For years, we have long known that incorporating healthy habits, including regular exercise routines and nutritional meal plans and diets, into our daily life is critical for repairing, refueling, and optimizing our bodies. According to health experts and scientists, what you eat or your nutrition intake may significantly contribute to a healthy weight. We can better control our body weight and promote overall wellness and well-being through proper nourishment.
However, there lies an obstacle: today’s fast-paced lifestyle prevents people from meeting the recommended nutrition, characterized by skipping meals or resorting to processed or fast foods with little to no nutritional value. This often leads to poor nutrition or nutrient deficiencies, impairing bodily functions and processes.
Approximately 33 identified food supplements and substances have been proven to have a wealth of positive impacts on weight loss, such as improving immune function, protecting against pathogens and harmful gut bacteria, enhancing nutrient absorption, modulating energy expenditure, and improving the metabolic system.
Jumpstart Weight Loss with Nutraceuticals and Plant-based Supplements
Weight-Loss Supplements: How Effective Is It?
By definition, as a result of an imbalance in calorie intake and output, overweight and obesity encompass the disease of individuals with body mass index (BMI) ranging from 30 to 40, or even higher, determined by dividing their body weight (kilograms) by their height (meters).
Over the decades, the disease has escalated into a global epidemic that poses ripple threats to the health of over 1 billion people. It affects vital organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver, putting those affected at an increased risk of developing critical, chronic health conditions, most notably diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancers, and mental health issues.
Uncontrolled or excessive calorie consumption stands out as one of the fundamental causes of obesity or being overweight, fueled by the dominance of calorie-dense food in daily life. Many studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle where people are rarely active is also responsible for a higher risk of obesity.
Amidst the ongoing global health crisis, weight-loss devotees seek effective measures to manage their weight. Although physical activity and a healthy diet are typically recommended for maintaining a slim figure, many people believe over-the-counter (OTC) weight loss supplements could be the answer to their journey of shedding extra pounds.
However, it is essential to note that while OTC supplements that claim weight loss might help with speeding up the process, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), fueled by the fact that not many clinical studies further support the efficacy of supplements in weight loss. It likely means taking weight loss supplements without consulting a doctor beforehand or taking precautions is unsafe. Due to the widespread ingredient mislabeling, these supplements may inflict undesirable side effects or clashes between other supplements and prescriptions, as you might not exactly know what you are getting in the bottle.
What Are Nutraceuticals and Plant-based Supplements?
With more effort in nutrition research looking for advanced methods to help lose weight, nutraceuticals and plant-based supplements have grabbed great attention from people seeking sustainable practices to remove excess weight.
Coined by Stephen DeFelice in 1989 from “Nutrition” and “Pharmaceuticals,” nutraceuticals refer to non-specific biological therapies and products derived from natural sources that fuel the body with nutritional and medicinal values. These substances are based on the strong belief that daily food is an abundant source of healing properties that can help promote wellness, fend off diseases, and alleviate symptoms of illnesses.
Nutraceuticals, or functional foods or phytochemicals, are classified into a wide range of dietary products for diverse wellness purposes, such as dietary supplements, multivitamins, diets, fortified foods, probiotics, and genetically engineered foods.
While nutraceuticals are thought to be an innovative approach to invigorating health and wellness with the rise of liquid, capsules, or pill-based dietary supplements, harnessing medicinal and therapeutic benefits from foods is not a new concept. World-renowned ancient civilizations like China, Egypt, and India have recognized the potential of certain natural foods in preventing and treating diseases. Across different cultures, a strong emphasis is on eating a wholesome diet to achieve good health.
8 Nutraceutical and Plant-based Supplements for Jumpstarting Weight Loss
Below are the 8 most commonly used nutraceutical and plant-based supplements for weight loss, ranging from controlling appetite and boosting nutrient absorption to modulating energy expenditure and speeding up fat metabolism.
Green Tea Extract
Besides being a popular beverage enjoyed by millions worldwide, green tea has been presented in Chinese medicine and other civilizations as a holistic treatment for various health concerns due to its high concentration of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
How can green tea extract help with weight loss? Green tea contains beneficial substances that may help you lose weight faster — during exercising and at rest. Caffeine and EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) have been proven to help burn calories, raise metabolic rate, and improve exercise performance. Catechins, another potent antioxidant found exclusively in green tea, play a significant role in weight loss since it boosts norepinephrine activity. This hormone helps the body resolve body fat more efficiently. Modulating gut microbiota is another benefit of green tea extract in assisting weight loss.
