Weight loss manufacturers respond to consumer demand for safe, science-backed products.
A diverse range of American consumers are increasingly focused on weight loss and weight maintenance within a broadening context of personal health and lifestyle issues.More specifically, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 66 percent of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. As such, the weight management category continues to be strong in the natural industry, while the future has limitless potential.
“Weight loss is a $30 billion per year industry, as obesity in America has risen year after year for the past few decades,” said Darin Johncock, sales manager of Creative Bioscience (Murray, UT). “The future of the weightloss supplement industry is unprecedented, and we feel that growth is sustainable for years to come.”
For the public, the future for purchase of weight control products can seem daunting, as a higher number of people will desire to lose that extra five to 10 pounds they gained in the past year, or more so for those finally trying to lose the 40-plus pounds they carried around for much of their lives, added Paula Nurnberger, marketing manager for Morristown, NJ-based P.L. Thomas.
On the other hand, for suppliers and brand marketers, the future is quite bright as manufacturers continue to refine products that work and fit a greater variety of lifestyles and needs.“For both consumers and suppliers, the science of the weight-loss products will rule their market entry and market success. Stricter guidelines and regulations will benefit the consumer by delivering safe, science-backed brands.It will also benefit ethical suppliers who market with the mandate to offer the best, safest and most effective products,” said Nurnberger.
The future of the category is promising, as more new ingredients become available, added Dan Chapman, CEO of Redd Remedies (Bradley, IL). “There is also something of a philosophy shift happening in weight loss, as more people are realizing and accepting of the fact that weight loss takes more than just a pill—that it really encompasses a lifestyle change.”
Consumers Weigh In
The weight management category’s future will of course depend on consumers.
Michael Gardineer, CEO of TruDerma (Las Vegas, NV), said he feels that today’s shoppers will expect to find science, patents and clinical studies on the products they purchase, and this has become more apparent in recent years as consumers are becoming more informed and aware of their options when it comes to their health. “The new focus on living healthfully will cause customers to more carefully scrutinize products and ingredients,” Gardineer said.
And according to Jeremy Holt, manager of health ingredients and services at Ajinomoto North America, Inc. (Fort Lee, NJ), many of the doctors that the company works with have a growing percentage of patients that are becoming “drug adverse.”
“Patients want to be involved in the treatment decisions and have a clear understanding of their options. The days of the doctor simply handing a patient a script without discussion are over,” said Holt. “Side effects, drug interactions and effectiveness are all a concern, and the old idea that drug therapy is the only therapy no longer holds true. It is becoming more common for patients to ask their doctors for alternatives to drug therapy, creating a need for physicians to be nutraceutical experts and to have access to highquality, effective therapies.”
Providing sound science for products has become important in the weight management category, added Nurnberger. “Consumer awareness is better than ever, although too many consumers still fall into the trap of ‘ondemand’ and/or seasonal weight-loss regimens, rather than thinking about attaining and maintaining healthy body weight,” she said. “[But] as companies provide sound science for the product and don’t make over-promising claims, an increased number of consumers have come to trust what they offer and believe that by incorporating researchdriven dietary supplements into a regimen of healthier diet and exercise, they will enjoy results of attaining a healthy weight and higher well-being.”
Although consumers have been making gains in knowledge and awareness when it comes to weight management products, according to Mitch Skop, senior director of new product development at Pharmachem Laboratories (Kearny, NJ), there is still room for improvement.
“We think there is still a lot of confusion among consumers due to the complexity of weight control, and the large number of competing products. Consumers can be best educated on this topic via the ways they obtain information: magazines/ print media and the internet (websites and social media).” Skop said that Pharmachem has created a consumer site, LiveSoWell, with information on the company’s ingredients and where they can be found, but also with healthful lifestyle tips, recipes and exercise videos.Ed Jones, president and owner of Nutrition World (Chattanooga, TN), a retailer that caters to athletes, bodybuilders and serious nutritional supplement users, agreed that while consumer awareness has increased, most still need some help. “Ninety percent of our customers still need assistance when searching for weight control products due to their lack of knowledge of the body and its chemistry. There is [still] a growing need for safe and well-proven products, and a staff at the store that can match the correct product to the correct consumer.”
Undoubtedly, there has been tremendous controversy regarding weight loss and weight management.Regulatory agencies have focused heavily on weight-loss products over the past several years, and companies that choose to make weight-loss claims without the scientific evidence to back them up are taking a substantial risk.
“When undocumented products flood the airwaves with false promises, it hurts our industry,” said Healthfair Natural & Organic Market’s (Little Silver, NJ) David Wygal, CN.
“The responsible nutritionist deals only with clinically proven ingredients, not the latest fad. The [manufacturers] who help the most are the ones who supply the most amount of clinical research on their products.”
