Do an internet search for top weight loss supplements or products and you can end up with more than ten million hits, depending on the search engine you use!! Those kinds of results are a bit mind-boggling and beg the question…”just what can I really believe??”
The truth is that there is no easy answer. It depends on what you want to believe versus what is actually based on real science and the reality of how the human body works.
One large segment of products viewed as top weight loss supplements achieve “weight loss” via some type of detoxifying program. While a good detox of your body’s systems is in fact a good thing, it hardly qualifies as a weight loss program. Yes, you will lose weight – at least temporarily. But usually within a week or two, you are back to where you started from, because you didn’t actually lose fat – just body waste and water, both of which return when you start eating again.
Then there are the supplements that are essentially diuretics. You lose weight because fluid is being pulled from your body. For people who have genuine fluid-retention issues, a diuretic can be very helpful in reducing swollen extremities. But again, using a diuretic product to remove water from the body for weight-loss is a losing battle – and not particularly healthy. The body needs water to function properly. We are, after all, mostly water to begin with! So once you stop the diuretic-based product and begin taking in fluids like you should, the “weight loss” disappears – along with the money you spent.
Quite a few top weight loss supplements on the market are promoted as fat-burners and contain stimulants. Some of the more actively advertised are products containing ephedra, hoodia, ma huang, or phentermine. Once again, these will probably work. You will lose weight. You may also find yourself losing sleep and feeling hyper-active. And, at least for a while, that may not be a problem. You may even enjoy being in overdrive…cleaning house at 3AM…being a whirlwind of energy and activity. But your body cannot sustain this level of artificial stimulation and remain healthy. Humans are NOT Hummingbirds – our metabolism was not created to constantly be in hyper-drive. Quite simply, it will fail. Therefore, at some point, you must come off the stimulant/supplement. And then, inevitably, the weight will return, and all too often, with even more than you originally lost.
Then there are the fat-blocking products. In our opinion, of all the top weight loss supplements currently available, fat-blocking supplements can be the most effective and safest way to augment weight loss. Essentially, they work by keeping the fat molecules in food from being digested and absorbed into the body. However, the science behind different fat-blockers and how they actually work can make all the difference in terms of side effects.
To understand these differences, you must first understand how dietary fat is treated in the body. The pancreas produces an enzyme called lipase which breaks up dietary fat in the intestine so the body can absorb it. Ingredients like Orlistat prevent lipase from acting on the fat, thereby preventing fat molecules from breaking apart. This unabsorbed “free” fat is then excreted in the stool. However, without significant changes in diet and eating habits, the adverse effects of gastrointestinal discomfort, including gas, spotting, and diarrhea can make this type of supplement difficult to stick with.
There has been a lot of press about Orlistat, which is found in the over-the-counter product Alli, and with prescription Xenical. Does this work? Apparently so; however, by now most people have heard of some of the more unpleasant gastrointestinal side-effects of Orlistat. We would suggest you check the Consumer Report website for an interesting, if unsettling, article. Then decide for yourself if this is a route you wish to take. In addition, the FDA has approved Orlistat to treat obesity for no more than two consecutive years. It is our opinion that this, coupled with the possible side-effects and rather high cost, makes it worth taking a serious second look at Orlistat before considering it for your weight loss program.
Another method of blocking fat absorption is by increasing dietary fibers. Dietary fiber is generally described as a dietary component that is not broken down into absorbable units in the stomach or small intestine. The number of top weight loss supplements available using various kinds of fiber is endless and it can be difficult to understand their differences. Following is an abbreviated discussion of a select few that are sold individually, or in formulations, for weight loss.
Pectin also has been demonstrated to lower both total and LDL cholesterol levels. However, studies were unable to find evidence that pectin would increase satiety (fullness) and thereby result in weight loss.
Psyllium as a fiber helps to push ingested foods out of the body quicker, thereby allowing less time for fat absorption. It is also touted for its ability to increase satiety, and is credited with lowering serum glucose, and total and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as raising HDL cholesterol. But again, studies and reviews did not find any significant effect on weight loss.
Chitosan has been credited with lowering serum total cholesterol levels. It is believed that chitosan binds dietary fat thereby preventing its absorption. Most of the research has been done with animals and has shown to be effective with weight reduction. However, clinical studies with humans have been less promising.
Alpha-dextrin is a well-studied material. It works by binding with dietary fat grams, forming a very stable complex that passes through the intestinal tract without allowing the fat to break down. This is important. Since the fat + alpha-dextrin complex remain intact and the fat does not break down, you don’t experience the gastro-intestinal distress typically found with other formulations. Drs. Catherine Jen and Joseph Artiss studied alpha-dextrin and found that it significantly reversed the weight gain that the test group had experienced prior to the study. In addition, study subjects effectively lowered their total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while increasing their HDL (good) levels. Alpha-dextrin is now available in the supplement Mirafit FBCx®. Mirafit FBCx binds and eliminates nine times its own weight in dietary fat (triglycerides). One gram (one tablet) of FBCx binds 9 grams (81 calories) of fat. (For more detailed information on this product, visit the Mirafit website.)
Although some of the more commonly available fibers have been shown to have positive effects on blood lipid levels, none have been found to offer significant effects on weight loss. The one notable exception is alpha-dextrin. As a top weight loss supplement, it alone seems to have positive effects on both cholesterol and blood lipid levels, as well as on weight reduction efforts.
While no one supplement works for every person, there are definitely some choices which are safer and more effective than others. Remember, weight-loss schemes are a billion dollar industry, and new ones turn up every day. Do your research –
- The louder the hype, the more outlandish the promises, the more skeptical you should be;
- Check for the viability of ingredients and integrity of the company you are dealing with;
- Beware of “free” trials…read the fine print; they are seldom free, and you may find yourself on an “auto-ship” program that is expensive and hard to cancel.
Effective, long-lasting weight loss is achieved at a slow, steady pace (medical recommendations are 1 to 1.5 pounds per week), with sensible diet choices and at least some type of moderate exercise. The proper weight loss supplement to augment your overall program can help your progress, but miracle, overnight changes that last and are safe, are the stuff of fantasies.