A Study of 3 Popular Weight Loss Supplements

Close-up of a female feet standing on weighing scale

Weight loss is a big industry. In 2018, this field was worth $72 billion. Though medically licensed diet programs and chains have seen somewhat stagnant growth in light of the body positivity movement and the rise of commercial franchises.

Recent years have also shed light on a health renaissance where consumers are more wary of (and shunning) processed food. But the makers of these food products have somewhat been able to respond well by offering organic and natural alternatives.

That said, weight loss is still in vogue as people have become more aware of the benefits of healthy living. As a leaner and fitter body usually indicates health and wellness, some have even attempted to lose weight without the requisite activity (read: exercise) and meal planning using weight loss supplements.

The jury is still out on how effective and how safe for long-term consumption these supplements are, but here are three of the most well-known.

1. Coffee

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world (next to water and tea, in that order), and people owe its “kick” to a substance that lends its name to it: caffeine. Caffeine, a psychoactive substance, is found not only in coffee but in tea and dark chocolate as well.

Caffeine blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine. This allows neurons to fire more and promotes the secretion of other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. This jolts you awake and makes you more active.

This is why some weight-loss experts here in Provo swear by caffeine as a pre-workout drink, which can help increase your performance by up to 12%.

ortrait of young woman drinking water

2. Garcinia Cambogia Extract

Some human trials of Garcinia cambogia or Malabar tamarind have shown promising results for weight loss. Unlike caffeine, whose M.O. is to make you more active and thus burn more calories, garcinia Cambogia instead helps shut down your cravings. In other words, it suppresses appetite.

While the exact biochemical pathways of an extract made from Garcinia cambogia is not fully known, studies on rats show that it may increase serotonin in the brain, which can help you feel full and satisfied. The extract may also help hinder the accumulation of fat in the body (particularly belly fat). It does so by blocking an enzyme called citrate lyase, which has an important role in the storage of fat.

3. Glucomannan

One of the latest weight-loss fads, glucomannan is a dietary fiber found in the roots of the elephant yam or konjac. What is easily its biggest claim to fame is its ability to absorb water. In fact, introduce a small cutting of glucomannan to a glass of water, and it turns into a gel.

This is thought to be how this water-soluble fiber helps weight loss: by making you feel full, similar to Garcinia cambogia, and like most fiber, it also prolongs the feeling of fullness. It also reduces how much fat the body absorbs by feeding your gut flora, producing fatty acids like butyrate.

These substances, in turn, help lessen fat gain.

Still, there is no magic pill for weight loss. Experts, not only in Provo but everywhere else, still believe that the most effective, sustainable way to lose weight is to eat right and be active; the rest, as they say, is gravy.