and don’t rely completely on the dietary supplement. If your intention is to take capsules three times a day and spend your entire day in your bed, you shouldn’t waste money on a supplement.
It might work for a few and it might not work for you at all.
Things to Consider Before You Buy a Dietary Supplement
It isn’t a good idea to walk into a store and pick a weight loss pill for your personal use without making certain considerations.
Before you buy a weight loss supplement, it is crucial to consider its manufacturer, ingredients, FDA approval, and the likes. Some of the major considerations are discussed below for you.
1. Check Manufacturer
It is very easy to consume Coca-Cola products without considering the makers because you know the manufacturer is Coca-Cola Company. This is, however, not the case with weight loss supplements. You have to carefully analyze, research, and read about the manufacturer of the dietary supplement you’re about to buy.
Spending a few minutes on the internet will help you find a lot of information about any dietary supplement company. See where they’re located, what’s their history, is their facility certified and authorized, and so on.
Don’t forget to see what other customers are saying about the manufacturer, their customer support, after-sale services, etc. This will help you buy from a reliable company.
2. Explore Ingredients
We have covered this in detail above. The majority of the dietary supplements in the market today use one or more of the ingredients discussed above. If the ingredients are safe, clinical tested, backed by research, and have no major issues, you can go for it.
3. Compare Risks and Benefits
What is the point of buying a wedding gown at the age of 90? You’ll regret if the risk outweighs the benefits.
Don’t try to make an instant decision. Take your time. Use Google.
Most of the weight loss pills claim to provide a quick, easy, and instant way to get rid of body fat. Be very cautious when dealing with such pills.
All that glitters is not gold.
The best approach to compare pros and cons is to list all the benefits and risks on a piece of paper and ask yourself, do benefits outweigh risks?
If they do, you have your supplement.
4. Consult Your Physician
This is by far the easiest thing to do, ask your physician.
It is certain that your doctor (who is familiar with your health) have the right answers to any questions that you may have about a weight loss supplement.
You can also use online health forums where experts (normally physicians) will respond to your queries. Ask anything and you’ll get an appropriate answer.
5. FDA Approval
“FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. The manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe before they go to market.”
You can, however, check ingredients and prescriptions drugs used in a dietary supplement with FDA. It will give you a hint of whether a pill uses FDA approved ingredients.
6. Scientific Support
A supplement that is scientifically tested, backed by clinical studies, and has research to back it is always a great choice. When evaluating research and studies, look for peer-reviewed articles and do some research about the authors as well.
You don’t want to end up buying a wrong diet pill by reading a manufacturer-sponsored study. If the authors are reliable and well-known, you’re good to go.
Buying a weight loss supplement isn’t easy. I understand.
I hope this weight loss supplement buying guide will help you find a reliable dietary supplement so that you can achieve your dream body.