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Weight management is becoming more measured and practical, with consumers opting for holistic approaches over crash diets and too-good-to-be-true supplements.
The weight management category has developed a certain connotation that can at times be negative, but as the industry adapts to the market and evolves, dietary supplements targeting weight management have taken on a more holistic and palatable approach.
“Ever since the FDA came down on ephedra, there has been no ‘magic pill’ per se, and consumers are more aware that any product claiming to burn fat instantly is likely stretching the truth,” explains Thomas Li, technical product manager for IFF Health (New York City, NY). “Since that time, the once explosive growth has slowed without an ephedra replacement. Trendy ingredients have come and gone, and so the weight management market has taken a different approach by branching out into other health benefits for more comprehensive health benefits.”
This means that a product may not only target weight, but also peripheral health issues related to being overweight. This is a more healthy and positive approach because instead of just chasing a number on a scale, consumers are supporting their overall well-being.
“When it comes to weight management, marketing a supplement or ingredient for ‘weight loss’ is becoming taboo, so the focus needs to be on how it builds upon current diet and exercise efforts and how particular biometrics are affected,” states Morris Zelkha, co-founder of TriNutra (Ness Ziona, Israel). “In particular, supplements that support a healthy lipid metabolism, inflammation response, and blood sugar levels not only address weight management, but also provide benefits for consumers who are proactively looking to support both short- and long-term wellness and healthy lifestyle goals.”
Intertwining weight management and exercise has also created some overlap between the weight management and sports nutrition product categories.
“The rise of functional foods has contributed greatly to providing solutions for a wide spectrum of consumers, ranging from weekend warriors to on-the-go lifestyle enthusiasts,” says Li. He points out that ingredients like protein and meal-replacement powders, as well as energy products, can play in both spaces.
“We are seeing sports nutrition companies add weight management components to existing formulations and expand their product lines to include weight management entries,” adds Steve Fink, vice president, marketing, PLT Health Solutions (Morristown, NJ).
The shift in perception about weight management and its many avenues opens up a great deal of possibilities in the marketplace, broadening opportunities for dietary supplement ingredients providing these benefits.
One great way to manage one’s weight is to eat food or take supplements that heighten the feeling of satiety-in other words, that make one feel fuller for longer. This, in turn, prevents a person from eating excessively or frequently throughout the day, as we are all prone to do. A number of popular weight management ingredients operate in this way, though from a variety of different mechanisms.
Fiber is a good example of an ingredient that not only supports satiety for weight management but can also have positive effects on blood glucose. IFF Health supplies a fiber derived from fenugreek seeds called FenuLife that not only supports weight management and blood glucose but also reflux.
In a study published in Phytotherapy Research1, the ingredient was found to significantly increase satiety and improve insulin response when given to subjects in 8-g doses. Compared to no treatment and 4 g of FenuLife, the higher 8-g dosage was associated with significantly higher measures of satiety and fullness, and significantly lower measures of hunger and prospective food consumption.
Another ingredient from IFF Health that promotes satiety is SlimPro, which is made up of fish protein hydrolysates derived from whole blue whiting fillets. “[SlimPro] increases the satiating hormones CCK and GLP-1 during the digestion process, leading to a sensation of satiety and, as a result, supports weight loss,” explains Li.
A study published in Food and Nutrition Research2 found that supplementation with SlimPro at doses of 1.4 and 2.8 g per day for 90 days significantly increased levels of CCK and GLP-1, and significantly improved body composition. Compared to placebo, supplementation significantly improved body weight, body mass index, fat mass, extracellular water, waist circumference, thigh circumference, and hip circumference.
According to the researchers, the mechanism of action for weight management for the ingredient may be both indirect and direct. The indirect mechanism is the decrease in food intake stimulated by CCK and GLP-1 secretion, which leads to a decrease in total calories. The direct mechanism is the decrease in adipose tissue mass mediated by GLP-1 interaction with leptin.
