Other Approaches to Weight Loss
A special type of fat known as diacylglycerol has shown promise as a weight loss aid.
For example, in a 24-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 131 overweight men and women were placed on a weight loss diet including, in part, supplementary foods containing either diacylglycerols or ordinary fats.
The results showed that participants using diacylglycerols lost more weight. Diacylglycerols appear to be safe.
In four preliminary controlled trials, a patented, proprietary blend of fats added to yogurt has shown potential weight-loss benefit.
Korean pine nut oil (PinnoThinac), which is high in free fatty acids (FFA), was shown in one study to reduce the appetite of 42 overweight women compared to olive oil.
Beans partially interfere with the body's ability to digest carbohydrates, which is why they cause flatulence. Based on this, products containing the French white bean
have been widely marketed as weight loss aids. However, published studies studies have generally failed to find these "carbohydrate blockers" effective for this purpose.
According to the manufacturer of a current product, more concentrated extracts of phaseolus vulgaris, taken in higher doses, actually can work. Up until recently, the evidence for this claim rested entirely on unpublished studies that could not be independently verified.
In 2007, however, a relevant trial was at last published.
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 60 slightly overweight people were given either placebo or a phaseolus extract once daily 30 minutes prior to a main meal rich in carbohydrates. Over the thirty days of the study, the results indicated that phaseolus treatment led to a significantly greater reduction of body weight and and improvement of lean/fat ratio as compared to placebo.
Some evidence suggests that the supplements
may each slightly improve body composition (fat to muscle ratio) as compared to placebo among individuals undergoing an exercise program.
It has been suggested that
supplements, or high-calcium diets, may slightly enhance weight loss, but current evidence is more negative than positive.
However, because bones may grow thin during rapid weight loss, it may make sense to take calcium supplements when intentionally losing weight.
(Interestingly, when weight loss is induced by exercise rather than diet, bone loss does
seem to occur.
A 6-month, double-blind study found that the supplement
at a dose of 50 mg daily may help decrease abdominal fat and improve insulin sensitivity (thereby potentially helping to prevent diabetes) in seniors.
However, another study failed to find DHEA at 40 mg twice daily helpful for weight loss in severely overweight adolescents.
A supplement related to DHEA, 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone (also called 7-oxy or 7-keto-DHEA), has shown a bit of promise for enhancing weight loss.
Results of two small, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies suggest that
supplements might aid in weight loss.
A related study found that marginal vitamin C deficiency might interfere with deliberate attempts to lose weight.
One small double-blind study indicates that a concentrated extract of the herb
might increase the rate of fat burning.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that enrolled 158 moderately overweight volunteers tested a mixture of
, inulin (a nondigestible carbohydrate), and
(an amino acid), as well as other herbs and nutrients.
All participants lost weight over the 4-week trial. Those using the supplement lost a bit more weight, but the difference was not mathematically significant. However, a bit of positive news came from close examination of results. Among those taking the supplement, a significantly higher percentage of the weight loss came from fat instead of muscle.
One study found benefit with a combination treatment containing niacin-bound chromium combined with
Yet another study reported weight-loss effects with a combination of HCA,
, lavender, damask rose, and the Hawaiian herb
A very small study hints that soy isoflavones might help reduce buildup of abdominal fat.
Weight-loss benefits were seen in a double-blind trial of 150 overweight people given either placebo or one of two doses of a combination therapy containing
, and HCA.
Benefits were also seen in a 45-day double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 44 overweight people that tested a combination product containing
Minimal benefits at most were seen in a 12 week double-blind study evaluating a combination of asparagus, green tea,
, kidney beans,
and high chromium yeast.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the effects of a mixture containing
(bitter orange), caffeine, and
St. John's wort
contains various stimulant chemicals related to nasal spray decongestants. The results suggest that this combination might assist weight loss, but the study was so small (23 participants divided into three groups) that the results mean little.
herbs have shown some promise for weight loss. In a 3-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 70 overweight individuals were divided into four groups: placebo, Triphala guggul (a mixture of five Ayurvedic ingredients) plus Gokshuradi guggul (a mixture of eight Ayurvedic ingredients), Triphala guggul plus Sinhanad guggul (a mixture of six Ayurvedic herbs), or Triphala guggul plus Chandraprabha vati (a mixture of 36 Ayurvedic ingredients).
Reportedly, all three Ayurvedic ingredients produced significant weight loss and improvements in cholesterol compared to placebo; furthermore, the improvements produced by each of the treatments were close to identical.
One study failed to find benefit with a proprietary mixture of
, gallic acid,
, red sage,
Studies attempting to determine whether
evening primrose oil
can aid in weight loss have yielded mixed results.
One study failed to find useful results with a combination of rhubarb,
, red sage, and
Another study failed to find benefit with the edible cactus
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
is a mixture of different isomers, or chemical forms, of linoleic acid. CLA has been proposed as a fat-burning substance, improving lean to fat mass ratios and reducing total fat mass, but, on balance, the benefit appears to be slight at best.
