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Weighing The Options


When combined with diet and exercise, natural supplements can help consumers reach their weight-loss goals.

Maintaining a healthy weight is easier said than done, especially in an age where our intake of food is usually greater than the calories burned. Instead of walking, we rely on cars, and technology provides more convenience. Being overweight is not so much about appearance than it is overall health, especially when one is considered obese.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is a common, serious and costly health problem. In 2008, these costs totaled about $147 billion. More efforts are needed to change our communities into places that strongly support healthy eating and active living, the CDC noted. The agency measures overweight and obesity by body mass index (BMI), which uses weight and height. You are considered overweight if your BMI is 25 or higher, and obese if your BMI is 30 or higher.

Back to Basics

“Successful weight loss and healthy weight management depends on sensible goals, expectations and most importantly exercise, healthy well-balanced diet and will power,” said Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, director of research and development and national educator of Texas-based Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation. “In fact, two-thirds of U.S. adults are officially overweight, and about half of those have graduated to full-blown obesity,” she explained. MacDonald backs up her statements after finding recent studies proving that overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become obese as adults, further weighing down the health care system with concomitant concerns of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and more.

“Obesity is a complex condition involving environmental, psychological and biochemical factors that all play a part in its development,” MacDonald said. “Today, there is evidence in animals and humans that certain genes can contribute to this disease condition.” That being said, she believes that twins, adopted children and family history are all linked to the development of obesity.

“Basic health support, normal blood sugar balance support, energy and adrenal support and even support to help customers get the most out of their workouts are all part of helping a customer understand that weight support is not a ‘magic bullet’ answer, but a whole body and lifestyle process that involves every person’s day-to-day decisions,” said Ramona Billingslea, marketing manager with Texas-based Betsy’s Health Foods. When customers ask her about which weight-loss supplements work the best, Billingslea starts off by asking the customer a series of questions: What is your typical diet? Do you crave more sugar or salt? Do you take a probiotic daily for immune health? Where are you in life—college years, perimenopause, menopause, postmenopause, andropause, post-surgery, etc? Do you sleep well or is stress affecting your daily life?

It’s no secret that those who are seeking to manage their weight are susceptible to diets and marketing slogans urging them to purchase products without an explanation on why we gain weight in the first place. “Any reputable manufacturer knows that there is no way a dietary supplement will help consumers shed pounds if they don’t watch what they eat and exercise several times a week,” Billingslea said. “Unfortunately, for consumers seeking that magic pill, changing diet is a critical component in weight management. Eliminating sugars, watching overall caloric intake and balancing fat consumption are all keys.”

Weight-loss Naturals

MacDonald added, “As part of our commitment to the ‘truth’—one of the five powers of Bluebonnet—we always stress that no dietary supplement is the magic bullet.”

Known for its extensive line of products, which are backed up by dedicated research, Bluebonnet’s Diet Chrome-Care Vcaps provide a synergistic blend of natural ingredients, including SuperCitriMax that promotes beta-oxidations (transforming fat into energy), maintains healthy glucose levels and enhances the body’s fuel (ATP) production to support a healthy weight-management program that includes a balanced diet and exercise, MacDonald explained.

Illinois-based Redd Remedies’ Crave Stop is a supplement to help manage sugar cravings and support a healthy appetite, by way of chromium, a mineral that helps increase metabolism. Dr. Gregory Jantz, eating disorder specialist and best-selling author, noted, “At the core of Crave Stop are chromium and vanadium, two ingredients that are designed to promote the body’s healthy use of insulin. It helps balance the metabolic system by providing the necessary nutrients for the body to curb cravings.” It helps maintain low-stress levels and an overall well-being.

We’ve all heard the buzz, and according to Carmela Wolf, wellness manager at Hawaii’s Down to Earth health food store, their top-selling and most requested diet and energy product is Garcinia cambogia. A fruit plant found in India, Southeast Asia and Africa, garcinia is and has been used in traditional Indian cooking and in ayurvedic medicine as a digestive aid. Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is the active ingredient that has been known to be helpful for weight management. “Garcinia is known to reduce appetite and cravings, which can always give someone an edge that is already exercising and eating healthy, but perhaps too big of portions,” Wolf explained. Also, it may improve exercise endurance by increasing lipid oxidation and decreasing carbohydrate metabolism, as noted in The Journal of Obesity.

Another study on the popular ingredient, published in Physiology & Behavior, enrolled 89 mildly overweight females to evaluate HCA on weight-loss and appetite suppression. The participants were randomly divided into two groups. The first group was given 2.4 grams of Garcinia cambogia (1.2 grams of HCA) and the second group took a placebo. It was to be taken every day for 12 weeks in addition to a low-calorie diet. Researchers found that the group given HCA lost a significant amount of weight compared to the placebo group.

Looking at other botanical offerings for weight loss, California-based InterHealth’s vice president of research and development, James Lugo, PhD, pointed to Meratrim, an herbal blend of East Indian globe thistle and the rind of the purple mangosteen. The two pair nicely for helping to manage one’s weight, he said. “The herbal blend may reduce the body’s accumulation of fatty cells, and also may assist in fat-burning. We’re not saying Meratrim is a magic bullet, but we believe it can help people achieve a lifestyle that includes healthy weight, exercise and a good diet.”