As such, ingredient selection is crucial in the safety of weight management products. In general, said Nurnberger, the best ingredients are those that have accountability in place from source, through validating research (more than one study), through processing to strict standards.
Enter Xanthigen, a patent-pending ingredient from P.L. Thomas that represents a new breed of weight-health supplements that addresses the cause of weight gain and inability to lose weight.Xanthigen is a synergistic composition of brown seaweed extract standardized for fucoxanthin and pomegranate seed oil standardized for punicic acid.
This novel combination has been shown to encourage the liver to shed excess stored fat, thus improving metabolic function and energy expenditure by the liver—resulting in more expeditious reduction of body fat facilitated by the healthy liver, said Nurnberger.“The condition, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), has been known since the 1980s, but only recently highlighted as the cause of comorbid conditions(i. e., insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, adult onset diabetes and obesity),” she said.
P. L. Thomas also offers Adipromin, a patent-pending ingredient that targets the improvement of body composition by inhibiting fat synthesis (lipogenesis), adipose cell and tissue formation (adipogenesis) and enhancing the breakdown of fatty tissues (lipogenesis).
According to Nurnberger, in doubleblind, placebo-controlled, human studies, Adipromin was shown to reduce BMI and positively impact cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as increased serum adiponectin (hormone improving metabolism), and decrease ghrelin (appetite promoting hormone).
Other effective ingredients for weight management help control the consumption and absorption of excess calories and help regulate blood sugar metabolism. In response to eating a large meal, people gain fat pounds Because of the rapid rise in blood glucose and the subsequent insulin spike.This elevation in blood glucose contributes to the synthesis of fat on the body (and triglycerides in the blood), said Dr. Kira Schmid, associate director of scientific affairs for Life Extension (Fort Lauderdale, Fl).
The company’s LuraLean® consists of propolmannan, a highly purified, natural dietary fiber patented in 33 countries.According to Schmid, the problem with many fibers is that they contain enzymes that during digestion cause the fiber sponge to break apart and lose its ability to mop up excess calories.
The result is that excess calories readily absorb into the bloodstream and too often convert to surplus body fat stores. So while fiber provides some benefit of early satiety, they do not always maintain their structure long enough to remain intact in the stomach and small intestines.
“Thus, a proprietary process has been developed that removes these enzymes so that the absorbent fiber sponges do not break down in the digestive tract.
This enables this specialized fiber to block some excess calories from being absorbed until they are eliminated from the body,” explained Schmid.
Further, besides ingesting fiber, another way of impeding the after-meal glucose-insulin surge is to take nutrients before meals that neutralize a carbohydrate-degrading enzyme called alpha-amylase. UCLA School of Medicine researchers have successfully used extracts from the white kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), found in Life Extension’s Phase2® Calorie Control Complex product, to target alpha-amylase.
In a clinical study, subjects who supplemented with Phaseolus vulgaris and consumed the highest levels of dietary starch lost 8.7 pounds, compared with only 1.7 pounds in the control group in just four weeks. Even more impressive was the 3.3 inches of belly fat lost in the Phaseolus vulgaris group versus only 1.3 inches in the control group.
With all of the different weight management products on the market, consumers often have difficulty picking the right one for them. Many manufacturers agree that there is no “go-to” weight management product, as customers are now often leaning more toward products that promote healthy eating habits instead of that quick fix that does not last.
“We believe that what we call ‘weight health products’ are going to see a strong increase in sales and demand,” said Nurnberger. “More consumers are understanding that there is no magic pill, despite some of the more sensational commercials on TV. An increasing number of people who want to get in shape have declared that they want to also be healthy—not make themselves sick—and they also do not want to get back on the weight-gain train.”
The high energy diet products with caffeine and other stimulant-like herbals continue to perform well, but areas that address diet and weight management without the use of stimulants seem to be growing at a faster rate, added Alexis Harwood, senior brand manager at Reserveage Organics (Gainesville, FL). “Products that assist with appetite control and provide sound nutrition through meal replacements will most likely experience robust growth in the coming year.”
Satiety has also become key for weight management product manufacturers.
Many people know they have given in to constant cravings that only get stronger, or are used to eating such huge portions, and they are having difficulty cutting down large amounts of food before they feel ravenous again, said Skop. “And many people just cannot part with ‘my carbs,’ which really means ‘processed, nutritionally bankrupt, blood-sugar spiking comfort foods.’”
While on the journey to switching to slow-carbs, a carbohydrate controller is a suitable supplement, offered Skop.
“And then there are the sugar addicts; giving up sugar-laden treats is extremely difficult, so supplements that can help people lessen their desire for high-sugar foods are also ‘what they crave’ when they are starting a healthy weight-loss program.”
Certainly, some Americans utilize a “low-carb” approach when trying to lose weight. Many Americans also do not consume adequate amounts of dietary fiber. A typical American diet rich in saturated fat, but relatively poor in complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber is not an ideal diet.
