Consumers need to shift their focus from weight management to overall metabolic health, says Sabinsa: 2022 SupplySide West Report

Supplement solutions need to support metabolic and liver health and not just weight management, the company says.

Metabolic health isn’t a term many consumers think about. Even though metabolic health collectively includes all of the health areas consumers are most concerned about—high blood sugar, weight gain, poor cardiovascular health—supplement shoppers still seem to approach each of these health concerns in isolation. They might realize that they are overweight, or that their blood sugar or lipid levels are too high, but few think about how these conditions are interlinked—and how leaving the body metabolically imbalanced overall can lead to wide-reaching health declines down the road. But one company is trying to change the conversation. Instead of focusing narrowly on weight management, consumers need to focus on metabolic health to improve their overall health, said ingredients supplier Sabinsa (East Windsor, NJ) at November’s SupplySide West tradeshow. Consumers also need to be educated about how they can use supplements to bolster the many areas of metabolic health.

“What people don’t understand is that as we are getting metabolically imbalanced, or weight problems are creeping in, you also now have an issue where your liver is exposed or has to manage more fat in the system,” said Anurag Pande, PhD, vice president, scientific affairs, Sabinsa, at SupplySide West.

Currently, there is a gap in the consumer consciousness—and in the supplements market—in emphasizing how consumers need to take care of all elements of their metabolic health. For instance, too often consumers start with weight management but don’t understand why they can’t lose weight long-term, he added. That failure might come from treating weight parameters only. Pande notes that there are still a lot of weight-management products in the supplements space. “They are effective, no doubt,” he adds, with science substantiating their effects. “You have products for appetite suppression. You have products for increasing fat metabolism, or increasing metabolism itself.” But these separate tactics don’t address long-lasting metabolic health as a whole.

“People treat being overweight as an isolated condition, which is wrong, because your obesity is basically a manifestation of metabolic imbalances,” he adds. “Those imbalances come with all these biomarkers—blood parameters and lipid parameters, for instance.”

Consumers don’t, for instance, understand the role that hormones play in metabolic health and weight gain. “There is a gap in understanding,” said Pande. “When people talk about obesity, they say, ‘Fat cells. You have to reduce the fat cells.’ They don’t understand that fat cells are not the storage tissue in the first place. They are an endocrine organ. So if it is an endocrine organ, it is secreting hormones. Those hormones, especially which we understand now, are called adipokines. Adipokines are of a different nature. There’s something called adiponectin. There’s something called leptin. You may have heard about insulin resistance, but have you heard about leptin resistance?”

As Pande explained, leptin resistance is not a new concept in the medical field. Leptin is the hormone that regulates appetite and fat storage. When leptin operates normally, it helps to regulate appetite and fat storage. But when consumers engage in a “chronic high-calorie diet,” leptin levels remain elevated long-term, eventually limiting how effective leptin is in regulating appetite control and fat storage.

People need to address their leptin levels in order to address their weight management and metabolic health long-term, Pande said. At the Natural Product Expo West trade show this past March, Sabinsa introduced a new ingredient called CurCousin, which contains a turmeric analog called cabelin A that the company says addresses leptin regulation and thus metabolic health.

“In supplements, people haven’t really opened up to understand the problems of why there’s a failure of long-term weight loss,” he said. “So, if you consider now differently, if you consider CurCousin and some of the new metabolic products, if you consider fat cells as endocrine organs, that means they secrete hormones. These hormones are the reason why a body will gain more weight or if it will remain in good metabolic health.”

Classic weight-management supplement ingredients like Garcinia cambogia, which suppresses appetite, or green coffee bean extract, which increases metabolism, don’t address leptin and the endocrine system. “These products were not effective enough,” Pande said. “They give external stimuli, but only while they are there. Next time when you take the same thing again, it won’t even work well because they work on receptors. Receptors are ever-present. They’re lightbulb switches. You switch them more and more and they become ineffective all the time. So that’s the problem.”

“CurCousin deals with the problem differently,” Pande continued. Because CurCousin helps manage leptin levels, “you are managing your adiponectin,” he said. CurCousin also helps improve HBA1C levels and improve lipid levels, and can also maintain microbiome diversity (because obese individuals have been found to have microbiomes that are less diverse compared to healthy subjects).

In addition to CurCousin, Sabinsa offers its LivLonga ingredient, a combination of Garcinia cambogia and curcumin, which supports people with fatty liver, which is “basically a hepatic manifestation of obesity or metabolic imbalances,” Pande said. “So these things are very much closely related to each other.” He contrasted LivLonga with the detoxifying liver-support ingredients—“basically silymarin-based products”—that have been most common in the market so far.

Sabinsa’s goal is to reframe the conversation around overall metabolic health. That is where Pande said the company will be focusing its ingredient development as well.

“I think this is a year when we really have been focusing and will continue to focus on educating the consumer that metabolic health and weight loss are not two separate things,” he said. “Your active-lifestyle scenario can only be fortified if you look into metabolic health as an overall. Today, metabolic health is more likely a route because it blends all the effects of the microbiome, good nutrition, and your overall general health, because you can’t create one without managing the other. Metabolic syndrome basically constitutes hypertensive nature, hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia, cell obesity. So these things, you can’t treat them separately.”

He concluded: “You need to balance out your supplemental regimen in order to get the balance back in the system. It’s all about getting the metabolic balances.”