7 weight loss supplements that work
7 Weight Loss Supplements That Work
There aren’t many effective weight loss supplements that are free of significant side effects and have enough evidence behind them from human research. These are seven that I’ve found that I think are better suited for diabetics, compared to other supplements, such as caffeine, which raises insulin resistance and should be avoided if you have diabetes.
The supplements below can help you lose weight in a number of ways, such as reducing your hunger, reducing your desire to snack, reducing calorie uptake from foods, and even raising your metabolism.
The supplements can, and do, provide an extra boost when added to a weight loss program.
I have listed them in no particular order, because it’s impossible for me to predict which ones will work best for you. Since we’re all different, the only way to find out which ones are effective for you, is to try them.
- Green coffee bean extract
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Caralluma fimbriata
- Calorie-free sweeteners
Green coffee bean extract
Green coffee bean extract has been found effective for reducing body weight in adults, compared to placebo.1, 2
A recent study which gave 700 or 1050 milligrams (mg) per day of green coffee bean extract, or placebo, to overweight adults, found that green coffee been consumers experienced 10.5% weight loss or, stated differently, 17½ pounds (8 kg) over 22 weeks.1 There were no side effects.
Three other human studies have tested green coffee extract versus placebo, and found that it leads to more weight loss, in doses of only 180-200 mg per day.2
A 4-week study found that 180 mg of green coffee extract per day produced 1.35 kg (3 pounds) weight loss, while placebo led to no significant weight loss.2
A 12-week study found an impressive weight loss of 5.4 kg (12 pounds) with 200 mg green coffee extract per day, versus only 1.7 kg (3.75 pounds) in the placebo group.2
Finally, another 12-week study found that the weight loss with 200 mg green coffee extract per day was 5 kg, versus only half that with placebo.2
Saffron has many interesting medical properties. Among others, it has been investigated as a kind of appetite suppressant. Specifically, it has been found that a saffron supplement can reduce snacking between meals, compared to placebo, leading to weight loss.3
In the study, overweight women were randomly assigned to take 2 capsules of a saffron supplement per day, or placebo, for 8 weeks. They were not instructed to lose weight, but to keep their diet and exercise habits without changes.
The saffron group lost 1 kg (2.1 pounds) over 8 weeks, and snacked half as much as usual, which was much better than placebo. The saffron group also reported feeling less hungry before meals than the placebo group.
Long story short, the saffron supplement led to a small weight loss and snacking was cut in half.
The weight loss itself wasn’t impressively large, but keep in mind that they were NOT trying to lose weight. In other words, they lost weight without trying.
The specific product they used is called Satiereal™, and you can buy it without a prescription.
If you have a snacking problem, this may be the solution you need.
Calcium supplements reduce body fat.
Adding calcium to the diet reduces body fat in overweight or obese adults, according to a meta-analysis published 2011, which examined 7 studies on calcium supplements. Most studies found that eating 1000 milligrams of calcium per day (as tablets) caused 2 pounds of additional fat loss over 6 months.4
Calcium may cause weight loss due to malabsorption of fat from the diet. In other words, adding calcium to meals can cause some dietary fat to pass straight through the body, resulting in less calories absorbed.
Calcium supplementation probably works best if your calcium intake is low or moderate to begin with. If you’re constantly eating lots of cheese and milk with meals, you may want to skip calcium supplements. Excessive doses are harmful.
Dose: 1000 milligrams per day in divided doses with meals.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Alpha Lipoic Acid is a prescription-free anti-oxidant with many interesting effects, one of them being a weight loss effect.
There was a relatively large study published in 2010,5 performed on 360 overweight or obese volunteers, some of whom had type 2 diabetes. They were given either placebo, or 1200 mg ALA or 1800 mg ALA per day, divided in 3 doses 30 minutes before each major meal, for 20 weeks. They were also instructed to follow a weight loss diet with a 600 calorie deficit per day, which is moderate.
At the end of the study, all groups had lost weight, but the high-dose ALA group had lost significantly more than the placebo group, with the low-dose ALA group in between. In other words, the higher ALA dose was most effective.