Accordingly, Life Extension’s Calorie Control Weight Management Formula contains Irvingia gabonensis (African mango) extract, which has beneficial effects on a variety of metabolic targets involved in carbohydrate metabolism. It works by supporting sensitivity to leptin, the hormone secreted by fat cells that tell the brain “you’ve eaten enough” and facilitates the breakdown of stored fat. According to Schmid, overweight people given Irvingia have lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), and therefore less CRP is able to block the activity of leptin.
“Leptin is important in weight management because it promotes the breakdown of fat in adipocytes and tells the brain to turn off chronic hunger messages,” said Schmid.
Additionally, Creative Bioscience’s new product line includes its 10-, 20- and 30-day diet. Its clinically supported ingredients also includes African mango, as well as Oligonol raspberry ketones, guarana and green tea to promote weight loss, increased energy and improved appetite control. The product was formulated so consumers won’t have to deal with discomfort from raging hunger and crippling fatigue as they lose weight, according to the company.
Finally, Redd Remedies has launched Crave Stop™, an all natural remedy which helps consumers reduce cravings for sugars and processed carbohydrates.According to Chapman, Crave Stop is a supplement made of blended minerals and herbs that help manage sugar cravings and support a healthy appetite. It uses chromium and vanadium to help control cravings by promoting the body’s healthy use of insulin.
While manufacturers are pressured to make safe weight management supplements, the spotlight is also on natural products retailers to provide consumers with the best options.
Corporate social responsibility is an important principle that’s been discussed frequently in the past couple years, said TruDerma’s Gardineer.
“Consumers rely on retailers to supply effective, safe products and help them identify which are best suited for their body types, goals, etc. Customers also rely on retailers for expertise, and retailers know they need repeat customers, so it’s important to provide additional value and not violate a customer’s confidence.”
Gardineer said that is best achieved by rigorously evaluating products and companies and creating a partnership in improving customers’ health.Secondly, retailers need to demonstrate objectivity and candor with their customers, he said.
Retailer Jones acknowledged that this can be challenging since weight-loss products often come with consumers’ unreasonable expectations, and its an area where suppliers can step up their efforts. “When it comes to manufacturers offering assistance in the category of weight control, I must say it is sorely lacking,” he said. “I have trained my staff to not promise the moon and to explain the realities of weight control.”
Nonetheless, natural product retailers can serve themselves best by staying true to their philosophy of providing clean, nutritious foods and promoting a healthy lifestyle, added Redd Remedies’ Chapman. “Choosing products that support the philosophy of the health food industry will give retailers the opportunity to not only sell a weight-loss supplement, but to also sell everything else they have to offer in their stores.”
The best way to educate and service customers in the weight management segment is to recommend products that are in alignment with the customers’ personal goals, offered Reserveage’s Harwood. “There are many choices available today that can provide weight management support without the need of the more controversial and questionable ingredients. It’s always wise to suggest products that have research to show both safety and efficacy.”
Three Phases of Weight Control
A ccording to Mitch Skop, senior director of new product development at Pharmachem Laboratories (Kearny, NJ), there is not any one thing that can address the causalities of weight gain.
“The best ingredients for weight management are those that address the primary reasons consumers gain weight—overconsumption, eating too many carbohydrates or too much sugar,” he said, adding that’s the core reason why his company created the Three Phases of Weight Control™.
• Phase 1 Hunger Controller™ is a family of flavored beverage powders containing Olibra™, clinically shown to promote appetite control and satiety. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that subjects who consumed foods containing Olibra had significantly reduced food intake at subsequent meals. Another study at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, showed the ingredient to be effective in helping subjects maintain their weight over a longer term of 18 weeks.
• Phase 2 Carb Controller™ is the first scientifically studied proprietary extract of the white bean, and the only weight control ingredient with two separate structure/ function claims.Phase 2® may reduce the digestion of starches and aid in weight control when used in conjunction with a sensible diet and exercise program. Studies have also shown that it reduces the glycemic index of white bread and may support healthy blood glucose levels. It is a natural, GRAS, nonstimulant ingredient for Use in a variety of functional foods, including baked goods, high carbohydrate prepared foods, snacks and beverages.It can also be used in convenient, sprinkle-on packets to reduce the caloric impact of carbrich foods like potatoes, rice and pasta. Sensory evaluations have shown that Phase 2 does not affect the taste or texture of foods, nor does it replace any of the ordinary ingredients for most recipes.
• Phase 3 Sugar Controller™ is a powdered formula shown to be effective in supporting healthy blood sugar levels.A new human study showed that 1.1g of Phase 3 Sugar Controller had a significant effect on improving blood sugar and insulin levels after consumption of a beverage containing 70g of sugar.