Science Behind Weight Loss Supplements
Scientists worldwide are continually studying the potential for herbs that might help with weight reduction. The best research is available to the public by searching through the PubMed online medical database at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Anyone can conduct a search for studies on any herb, using search terms to find the titles and abstracts of articles of interest.
Examining the research on common herbs that are marketed for losing weight shows that certain herbs can be very helpful. On the other hand, other well-known herbs have no scientific support or anything remotely related to it. They are mostly scams.
Green tea is an example herb that is supposed to help with weight reduction. A recent PubMed search on 'green tea' as a search term yielded 4,536 articles. Modifying it to 'green tea and weight loss' yielded 88 articles, many showing positive results. This an example of a well-researched herb. Indeed, a quick inspection of these articles shows that green tea is the probably best of all the herbal weight loss supplements.
Green tea seems to be the star of the show in other ways, too. This herb is well-researched for its multiplicity of health benefits, including improvements in total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol, fasting blood sugar, total triglycerides, and levels of insulin, cortisol, growth hormone, and IGF-1.
Additional searching on other herbal supplements for weight control shows that numerous herbs are well-supported by scientific studies. Several could contend for the top 5 list. The top 5, including green tea, that appear to be the best at the moment, based on scientific research are:Green tea (Camellia sinensis) Banaba (Lagerostroemia speciosa) Gymnema sylvestre African mango (Irvingia gabonensis) Bitter melon (Momordica charantia)
The mechanisms of action, when known, vary among these herbs. The most common mechanisms entail antioxidant (anti-inflammatory) power, enhanced fat cell metabolism, and blood sugar and insulin regulation.
Herbal Weight Loss Supplements to Avoid
This is a much bigger topic. It is an easier topic to explore on Pubmed, since some of the most widely marketed 'weight loss' herbs have very little research to sort through, and sometimes none at all. Two of the top examples are Hoodia and acai berry.
A PubMed search on Hoodia yields 37 published articles. This herb is widely marketed as an appetite suppressant and has been endorsed by Oprah, Dr. Oz, and other celebrities. The most pertinent and most recent research on this herb as a treatment for overweight was published in 2011 (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 95 no. 5, pp. 1171-1181). This research showed that, after a 15-day study period, there was no significant difference in food intake or body weight between the Hoodia-treated group and the control (placebo) group.
Moreover, Hoodia was not well tolerated during this study. Side effects included nausea, vomiting, disturbed skin sensations, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and higher bilirubin levels.
On the other hand, a PubMed search on acai appeared more promising at first, since it yielded 92 research articles. At least 15 of these had nothing to do with the herb. Of those remaining, many properties of acai were reported. However, none involved weight loss. There were no published weight loss studies on acai whatsoever.
Acai berry juice is marketed with almost breathless claims about how this so-called exotic, tropical fruit juice is a miracle weight loss supplement. The truth is that the acai berry is an inexpensive product of common date palms in Brazil that has no documented weight loss benefits at all.
As weight loss supplements, Hoodia and acai sure seem to fit the descriptions of scams to me. Unfortunately, these are not the only ones.