Some but not all studies have raised concerns that use of CLA by overweight people could raise insulin resistance and therefore increase risk of diabetes.
In addition, use of CLA might impair endothelial function and levels of C-reactive protein, and thereby increase cardiovascular risk.
One interesting study found that topical application of glycyrrhetinic acid, a constituent of
, can reduce fat thickness in the thigh.
A mixture of the herbs of
is said to help reduce stress-induced overeating, but the only supporting evidence for this claim is a study too small to provide meaningful results.
often known simply as "hoodia," has been heavily marketed as a weight loss treatment. However, the evidence that it works is limited to one small unpublished trial funded by the manufacturer.
is popular as an aid to weight loss. However, a careful analysis of published studies suggests that the benefits are slight at best.
is widely used for weight loss, as yet the evidence from published studies is incomplete and inconsistent.
One double-blind study failed to find capsaicin (the "hot" in
) helpful for preventing weight regain after weight loss, but it did seem to cause some increase in fat metabolism.
A rather theoretical study found that two ingredients in
may interact to increase metabolism,
and on this basis green tea became a popular weight control supplement. However, other evidence indicates that if green tea increases metabolism at all, the effect is extremely small.
One study conducted in Thailand reported weight-loss benefits with green tea;
however, a Dutch study failed to find green tea helpful for preventing weight regain after weight loss.
In another study, use of green tea failed to produce significant weight loss in overweight women with
polycystic ovary syndrome
Green tea extract enriched with catechins (an active ingredient in green tea) has done better, enhancing weight loss in one substantial but somewhat flawed trial.
Oolong tea enriched with green tea catechins found some apparent weight loss benefit.
However, a study in overweight Japanese children did not support the effectiveness of green tea catechins for weight reduction.
And, similar results were obtained in another placebo-controlled trial involving 78 overweight women after 12 weeks of treatment.
Other supplements that have been studied but not found effective include
oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes
(OPCs) from grape seed.
An enormous number of other supplements are marketed for weight loss, but without meaningful supporting evidence.
For example, certain supplements are said to be lipotropic, meaning that they help your body metabolize fat or slow down the rate at which it's stored. Vitamins
are often placed in this category. However, there is no real evidence that they'll help you lose weight.
A number of amino acids are said to reduce hunger, including
Because the herb
appears to be helpful for anxiety, it has been proposed as a treatment for mood-related overeating. The antidepressant herb
St. John's wort
has been recommended with much the same reasoning.
Seaweeds such as
, and sargassi are often added to diet formulas, under the assumption that they will affect the thyroid gland through their
content. (An underactive thyroid can cause weight gain.) However, the effect of iodine on thyroid function depends on whether you are iodine deficient. Excess iodine can actually suppress the action of the thyroid. The herb
is often claimed to enhance thyroid function, and for this reason it is often sold as a weight-loss agent. However there is little evidence that it actually affects the thyroid, and a small double-blind trial found it no more effective than placebo for weight loss.
Numerous herbs and supplements with potential or known effects on insulin or blood sugar levels are widely added to weight-loss formulas, again, without any evidence that they are effective. These include:
- Anemarrhena asphodeloides
- Azadirachta indica
- Bitter melon
- Catharanthus roseus
- Coccinia indica
- Cucumis sativus
- Cucurbita ficifolia
- Cuminum cyminum
- Euphorbia prostrata
- Guaiacum coulteri
- Guazuma ulmifolia
Holy basil (
- Lepechinia caulescens
- Musa sapientum L.
Nopal cactus (
- Psacalium peltatum
- Rhizophora mangle
- Salacia oblonga
- Salt bush
- Spinacea oleracea
- Tournefortia hirsutissima
- Turnera diffusa
Herbs with laxative or diuretic properties or reputations are also popular in weight-loss formulas, although they are unlikely to produce anything beyond a slight temporary effect. These include
, cascara sagrada bark, cassia powder,
, cornsilk, couchgrass,
, hydrangea root,
, tamarind, turkey rhubarb root, and
Herbs supposed to "strengthen" the body in general are found in many diet formulas, including
Other herbs and supplements sometimes recommended for weight loss for reasons that are unclear include buckthorn,
grape seed extract
Numerous dietary methods have been proposed for aiding weight loss. The Mediterranean diet, which is relatively high in fiber and monounsaturated fats (eg, olive oil) has attracted attention as an effective method for weight management.
For information on two of the most popular “alternative” diets for weight loss, see the articles on
diets. On average, it appears that all dietary weight loss approaches are about equally helpful, provided one sticks to the rules.
However, it is possible that a low-GI and the Mediterranean diet are more beneficial than a low-fat diet in people with
type 2 diabetes
One study found that reducing consumption of high sugar beverages has a minor effect, if any.
It has often been suggested that adoption of a vegetarian diet enhances weight loss, but this has not been proven.