While the daily media provide us with a steady stream of dramatic threats like terrorism and war, one of the greatest health crises facing our population today rarely grabs the headlines.
The threat is obesity.
Around half of our population is considered overweight or obese and the trends are not going in the right direction. A growing number of children and adolescents fall into one of these two categories.
Obesity has far-reaching effects on health. It is associated with chronic, debilitating diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and more. These health problems reduce quality of life and, if left unchecked, increase the risk of an early death.
The standard advice is to eat less and exercise more. In fact, this is a simplistic way of looking at a complex problem.
It is now known that many factors affect body weight and more specifically fat mass. While these two factors—calories consumed and exercise (calories burned)—still matter, there are many other influences that affect a person’s ability to lose fat.
These include stress, lack of sleep, the types of food consumed (high glycemic foods cause spikes in insulin levels and promote fat storage), medical conditions (such as hypothyroidism), use of medications (some drugs increase appetite or slow metabolism), as well as genetic and hormonal factors.
For those looking to lose those unwanted pounds, there is a plethora of diets, programs and products on the market—but what really works?
From a dietary standpoint, evidence suggests that beyond calorie reduction, there are merits to low-glycemic diets and diets that are low in carbohydrates with higher proportions of protein and healthy fat.
When it comes to nutritional supplements, there aren’t any miracle weight-loss pills. However, there are some products that can help facilitate weight loss by curbing appetite, increasing metabolism and reducing fat storage. Here are some science-backed supplements for weight loss:
White kidney bean extract: Promotes weight loss by reducing starch absorption from meals. It inhibits the enzyme alpha-amylase, which breaks down starches into sugar. Studies show that it reduces the amount of sugar absorbed from starchy meals, lowers after-meal blood sugar levels and promotes fat loss.
Green tea: Promotes weight loss by increasing thermogenesis (the rate of calorie burning) due to an interaction between antioxidants (EGCG) and caffeine. There are no serious side effects; however, high amounts of caffeine may cause restlessness, insomnia and increased heart rate in some individuals.
Green coffee extract: Inhibits the enzyme responsible for the release of glucose stored in the liver (glucose-6-phosphatase). This causes glucose to be taken from deposits in fat tissue instead and helps stimulate weight loss. Several small trials have shown benefits.
Hydroxycitric acid (HCA): A compound derived from the fruit Garcinia cambogia, which supports weight loss by reducing appetite, enhancing the breakdown of fat and inhibiting fat storage.
Fibre supplements: Soluble fiber helps reduce appetite and cravings, improve blood sugar balance and promote weight loss. Those that have been studied and found beneficial include glucomannan, guar, psyllium and pectin.
As with all supplements, individual benefits and risks will depend on your own personal health, so consult your health practitioner before beginning a new course of treatment.
Sherry Torkos is an award-winning pharmacist, regular contributor to TV and radio talk shows and author of several health books, including Saving Women’s Hearts.
This article was originally published in OptiMYz 1002.