Interestingly, in a separate analysis of the diabetics, those assigned to high-dose ALA reduced their HbA1c by 0.40%, which is a nice bonus apart from the weight loss.
Itching and skin rash were the most common side effects of ALA, but overall it was well-tolerated without any severe side effects.
In another study, 1127 obese or overweight persons were assigned to 800 mg ALA per day for 4 months. They lost roughly 9% body weight, reduced blood pressure, and lost 6 to 11 cm (2.4 to 4.3 inches) off their inches.6 Those are very impressive improvements.
Dose: Good results can be achieved with 800-1200 mg per day, but 1800 seems even better. Taking it in 3 divided doses, 30 minutes before each major meal, is proven to work.
Caralluma fimbriata extract
Caralluma fimbriata is an edible cactus used in India in times of famine, and acts as an appetite suppressant.
The plant has been tested in humans in two placebo-controlled studies in recent years.
In the first study, overweight individuals were divided into 2 groups and given 1 gram per day of Caralluma extract per day, or placebo, for 60 days, and given instructions on how to lose weight. At the end of the study, waist circumference and hunger levels was lower in the Caralluma group than the placebo group. Only the Caralluma group lost weight (2 kg or 4.4 pounds).7
In the most recent study, overweight individuals with the metabolic syndrome were divided into 2 groups and given either 1 gram per day of Caralluma extract, or placebo, for 12 weeks, and instructed to follow a weight loss diet. The Caralluma group reduced their waist circumference more than twice as much as the placebo group.
Dose: 500 mg twice daily, before meals
Calorie-free sweeteners (aspartame, stevia, and others)
Calorie-free sweeteners are usually extremely sweet substances that can be used in tiny amounts to sweeten beverages and foods, in order to replace sugar, honey and other calorie-containing sweeteners. The best-known artificial calorie-free sweetener is aspartame, which has been used for decades. A more recently approved calorie-free sweetener is stevia, which is natural because it’s derived from a plant.
As much flak as aspartame and other artificial sweeteners have been getting, they have actually shown weight loss and health benefits compared to sugar, honey and other calorie-containing sweeteners. By replacing honey and sugar (including fructose, glucose, and so on), which contain calories, with calorie-free sweeteners you can lose weight and minimize blood sugar spikes.
It goes without saying that this is extra important for diabetics, because it allows diabetics to avoid real sugar, and eat a sweetener that doesn’t raise blood sugar.
Calorie-free sweeteners allow us to experience sweet taste without adding any calories to our intake. Sadly, these sweeteners, due to often being artificial, have gotten an undeserved bad reputation. I’ve lost count of how many times people have claimed that artificial sweeteners are ”worse than sugar”, and that they ”cause weight gain”, or cancer or God knows what.
However, let’s look at what the science says.
Studies on aspartame and weight
One study recruited 163 obese women who were divided into 2 groups and followed a weight-loss program for 16 weeks. One group was told to follow an aspartame-free diet, while the other group was instructed to increase its aspartame intake. After 16 weeks, both groups had lost 10% body weight (10 kg or 22 pounds). Within the aspartame group, higher aspartame intake went hand in hand with greater weight loss.8 Yep, the more aspartame that the women consumed, the more weight they lost.
A follow up was conducted 1 year later. The aspartame group – which was still encouraged to eat more aspartame – had gained 2.6% body weight, while the aspartame-free group – which was still discouraged to eat aspartame – had regained twice that: 5.4%.
Another follow up, an additional 2 years later, revealed that the aspartame group had regained a total of 4.6% body weight, while the aspartame-free group had regained 9.4% weight. In other words, the aspartame-free group had regained practically all weight, while the aspartame group had only regained half.
There were no more side-effects in the aspartame group, either.
To provide another example, a group of obese men and women were assigned to a weight loss program consisting of diet and exercise, with or without extra aspartame, for 12 weeks. The women in the aspartame group lost almost 30% more weight than the women assigned to the no-aspartame group.9
These studies show that replacing sugar with calorie-free sweeteners can help you lose weight and stave off weight regain. It’s only logical, because calorie-free sweeteners allow you to satisfy your cravings for sweets without eating any calories.
