from the shells of lobsters, shrimp and other shellfish, chitosan
is an indigestible fiber. It is supposed to help weight loss by
binding with the fat you eat, blocking its absorption. However,
studies do not support this claim. Side effects include constipation
and gas. People with shellfish allergies should beware.
Most often present as chromium picolinate, it has been promoted
to boost lean mass and decrease body fat. Though study findings
have been inconclusive, an analysis of several studies recently
concluded that supplementing with 200 to 400 micrograms of chromium
picolinate could result in about a 2.5-pound weight loss per week
in some people. Other studies have found a loss of body fat and
an increase in muscle tissue, with no change in weight. Still
others have found no effect at all. Though some laboratory studies
have raised safety issues, a large number of human studies suggest
it is safe.
Aurantium (Bitter Orange)
This herbal extract is a natural source of synephrine (a compound
similar to ephedrine) and the supplement industry's current answer
to the ephedra ban. But there are no published studies to show
it is an effective supplement for weight loss. And like ephedra,
its side effects include an increase in blood pressure; Environmental
Nutrition recommends avoiding it.
Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Both animal and human research hints at a possible role for CLA
in reducing body fat and increasing lean body mass, but it's not
quite ready for prime time. None of the human studies have been
long-term. CLA is currently being studied in combination with
chromium picolinate. CLA is found naturally in dairy foods and
beef and is generally considered safe.
The extract from Garcinia cambogia fruit rind contains
hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which supposedly curbs food intake,
weight gain and storage of excess calories as fat. However, studies
have failed to prove G. cambogia is an effective weight-loss
aid. The most common side effects are upper respiratory and gastrointestinal
Caffeine is the effective ingredient in guarana plant seeds. Guarana
may have a mild appetite suppressant effect over the short term.
It was often used in combination with ephedra until ephedra was
banned. The potential side effects are those of caffeine overdoseinsomnia,
restlessness, anxiety or panic.
HMB is a natural byproduct of the breakdown of the amino acid
leucine. HMB supplements are used by body builders in hopes of
increasing muscle mass. A few small studies have suggested that
HMB increases lean mass and decreases body fat when combined with
weight training. However, studies with overweight and obese people
Psyllium is a water-soluble fiber from Plantago ovato seeds.
Taken before a meal, it may make you feel full, causing you to
eat less. While it is proved to aid constipation (that's how Metamucil
works), it has not been proved as an effective weight-loss aid.
Pyruvate formulas boast that they stimulate metabolism and reduce
body fat. Pyruvate is found naturally in food and in the body
as a result of the breakdown of carbohydrates and protein. Some
studies have shown a weight-loss benefit with pyruvate supplements.
But the people in the studies also exercised and cut back on calories.
Moreover, the dosage used in the studies was high, requiring a
handful of tablets each day. Experts say the case for pyruvate
to aid weight loss is weak.
Brewed into a tea, bitter Yerba mate is high in caffeine. Used
in combination with other caffeine-containing herbs, like guarana
and damiana, it was found in one study to delay stomach emptying
time and aid weight loss. The study was short (45 days), so conclusions
on keeping the weight off cannot be made.