Big picture on weight management

Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 27 No. 4
Volume 27
Issue 4

Looking beyond weight loss when formulating weight management products.

 Photo ©

Photo ©

It’s not an unusual feeling to look in the mirror and think to oneself that losing a few pounds wouldn’t be a bad idea. For some, this means getting more active and for others, this means changing one’s diet. Ideally, a little bit of both may go a long way, but in either case, consumers have long turned to dietary supplements to aid in their weight management efforts. While weight management goals are nothing new, fitness and weight management has really been in the spotlight lately.

The COVID-19 pandemic drove consumers indoors, forcing them to find ways to be active while social distancing, raising the profile of companies like Peloton, but in many cases it also set people back significantly. For example, there are findings that show obesity has gone up since the pandemic, with the prevalence of obesity pre-pandemic being 11% and 15% for men and women, respectively, while post-pandemic prevalence rose to 25% and 42% for men and women, respectively.1

Now that life has more or less gone back to normal, consumers are motivated to shed those pandemic pounds to feel better and be healthier. One of the most recent crazes that is taking the weight loss space by storm is the use of GLP-1 receptor agonist drugs called semaglutides, with the brand name Ozempic being the best-known. These diabetes drugs are now being recognized and prescribed to help people lose weight. Semaglutides mimic a naturally-occurring hormone that tells the brain you are satiated when its levels rise. The drug also slows digestion by increasing the time it takes for food to leave the body.2

According to Brightfield Group’s U.S. Wellness Consumer Insights for Q3 of 2023, 5% of its surveyed respondents reported using semaglutide injections.3 According to the market research firm, these demographics skewed male as well as millennial and Gen X. Additionally, Brightfield Group points out that a substantial portion of semaglutide users are city dwellers with higher incomes who are actively engaged in exercise and managing their diets. This creates an interesting opportunity for the dietary supplement industry.

Shawn Baier, vice president for business development for TSI Group (Missoula, MT), says that dietary supplements that support nutritional needs and aid in supporting muscle mass and health may be beneficial for those who are getting semaglutide injections. Baier explains that because people eat less on semaglutides, they need to monitor their nutrition to make sure they consume the necessary macro and micronutrients. Supplements are helpful to bolster deficits. Additionally, the weight loss associated with semaglutide injections is accompanied by loss in muscle mass as well, says Baier. This is an important factor to consider, especially after use of the drug stops.

“We know the whole concept of yo-yo dieting. When people stop using the drug what happens [is] they get this rebound. It’s very well documented in literature that there’s a gain back. Well, they don’t gain back that same percentage of muscle loss and fat regain. They gain mostly fat back,” explains Baier. “So, they really run into this kind of cascade of events that result in the opposite of what their goal is. Their goal is fat loss and sustainable fat loss, and what they end up getting is this sarcopenic obesity kind of process and then unfortunately if there isn’t an intervention to really stop, they go right back on that drug and then the cycle continues. So, our industry is in the perfect spot to offer up solutions, not only for the micro/macronutrient kind of overall health, but also those specialty ingredients [that support muscle health].”

For TSI Group, this ingredient is called myHMB. Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) is a metabolite of leucine that shows promise in supporting the body composition of older adults. A recent meta-analysis found that HMB supplementation was associated with a significant increase in fat-free mass, which consists of lean mass and skeletal muscle mass. According to the researchers, HMB was able to stimulate protein synthesis and attenuate protein degradation.4

A different study found that HMB supplementation enhanced the effects of resistance training in adults with sarcopenia.5 Another supplement that may be beneficial in supporting muscle health during weight loss is chromium picolinate such as the branded ingredient Chromax from Nutrition21 (Harrison, NY). A review of research published in 2018 demonstrates that chromium picolinate has been shown to support lean body mass during weight loss in obese study participants on a very low-calorie diet, as well as athletes such as competitive swimmers.6

The key here is maintaining and improving muscle mass and health during rapid weight loss. This is particularly important for longevity since muscle mass and strength typically peak around 30 to 35 years of age.7 Later in life, adults can develop sarcopenia, which is a decline in muscle mass, strength, and function characterized by weakness and fatigue that increases the risk of falls, serious injury, and even premature mortality. Poor nutrition and a lack of exercise increases one’s risk of developing sarcopenia later in life. This can be particularly important for people who are overweight or obese who are losing weight either through a pharmaceutical intervention like semaglutides or from simply diet and exercise. That is why experts recommend that obese individuals incorporate resistance training such as weightlifting in their weight loss regimen to preserve muscle and bone mass.