Although green tea is generally safe, be cautious if you are sensitive to caffeine. Side effects, including bloating, agitation, insomnia, and dizziness, can arise when consuming green tea long term.
Protein is an essential nutrient for a better-looking body, reflected by many workout enthusiasts increasing their protein intake with protein shakes and high-protein diets to shed weight and belly fat. One of the most significant benefits of protein in weight loss is suppressing hunger. This nutrient has been shown to have the ability to reduce the hunger hormone ghrelin while boosting the levels of satiety hormones like peptide YY, GLP-1, and cholecystokinin. As a result, you may feel less hungry, hence lower calorie intake due to fewer meals.
Chitosan comes from the hard outer layer of shellfish like crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and prawns. When it comes to weight loss, much evidence suggests that it transforms into a gel-like substance that covers the inner layers of the intestines, blocking the absorption of fat and cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract. In a 2018 review of 14 trials involving more than 1,000 overweight or obese participants, chitosan supplements slightly reduced body weight by about 2.23 pounds after 17 weeks. Chitosan is well-tolerated without serious side effects reported. However, you shouldn’t try chitosan if you are allergic to crustaceans.
Guar gum is a dietary fiber extracted from the beans of the guar plant — a plant native to India and Pakistan.
So what is the mechanism behind guar gum consumption for weight loss? Much like other dietary fibers, guar gum acts as a filler in the stomach when digested, prolonging the feelings of fullness. For this reason, you are unlikely to feel hungry, hence the reduced number of meals you eat throughout the day.
As a staple in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean medicines, the herb is believed to contain a slew of benefits for promoting health and wellness. Although the plant is mainly associated with beating up sexual incompetence, many studies have suggested that it may be remarkably helpful in controlling body weight by modulating the activity of gut bacteria.
In a clinical study with the participation of 10 Korean middle-aged obese women taking 8 grams of ginseng extract a day for 8 weeks, it was found that their body weight significantly reduced, as did their gut composition when compared to untreated obese participants.
In another study, researchers also discovered that ginseng extract may help delay fat absorption in the intestines and alter the process of fat formation in obese mice.
Caffeine is a substance found in coffee, tea, and a wide variety of soda beverages, with coffee being the most abundant source of caffeine among the three. More than giving a boost in the morning and keeping people awake, consuming caffeine may help boost the amount of calories burned every day.
A fair amount of studies and research show that regular caffeine intake may contribute to weight loss maintenance. One study that followed men and women for 12 years, from 1986 to 1998, found that participants with the highest dosage of caffeine were around 1 pound lighter than those consuming less caffeine.
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant derived from various plants and food sources, such as blueberries, cranberries, peanuts, grapes, red wine, apples, plums, and cocoa. While resveratrol is effective in combating the invasion of free radicals and protecting body cells from oxidative stress, the naturally occurring compound has been suspected to cause significant body weight loss and fat mass reduction while increasing lean mass. The effects of resveratrol on weight loss are believed to induce positive changes in gut microbiota and increase the number of good gut bacteria, improving the activity of metabolism in fat burning.
Curcumin is a compound in turmeric — a herb that gives off a vibrant yellow hue and is a familiar spice in various cuisines.
For millennia, Ayurveda and Chinese medicine have reaped the healing power of turmeric for treating digestive problems, skin, joint, and respiratory issues. When dealing with weight management, researchers have found that curcumin may have the potential to limit weight gain and regain, as well as help maintain the metabolic system after weight loss.
Although curcumin is considered well-tolerated for humans, consuming 1,500mg daily for more than 6 months may no longer be safe. Curcumin overconsumption results in nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, possibly bruising, and high blood sugar levels as rare side effects.
It is crucial to remember that the weight loss journey is highly individualized to distinct needs and fitness goals. With numerous approaches promising to melt fat away, it is easy to get caught up in ones that might not work harmoniously with your overall health despite working out on others.
The precaution should be equally applied to supplements and nutraceuticals to support weight loss and block weight gain. Despite being natural, it is always best to exercise caution and seek medical advice to determine the appropriate dosage and avoid possible side effects.
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