An ingredient distributed by PLT Health Solutions also promotes satiety in a unique way. “Supresa Crave Control, derived from the flowers of a special cultivar of Crocus sativus L., offers a special route to weight loss support-by enhancing the neurotransmitter serotonin and reducing the desire to snack between meals,” explains Fink. Crocus sativus L. is more commonly known as saffron crocus.
In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study published in Nutrition Research3, mildly overweight women were given either Supresa or placebo twice daily for eight weeks. Neither the supplement nor placebo group had any caloric restrictions during the course of the study. Results showed that compared to placebo, subjects taking the supplement saw significantly decreased snacking frequency. The group taking Supresa also saw significant reductions in body weight compared to placebo, demonstrating that reductions in snacking had a tangible effect.
According to the researchers, “Modulation of norepinephrine and dopamine pathways, as well as selective serotonin reuptake inhibition, represent likely targets for a central component of saffron efficacy.” However, the researchers don’t rule out the possibility that saffron may have a direct effect on the GI tract, considering the physiology of appetite involves complex central and peripheral mechanisms under the control of different signaling peptides in the stomach mucosa and GI tract.
The ingredient is also versatile. “While Supresa can be used as a standalone ingredient, it can find its place in any weight loss product or program because its unique benefit-support for the control of craving-works as a complement,” explains Fink. “Supresa is a perfect ingredient for use in foods and beverages, especially in meal replacement and meal program applications. It has a low organoleptic impact. Other trending uses are lollipops, gums, chews, and shakes because it offers a low dose, minimal organoleptic impact, and excellent solubility.”
Fight Stubborn Fat
Some weight management ingredients not only support satiety but also work through a variety of other unique mechanisms. One example is CitruSlim, a combination of citrus flavanone-O-glycosides and eurypeptides from Eurycoma longifolia.
“This potent blend promotes an anabolic state, reduces cortisol (which encourages accumulation of belly fat), activates AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, an enzyme needed to burn fat and sugar), as well as reduces triglycerides and fatty liver,” explains Annie Eng, CEO, HP Ingredients (Bradenton, FL). “The ingredient accelerates weight and fat loss by encouraging the production and sustenance of energy, which thus increases calorie burning. This also impacts appetite through reducing hunger periods and intensity, as well as prevents the body from storing fat.”
In an unpublished study, Eng says, 50 moderately overweight men and women participated in a six-week program that involved stress management, nutrition intervention, and exercise. Forty subjects received 200 mg per day of CitruSlim, and 10 received placebo during the course of the study. Supplementation with CitruSlim saw significant reductions in weight loss averaging 2.7 kg. Of the weight loss, 2.4 kg represented fat loss, suggesting that 87% of the total weight loss is body fat loss, explains Eng. While the placebo group also saw significant weight reduction, it was to a much lesser extent.
Results also showed that the testosterone: cortisol ratio significantly decreased by 15% among subjects compared to placebo. “As such, the conclusion is that CitruSlim promotes an anabolic state through maintaining normal low cortisol levels and normal high testosterone levels; higher testosterone contributes to increased sustained energy and reduced fatigue,” says Eng. “This leads to the ‘success’ of weight loss, which then increases rates of compliance or continuing with the program as a lifestyle even after the weight mark has been achieved.”
Eng brings up a valid point about compliance. Supplements shouldn’t be used as a way to lose weight but as an assist. Changing one’s eating habits and exercising can be a frustrating endeavor if results are slow, or nonexistent. Therefore, taking an efficacious supplement not only promotes results but also persistence with a healthier lifestyle.
Another way to improve compliance is through delivery formats. As Fink mentioned before, PLT’s Supresa ingredient is a versatile solution that can be incorporated into foods, beverages, and even confections. PLT has also released a water-dispersible version of its Slendacor ingredient to meet demand for products in these categories.
“One of the major changes has been the proliferation of delivery systems for weight management ingredients and products,” says Fink. “We’re seeing a lot more beverages, foods, gummies, and dissolvable powders.”
