Should You Take Supplements for Weight Loss?
Health often takes a back seat in the hustle-bustle of our daily routine. This is obvious from the increasing prevalence of people facing issues like being overweight and obesity, along with accompanying health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bone and joint issues, to name a few. Losing and maintaining a healthy weight takes time, patience, consistent action, and strict discipline in terms of eating right and exercising regularly. These basic practices, although simple, are tough to adhere to, which is why most people find weight loss an uphill battle. So, when the goal is to lose weight, any additional help is welcome. This is where dietary supplements for weight loss top the popularity meter.
There is an increasing trend towards the use of weight-loss supplements, especially among those who go to the gym. The most common weight-loss supplements that are commercially available include herbal products based on Ayurvedic concepts — think green tea, green coffee, capsicum extracts, and apple cider vinegar. They work by curbing appetite, burning fat, and boosting metabolism.
How do these supplements work?
Dietary supplements that claim to achieve weight loss are available as capsules, liquids, tablets, liquids, bars, and powders. The common ingredients present in fat-burner supplements contain herbs, plant components, dietary fiber, caffeine, and minerals.
The most common weight-loss supplements available today include the following:
1. Apple cider vinegar: Works by reducing insulin spike after a meal when consumed with a meal. It is also suggested to have appetite suppressing effects. Available as tablets and bottled liquid.
2. Green tea: Weight-loss supplements made from green tea (or green-tea preparations) work by increasing fat oxidation (burning) in the body and by increasing your metabolic rate. Available as different products made from matcha (powder form), such as matcha gummies, or in leaf form (from which green tea can be brewed).
3. Green coffee: This weight-loss supplement claims to increase the rate at which your body uses fat and speeds up your metabolism. Available in sachets (powder form) that can be used to make instant coffee.
Some products use a combination of these commonly used ingredients. One such example is the combination of green tea and green coffee that is supposed to induce a state of ketosis in the body — a state that encourages fat burning to induce weight loss.
How effective are weight-loss supplements?
In spite of their claims of effective weight loss, there is limited evidence from research trials that conclusively show significant or noteworthy weight loss effects with the use of any supplements.
For example, studies on green tea supplementation have shown that regular consumption of at least one cup of brewed green tea preparation for about 12 weeks hardly caused any weight loss in the consumers. Similar results have been reported for guar gum, probiotics, caffeine, green coffee, chromium, pyruvate, bitter orange, and carnitine — all common ingredients in weight-loss supplements by a review conducted in 2001.
Can weight-loss supplements be harmful?
Very few studies have assessed the long-term effects of commonly used and what’s considered to be the best weight-loss supplements. So, how helpful or harmful these are with long-term consumption (years of use) is not backed by science. Moreover, most weight-loss supplements contain multiple ingredients, and the individual effect and combined effects of these ingredients are difficult to assess. There is also a lack of information about the dosages and amounts of active ingredients used for a supplement on the labels.
In fact, several clinical trials have shown that the consumption of such weight-loss supplements may cause health complications, especially in people with pre-existing medical conditions like heart disease. Most frequent side effects of the ingredients commonly used in popular weight-loss supplements are headache, nausea, indigestion, urinary tract infection, low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol), increased heart rate, hypertension, anxiety, kidney stones, liver damage, heart attack, and death.
Moreover, several supplements interact with certain medicines, have poor long-term adherence, and are expensive. These factors also act as obstacles in their use.
Who should take these supplements?
There is overwhelming evidence showing that these supplements have a limited effect on weight loss and may involve risk of adverse health effects. Therefore, their use is not recommended for patients who are able to follow a calorie-restricted diet and exercise regularly to create a calorie deficit that would cause weight reduction. However, in certain cases, where an individual is physically incapable of exercising to induce weight loss, supplements could be an option under the guidance and supervision of a health and nutrition expert.
A sensible approach to weight loss
Since there is no evidence proving the effectiveness of weight-loss supplements, it’s advisable to follow the tried and tested methods to induce weight loss in a healthy and sustainable manner.
1. If you are overweight or obese, aim to reduce your body weight to a healthy weight range as per your BMI. Once you have a goal in mind, consult a dietitian to find out how many calories you need to consume each day. Take their help to chart a diet plan for yourself that is in step with your calorie needs.
2. The second important step is to ensure that you get regular exercise that will boost your metabolism and help burn extra calories. If you are already exercising on a regular basis, you may need to increase the intensity or duration of your workout or switch to another type of exercise that will increase your energy expenditure.
3. Diet and exercise together will help you create a calorie deficit on a daily basis and mobilize the extra fat in your body, resulting in weight loss over time.
Sustainable and healthy weight loss is possible through the above-mentioned lifestyle modifications, without the use of supplements, which may do more harm than good. Although these modifications may seem tough to implement, the results are guaranteed in terms of weight loss, a healthier heart, stronger bones, improved stamina and mental health, and other health benefits.
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