Utah-based Twinlab Corporation’s Metabolife Ultra contains both Garcinia cambogia and Meratrim, as well as ChromeMate, a niacin-bound form of chromium. After conducting a variety of studies, people who took Metabolife Ultra lost three times more weight in eight weeks than diet and exercise alone, reduced their waist and hip size in as little as two weeks and decreased their BMI three times more than diet and exercise alone.

Green Coffee Bean

While many fad diet products ultimately prove to be more hype than truth, green coffee bean extract (GCBE) is not one of them, said Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA, Illinois-based NOW Foods’ nutrition education manager. He added that GCBE helps maintain a healthy body composition while supporting healthy glucose levels. According to WebMD, green coffee beans are unroasted coffee beans that contain a large amount of chlorogenic acid (CGA), which is thought to have health benefits for heart disease, diabetes, weight loss and more. Roasting the coffee beans reduces the amount of chlorogenic acid. According to Levin, scientific studies suggest that chlorogenic acids and other GCBE constituents may help to promote normal glucose management and to support pancreatic health.

“NOW’s GCBE comes from the fruit of Coffea arabica, a tree species native to Yemin and certain areas of Africa believed to be the first species of coffee tree cultivated for human consumption,” Levin said. Green coffee beans from C. arabica have a large amount of naturally occurring CGA found in plants and the most prominent components of GCBE. The dietary supplement contains green coffee bean extract with a minimum of 50 percent CGA, also known to be powerful free radical scavengers. It also contains 12 mg of naturally occurring caffeine. The suggested dose is one capsule one to two times a day, approximately 30 minutes prior to a meal.

Florida-based Garden of Life’s FucoTHIN is another natural option containing green coffee been extract and blended with Xanthign, which contains fucoxanthin from seaweed and pomegranate oil. In addition, California-based Rainbow Light’s ThinBerry Satiety also incorporates green coffee bean extract to control appetite and support a healthy metabolism. Offered in a vegetarian capsule, the product helps people feel full longer with Slendesta and green coffee bean extract.

According to Michele McRae, a certified nutritionist and Rainbow Light’s senior director of product development, “There is compelling clinical research indicating that Slendesta, a proprietary extract of U.S.-grown, non-GMO russet potatoes, increases satiety to help stave off food cravings through the day.”

Protein and Appetite

Dr. Kira Schmid, associate director of scientific affairs with Florida-based Life Extension, said, “High-protein diets have been found to reduce body weight and improve insulin sensitivity.” She pointed to a study from the Journal of Nutrition where animals consumed a high-fat diet for nine weeks then switched to a diet containing either moderate or high amounts of whey. The researchers found that the high protein intake may have been a factor to why the animals had reduced their body fat.

Tracy Kreider, ND, board-certified naturopathic doctor with New York-based Country Life, said she believes the company offers one of the best complete protein powders available to maximize a healthy lifestyle. The brand’s most up-to-date whey powder, BioChem 100% Whey Protein powder, contains 20 grams of protein from grass-fed cows, free of artificial hormones, such as rBST and rBGH, is free of GMOs, soy, gluten, yeast and wheat, and is 99 percent lactose-free. Wendy Lucas, chief sales and marketing officer for Country Life, added that the company’s goal was to maintain the taste and continuously improve the 15-year-old formula to make it a healthier, more digestible source of protein.

Additions for Weight Management

As listed, these natural weight-management products are well known and continuing to be researched. There are other entries to the market that also show promise:

• Utah-based RightWay Nutrition’s Thermotrol is a “super thermogenic” with Sinetrol XPUR, a clinically studied blend composed of citrus polyphenols derived from the Mediterranean citrus species orange, red-orange and grapefruit.

• Illinois-based North American Herb & Spice’s BetaSlim also contains fruit oils and extracts, such as red palm oil. According to the company, studies show the West African oil reduces cholesterol by 20 percent, supports a healthy liver and gall bladder and contains essential vitamins, as well as spice oils, fatty acids and cranberry and raspberry seed oils. BetaSlim supports healthy metabolism and digestion.

• Life Extension’s CalReduce Selective Fat Binder chewable mint tablets’ key ingredient is Alpha-cyclodextrin, a patented super-fiber to absorb fat molecules from food before it enters the bloodstream. The fiber absorbs nine times its weight in dietary fat, without undesirable gastrointestinal side effects. Life Extension’s senior health scientist Michael A. Smith, MD, says, if all your daily meals are high in fat, chewing two tablets of CalReduce Selective Fat Binder with each meal three-times a day may help to reduce caloric intake up to 500 calories per day.

Keeping it Off

“Despite decades of research, the reason some people gain weight more easily than others, and also have greater trouble losing excess weight is still a mystery,” MacDonald said. As you can see, there are many natural options to help lose-weight and maintain a healthy energy balance between intake and outtake. “All too often, people embark on a particular diet or are drawn by marketing hype to a special diet product that never addresses the specific reasons they gain weight: (1) more calories are consumed than burned, (2) metabolism slows down with age, (3) inability to breakdown stored fat,” MacDonald said. Specialty diets and exercise regimens can help shed the pounds quickly, but maintaining your weight is another story, and that is where natural products and dietary supplements come into play. VR

For More Information:

■ Bluebonnet, (281) 240-3332
■ Garden of Life, (800) 622-8986
■ Life Extension, (800) 544-4440
■ North American Herb and Spice, (800) 243-5242
■ NOW Foods, (888) 669-3663
■ Rainbow Light, (800) 635-1233
■ Redd Remedies, (888) 453-5058
■ RightWay Nutrition, (888) 424-7528
■ Twinlab, (800) 645-5626

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