I think the dangers of aspartame, in normal amounts, have been greatly exaggerated by people who are instinctively afraid of the word ”artificial”. Guess what? Indoor lighting is artificial as well. I do think that some people can have a very bad reaction to some artificial sweeteners. But saying that artificial sweeteners are bad for everyone, is like saying that peanuts are bad for everyone just because some people are allergic to them.
If you’re afraid of artificial sweeteners, or notice side effects, you can always use a natural sweetener, such as stevia, instead.
To get started, simply start buying the sugar-free versions of anything that you already consume, such as sodas. Sweeten your beverages with calorie-free sweeteners instead of sugar/honey. You can buy table top calorie-free sweeteners in multiple places, even in regular supermarkets.
I saved the best for last. Water can act as a free weight loss supplement.
In a recent study on young, overweight, women, they were asked to drink 5 deciliters (17 fluid ounces) of water, 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner, above and beyond their normal fluid intake (a total of 3 x 5 dl extra), for 8 weeks.
They lost 2.2% body weight, or 1.4 kg (3.2 pounds) with that simple maneuver.10
In a similar study, adults were divided into 2 groups and assigned to follow a weight loss diet while drinking, or not drinking, an extra 5 dl of water, 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner, for 12 weeks. The water group lost 15% of their initial fat, while the no-extra-water group lost 10% of their initial fat. Thus, the water group lost 50% more fat, in relative terms, over 12 weeks.11
Water probably works by raising metabolism a bit, especially if the water is cold because the body must use energy to heat it, and by suppressing appetite by making you feel fuller.
Water works better as a weight loss supplement if it’s cold, because it costs more calories to bring it up to body temperature. You can probably drink a lot more water than in the referenced studies if you want to. Just beware that high doses of water can be dangerous. Don’t overdo it.
- Vinson JA, Burnham BR, Nagendran MV. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, linear dose, crossover study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a green coffee bean extract in overweight subjects. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes.5:21-27.
- Onakpoya I, Terry R, Ernst E. The use of green coffee extract as a weight loss supplement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Gastroenterol Res Pract.2011.
- Gout B, Bourges C, Paineau-Dubreuil S. Satiereal, a Crocus sativus L extract, reduces snacking and increases satiety in a randomized placebo-controlled study of mildly overweight, healthy women. Nutr Res. May;30(5):305-313.
- Onakpoya IJ, Perry R, Zhang J, Ernst E. Efficacy of calcium supplementation for management of overweight and obesity: systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Nutr Rev. Jun;69(6):335-343.
- Koh EH, Lee WJ, Lee SA, et al. Effects of alpha-lipoic Acid on body weight in obese subjects. Am J Med. Jan;124(1):85 e81-88.
- Carbonelli MG, Di Renzo L, Bigioni M, Di Daniele N, De Lorenzo A, Fusco MA. Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation: a tool for obesity therapy? Curr Pharm Des.16(7):840-846.
- Kuriyan R, Raj T, Srinivas SK, Vaz M, Rajendran R, Kurpad AV. Effect of Caralluma fimbriata extract on appetite, food intake and anthropometry in adult Indian men and women. Appetite. May 2007;48(3):338-344.
- Blackburn GL, Kanders BS, Lavin PT, Keller SD, Whatley J. The effect of aspartame as part of a multidisciplinary weight-control program on short- and long-term control of body weight. Am J Clin Nutr. Feb 1997;65(2):409-418.
- Kanders BS, Lavin PT, Kowalchuk MB, Greenberg I, Blackburn GL. An evaluation of the effect of aspartame on weight loss. Appetite. 1988;11 Suppl 1:73-84.
- Vij VA, Joshi AS. Effect of ‘water induced thermogenesis’ on body weight, body mass index and body composition of overweight subjects. J Clin Diagn Res. Sep;7(9):1894-1896.
- Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Comber DL, et al. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). Feb;18(2):300-307.