Of course, semaglutide users aren’t the only ones in the marketplace that benefit from maintaining and building muscle during weight loss. According to Brightfield Group, “strong is the new skinny” as more women embrace a muscular physique. To this end, trimming fat while preserving and growing muscle is paramount. HMB and chromium picolinate are therefore relevant to a wide range of consumers who may be becoming more active in an effort to shed fat and gain muscle. Protein, of course, is another hugely important nutrient to achieve this goal. Brightfield Group says that a third of consumers are looking for high protein products, and that products with 30 grams of protein are really trending on social media.

With more women embracing muscle growth, Brightfield Group has seen an increase in women buying protein-rich foods such as protein bars, hummus, and tofu as well as supplements like protein powders in the third quarter of 2023, compared to the third quarter of 2022. Protein also has the ability to promote satiety, helping curb hunger to aid in weight management efforts. This is a common strategy for weight management supplements that is cranked to the next level by drugs like semaglutides. However, there are still many consumers that prefer to avoid pharmaceuticals.

“Consumers want to ensure what they are taking is both safe and effective, and many see what they deem as ‘closer-to-nature’ products crucial to meeting those requirements,” says Paula Limena, vice president, global marketing, health and wellness for ADM (Chicago).

Satiety as a weight management strategy is of high interest to consumers, says Limena, citing market research from Mintel showing that weight conscious consumers “seek to add products to their routine that target satiety effects.” Additionally, Limena says the rising practice of intermittent fasting that is followed by 12% of the population8 is playing a part in the demand for products that support satiety. However, health-conscious consumers are not just trying to lose weight, but also maintain other health outcomes such as metabolic health and the gut microbiome, explains Limena. For this reason, fiber is another valuable ingredient to consider for weight management.

“The satiety association of dietary fiber solutions is noteworthy, particularly as fiber is the number one ingredient consumers seek for reasons like satiety and weight management, in addition to digestive support,” says Limena. “Manufacturers should look to dietary fiber solutions backed by clinical research to deliver on this demand.”

ADM and Matsutani LLC’s branded dietary fiber, Fibersol, for example, has been shown in research to stimulate appetite-suppressing hormones to increase satiety9 while also nourishing the gut microbiome.10 The added value of these kinds of ingredients is a major selling point, says Limena.

At the end of the day, weight management goals should be closely tied to overall health goals. There is no short cut to effective weight loss, and even drugs like semaglutides should not be taken independent of major lifestyle changes. Luckily, consumers whose larger focus is to improve one’s health are embracing an active lifestyle and see weight loss as a welcome benefit of exercise and dietary changes.


  1. Nour, T.Y.; Altintas, K.H. Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on obesity and its risk factors: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2023, 23, 1018. DOI: 10.1186/s12889-023-15833-2
  2. Ozempic for weight loss: Does it work, and what do experts recommend? UC Davis Health. July 19, 2023. (accessed 2024-04-23).
  3. Weight Loss Game Changers: Ozempic & the Future. Brightfield Group. January 17, 2024. (accessed 2024-04-23).
  4. Lin Z et al. “Effects of oral administration of β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate on lean body mass in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” European Geriatric Medicine, vol. 12 (2021): 239-251
  5. Yang, C.; Song, Y.; Li, T.; Chen, X.; Zhou, J.; Pan, Q.; Jiang, W.; Wang, M.; Jia, H. Effects of Beta-Hydroxy-Beta-Methylbutyrate Supplementation on Older Adults with Sarcopenia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. JNHA. 2023. 27: 329-330, DOI: 10.1007/s12603-023-1911-1
  6. Willoughby D et al. “Body composition changes in weight loss: strategies and supplementation for maintaining lean body mass, a brief review.” Nutrients, vol. 10, no. 12 (2018): 1876
  7. How can strength training build healthier bodies as we age? NIH: National Institute of Aging. June 30, 2022. (accessed 2024-04-23).
  8. Ye Z.; Arumugam, V.; Haugabrooks, E.; Williamson, P.; Hendrich, S. Soluble dietary fiber (Fibersol-2) decreased hunger and increased satiety hormones in humans when ingested with a meal. Nutr Res. 2015, 35 (5), 393-400. DOI: 10.1016/j.nutres.2015.03.004
  9. Mai, V.; Burns, A.M.; Solch, R.J.; Dennis-Wall, J.C.; Ukhanova, M.; Langkamp-Henken, B. Resistant maltodextrin consumption in a double-blind, randomized, crossover clinical trial induces specific changes in potentially beneficial gut bacteria. Nutrients. 2022, 14 (11). 2192. DOI: 10.3390/nu14112192
  10. Pasque, L.S. Berberine is a promising supplement — but it’s not a magical weight-loss solution. Mayo Clinic. June 9, 2023. (accessed 2024-04-24).
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