Whey protein powder can be found at health food stores in a variety of flavors. By Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD, for Sharecare
We know we should be eating healthy, but let's face it -- saying no to a burger and ordering the salad instead can be really tough. Choosing a banana over a banana split can be really, really tough. Nutritious fruits and vegetables help ensure our well-being and keep the pounds off, but sometimes it's nice to have a little help. That's where weight loss supplements can come in. But which ones are effective? Which ones are safe? Which ones actually do what they promise to do?
The following six have been reviewed and graded by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, a group founded by researchers and healthcare providers to offer evidence-based information about alternative medicine treatments, including dietary supplements. Each of these received a Grade B -- the second highest rating -- meaning that positive scientific evidence backs the claims. Always consult your doctor and pharmacist for advice before starting any new supplement.
Supplement #1: Whey protein
Exercise is a major part of the weight loss process, and if you do weight training in addition to cardio activities, you might already know about the benefits of whey protein. Whey protein is a popular supplement for improving muscle strength, but it can also help you shed pounds by suppressing appetite, which helps reduce food intake over the short term.
Supplement #2: Chitosan
Chitosan comes from chitin, the main component of the exoskeleton, or hard outer covering, of insects, spiders and crustaceans. YUM?! It has been used to lower cholesterol but has also been promoted as a type of dietary fiber that may help reduce the absorption of fat.
Supplement #3: CLA
If you pay attention to your diet, try to eat healthy and exercise, you may already know how beneficial fatty acids can be. Here's one that may help you shed the pounds: conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), found in beef and dairy products. CLA is a popular supplement that has been used to reduce body fat and manage obesity.
Supplement #4: HCA
Dried fruit can be a great snack when you're trying to slim down, but the rind of a Southeast Asian plant called brindleberry may take your weight loss even further. This plant contains a chemical called hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which has historically been used to treat joint and stomach problems in Indian folk medicine. Today, there is evidence backing its use for weight loss.
Supplement #5: Glucomannan
Your search for a safe, effective weight loss supplement might also lead you to a fiber known as konjac glucomannan. Another natural treatment for obesity, glucomannan has also been used as a food source -- whether fried, baked, or as a candy-and as a gel to be applied to the skin. When taken to promote weight loss, glucomannan absorbs water in the digestive tract, reducing cholesterol and carbohydrate absorption.
Supplement #6: Mango seed fiber
Yet another option backed by scientific evidence is mango seed fiber, which comes from the African mango tree. In addition to weight loss, mango seed fiber is believed to have numerous additional benefits, including improvement in levels of blood sugar and cholesterol.
Choosing the supplement that best suits your needs -- in addition to eating healthy and exercising -- can help you get to where you want to be in terms of your weight. And hopefully, you'll be so happy with the number on the scale that choosing yogurt over an ice cream sundae won't be so tough over time.
Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD, is co-founder of Natural Standard Research Collaboration. She serves as Senior Attending Pharmacist, Massachusetts General Hospital and Adjunct/Assistant Clinical Professor at multiple universities.