Weight Loss is big business and as a result there is opportunity for big fraud. This video and article “Weight Loss Supplements Video Presentation” offers some tips for weight loss supplement choices. There are additional links to resources for weight loss supplements at the end of this article.
Even weight-loss supplements that work rarely live up to the hype and some can be downright dangerous. If you are looking for a weight-loss supplement, perhaps it’s best to approach it from what NOT to look for in these products.
Don’t look for quick fixes. Don’t look for a magic bullet. Don’t look for something that will promise weight loss no matter what you eat or how infrequently you work out. Don’t look for such things because they either don’t exist or they can be very unsafe for you to take.
Weight-loss supplements can have a place in your regimen to get fit. But they shouldn’t be your focus. Physical activity and healthy eating are the two biggest factors in losing weight, keeping it off and staying healthy in the process. Any weight-loss supplement you take should be carefully considered, should be discussed with your physician and should play a supporting role only.
It’s easy to get sucked into buying a lot of these products. For one thing, there are so many of them out there. Stores are stocked with endless varieties of fat burners, fat absorbers, metabolism boosters, appetite suppressors and the like. In addition, many manufacturers play into our desire to get results without working hard. But it’s the classic mantra you should keep in mind here: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
For example, a review of scientific evidence indicates there probably is no “miracle pill” on the market and that, in fact, some supplements can be dangerous. Even if they aren’t dangerous in and of themselves, they might interact with or interfere with prescription medications that people take. That’s why your physician should be part of any plans to add a supplement to your weight-loss plans. Even herbal supplements, which are “natural,” can cause harm. Not every herb is your friend, not every product is prepared in healthy doses, and herbs can have pharmacological properties just like prescription medications (good or ill).
So, what are some of the major weight-loss supplements and their pros and cons? Let’s see:
Also known as ma-huang or herbal ecstasy, ephedra is an herb that packs a punch in terms of suppressing appetite and perhaps boosting metabolism. That why a lot of companies put it into energy-promoting and weight-loss products. Some products contain what is called ephedrine, which comes from the ephedra plant or can be made synthetically. But ephedra and ephedrine can cause high blood pressure, heart rate irregularities, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, seizures, heart attacks, strokes and even death. That’s a pretty hefty roll of the dice, particularly since ephedra is associated only with modest, short-term weight loss.
This trace mineral (usually sold as chromium picolinate) was one of only two common weight-loss supplements (the other one being ephedra) that actually seem to work, according to recent research by England’s University of Exeter and University of Plymouth. It is said to enhance insulin’s activity and reduce body fat. But even though it seems to work, the level of weight loss it causes is minimal.The “trivalent” form of this mineral is currently assumed to be safe when taken at a dose equal to or less than 200mcg a day. However, the “hexavalent” form of chromium may be toxic. High doses may result in iron deficiency, which, among other things, can inhibit your ability to exercise and expend calories.
Made from the shells of shrimp, crab and other shellfish, this product is said to bind to fat in the intestine and carry it out of your body, since chitosan itself cannot be digested by the human body. Research, however, is sketchy on its effectiveness. This supplement might remove a very small amount of dietary fat if it gets to the fat before your body does, but it won’t be enough to promote significant weight loss. Some studies, however, do so show that chitosan might have a small but useful effect on weight loss when combined with healthy eating and exercise. The product may cause constipation, flatulence and bloating. Also, any product that claims to bind to fat should be taken cautiously, as binding up fat in the intestine can lead to vitamin deficiencies.
This herbal supplement also goes under the name hydroxycitric acid (HCA) and supposedly increases metabolism and decreases appetite. It is considered safe for the most part, but research findings are mixed on its effectiveness.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
CLAis a naturally occurring polyunsaturated fat found in dairy products, plant oils and some meats, and it is often made synthetically from sunflower oil. There has been very little research on CLA’s ability to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass, and what research has been done shows mixed results, with most indicating little or no effect. Side effects of CLA supplements include fatigue and gastrointestinal issues, but it seems to be relatively safe.
This appetite suppressant may have some effectiveness in decreasing your desire to eat. But it also seems to lead to an increased risk of stroke.
This product may help you lose some of your excess pounds, possibly by boosting metabolism, decreasing appetite, or both. However, studies on the substance are scant, and the long-term health effects are still largely unknown. Also, some research suggests that it doesn’t really help you lose weight, simply that it helps to slow the rate of weight you gain if you are eating excessive calories and not burning them off with exercise.
Some research has indicated that vitamin C may help very overweight individuals to some degree with their weight loss. More research is needed, though. This is a very safe vitamin to take, even at fairly high doses, but at 1,000 mg or more a day, it can cause diarrhea.
This substance occurs naturally in the body, and is obtained in food through meat, fish, poultry and some dairy products. It helps to transport fatty acids to the muscle, which in theory would help to burn additional fat. The problem is that research so far seems to indicate that taking it as a supplement, instead of getting it through normal levels of healthy eating, has no noticeable effect.
Typically made from bean extract, starch blockers are purported to prevent your body from turning complex carbohydrates (starches) into blood sugar, which would prevent your body from absorbing calories from those starches and keep your glucose levels better regulated. So far, however, there is neither significant research to back up such claims, nor significant evidence that the end result is weight loss of any relevant amount.
Using over-the-counter laxative medications for weight loss is an old standby for some dieters. The problem is that they cause you to lose water, not fat, which is entirely the wrong kind of weight to be losing. Some people seem to think that herbal laxatives, such as senna, aloe, buckthorn, cascara and castor oil and other products found in weight loss products and dieter’s teas will be safer. But the end result is the same. By causing your body to shed water, you can lower your potassium levels, causing heart and muscle problems, as well as perhaps lessening the ability of your bowels to operate effectively.
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