Slendacor is a patented formulation that combines turmeric, moringa, and curry leaf. “Slendacor’s patented approach to supporting weight management targets fat metabolism: it inhibits accumulation of fat in fat cells (lipogenesis) and enhances breakdown of fat cells (lipolysis),” explains Fink.
These effects not only support the weight and appearance of users, but also help improve their health overall. In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial4, 140 overweight men and women were either given 900 mg of Slendacor per day or placebo for 16 weeks. Results showed that subjects taking the supplements saw significant decreases in weight compared to placebo, as well as significant reductions in waist and hip circumference. Beyond that, subjects taking Slendacor also saw significant improvements in lipid profiles compared to placebo. More specifically, these subjects saw reductions in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and increases in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, resulting in a significant improvement in LDL:HDL ratio.
In addition to the ingredient being available in a water-dispersible version, because Slendacor has been studied in both men and women, this fact opens it up to a more diverse set of formulations. “Most weight management clinicals are conducted on women only,” says Fink. “So, if one were developing a product targeting man or for the general population, one might feel more comfortable with the Slendacor science.”
Support Overall Health
For some, weight loss may mean fitting into an article of clothing, but for others, it has far greater implications for their long-term health and even mortality. Obesity can have a great deal of comorbidities stemming from lifestyles of obese individuals.
“Excess weight can increase the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, resulting in an inflammation imbalance,” explains Rob Brewster, president of Ingredients by Nature (Montclair, CA). “This can start a chain of reactions that affect the body’s ability to manage proper blood glucose levels and oxidative stress as well.”
Because of this inflammation imbalance, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity can eventually lead to prediabetes. “This means that their fasting glycemia is above the normal range, but not yet high enough to cause type 2 diabetes,” says Brewster. Luckily, prediabetics still have a chance to normalize their blood glucose levels and reverse the condition with major lifestyle changes. Supplements, like Ingredients by Nature’s Eriomin Glucose, can help.
“Our lemon flavonoid blend, Eriomin Glucose, is a multifunctional approach to prediabetes management,” he explains. “The flavonoid eriocitrin is able to support healthy blood glucose function by addressing insulin sensitivity, generating potent antioxidant activity to balance a rise in reactive oxygen species, and inhibiting cytokine production to help manage the inflammation response within a healthy range.”
Black seed oil will also support health factors related to obesity, says TriNutra’s Zelkha. “There have been more than 50 recent studies into the effects of black seed oil (BSO) for a wide degree of applications, including those that have demonstrated benefits for those who are overweight and positive effects on metabolic health,” he tells Nutritional Outlook. “Research on a branded black seed oil, ThymoQuin, which is standardized to 3% thymoquinone and has a free fatty acid content below 2%, revealed its ability to improve metabolic balance and liver function-two vital areas that need to be addressed with obesity-induced conditions.”
A recent animal study found that the standardized black seed oil supported metabolic function and fatty liver in mice given a high-fat diet. The high-fat diet increased blood pressure and fasting blood glucose in mice; however, supplementation with the black seed oil created significant reductions in blood pressure and fasting blood glucose. It also had hepato-protective effects, reducing hepatic fat accumulation and preventing the development of non-alcoholic steato-hepatitis, and liver fibrosis.5 According to Zelkha, black seed oil may also work synergistically with omega-3 fatty acids to support conditions related to obesity-specifically, insulin resistance and fatty liver.
There is no magic bullet for weight loss, and many consumers are no longer looking for one. They want options that are nutrient-rich, efficacious, and convenient, delivering results that not only affect their appearance but also ensure they remain healthy. Dietary supplements and functional foods need to be incorporated into consumers’ overall lifestyles.
“As consumers are continuing to become more educated, they have also been shifting their diets to fit in food options that are more nutrient rich, opening up opportunities for brands to deliver functional foods and beverages that offer the nutrient profile that consumers need to improve their target metrics,” says Brewster.