The weight-management supplements market is recovering from its pandemic slump. Here’s how ingredient suppliers are investing in R&D.

Nutritional Outlook, Volume 25, Issue 4

An update on emerging innovations in weight-management ingredients.

The weight-management supplements market is on the road to recovery post-pandemic. After two years of a pandemic-induced sales slump that saw consumers prioritize immune health products and adopt less-than-healthy dietary and exercise habits, society’s reopening now has consumers looking to drop the Quarantine 15. Market researcher Grand View Research now predicts the global weight-loss supplements market will post a 16.6% compound annual growth rate through 2028.

Indeed, while weight management has always been somewhat of an evergreen market for supplements, this particular stage of the COVID-19 pandemic has created renewed demand for weight-loss products, says Kriti Chaudhary, head of business development for contract research organization Vedic Lifesciences (Mumbai, India). This has gotten the market innovating anew.

For instance, while appetite suppressants have long been a mainstay, ingredient suppliers are also coming out with new offerings—some which may outperform legacy ingredients, Chaudhary says. She notes: “The scientific focus of supplement manufacturers remains creating fast-acting and effective weight-loss remedies. Ingredients like Garcinia cambogia extract inhibit fat-producing enzymes, but the effect size is mild. Caffeine is commonly used as a metabolism booster, but it has its own side effects like anxiety and jitteriness.” Chaudhary says there are now multiple other weight-management ingredients currently undergoing study, including various probiotic strains, prebiotic fibers, protein powders, and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.

As ingredient suppliers continue investing in research and development, brands have an array of effective new ingredient options to include in formulations. Ahead, we look at some of the latest advancements.

Herbal Blend Increases Resting Energy Expenditure

In the supplements field, inducing thermogenesis, often by means of herbal ingredients, remains one of the most popular and effective means of initiating weight loss. But could these ingredients do more? Recent research indicates that some ingredients have dual mechanisms of action that may offer metabolic health benefits, to boot.

Steve Fink, vice president of marketing for PLT Health Solutions (Morristown, NJ), notes that PLT’s patented Slendacor Weight Management Complex, an herbal blend of Curcuma longa, Moringa oleifera, and Murraya koenigii extracts, recently underwent a pair of preclinical studies to assess its impacts on energy expenditure. These studies revealed that the blend works through two mechanisms of action to promote weight loss.

The first study1, an animal trial conducted by PLT Health Solutions and its research and development partner Laila Nutraceuticals (India), examined the effects of Slendacor on body weight, fat mass, fat cell size, liver weight, liver triglyceride levels, and energy metabolism in 28 rats. The rats were fed either a standard diet or a high-fat diet for 56 days. Starting on day 29, the rats on the high-fat diet were divided into three subgroups, with each group receiving a daily dose of either 0.5% carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) sodium, 100 mg/kg of Slendacor, or 250 mg/kg of Slendacor, every day for the remainder of the study.

After the initial 28-day feeding period, the rats on the high-fat diet had gained significantly more weight than the rats on the standard diet. By day 56, however, the rats on the high-fat diet that were also administered Slendacor scored significantly lower on measures of obesity than rats on the high-fat diet receiving CMC sodium. The 100 mg/kg Slendacor group exhibited a mean body weight gain of 1.68%. The 250 mg/kg Slendacor group experienced a gain of 1.05%. Meanwhile, rats on the high-fat diet not receiving Slendacor increased their body weight by 34%. The study authors concluded that Slendacor increased resting energy expenditure, reduced body fat mass, and downregulated the expression of adipogenic marker proteins.

More recently, a 2021 human clinical study2 found that one daily dose of Slendacor increased resting energy expenditure by 15%. Notably, the trial found no effect on heart rate or blood pressure and no stimulant-like effects. The trial, completed in 2021, is pending publication.

Spices Provide Metabolic Support

Certain spices are effective weight-loss ingredients by inducing thermogenesis or otherwise regulating metabolic health. Capsaicinoids from red chili peppers (Capsicum annum), for instance, are ideal weight-management ingredients due to their ability to balance caloric intake and caloric expenditure, says Sayantan Bhattacharya, senior director, category management, OmniActive Health Technologies (Morristown, NJ).

OmniActive’s patented Capsimax ingredient, a concentrated extract of capsaicinoids from red chili peppers, has been found to help control appetite and increase resting energy expenditure, Bhattacharya says. “Resting energy expenditure (REE) is the number of calories required by the body at rest,” Bhattacharya explains. “REE accounts for approximately 60% of calories burned daily.”

Capsimax is a concentrated Capsicum annum extract in capsule form containing 2 mg of capsaicinoids per 100 mg of extract. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial3 funded by OmniActive and published last year examined the effects of Capsimax supplementation on resting energy expenditure in 17 men and 7 women. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive a single dose of Capsimax or a placebo, and were assessed for resting energy expenditure via indirect calorimetry at baseline and after 1, 2, 3, and 4 hours. All subjects crossed over to the opposite condition after a three- to six-day washout period.

Capsimax increased resting energy expenditure relative to baseline at all timepoints, but only among the male subjects. The female subjects did not exhibit any significant changes in energy expenditure.“Among all study participants, Capsimax supported a burn total of 104 calories over a four-hour period,” Bhattacharya says, adding, “Perceived changes in body temperature were also measured, and study participants consistently reported an increased feeling of warmth, supporting an experiential benefit in response to Capsimax.”

Curcumin is another spice showing efficacy as a weight-management ingredient. Curcumin supplier Sabinsa Corp. (East Windsor, NJ) has found that a curcumin analog in Curcuma longa and Curcuma caesia known as calebin A can aid weight management. Following this discovery, this March Sabinsa launched its patented calebin A ingredient called CurCousin.

“Calebin A has great potential to balance cholesterol and support healthy blood sugar levels,” says Kalyanam Nagabhushanam, PhD, the company’s president of research and development. “It’s an excellent metabolic support compound.”

Sabinsa found a way to commercially produce its CurCousin ingredient. As Nagabhushanam explains, “calebin A is found in very small quantities in Curcuma longa and Curcuma caesia.” CurCousin, therefore, is a synthetic compound that is bioidentical to naturally occurring calebin A. “We developed CurCousin with 99% calebin A because of the minuscule amounts present in natural sources,” Nagabhushanam says.

According to Sabinsa, the ingredient offers greater chemical stability than its natural analog while preserving calebin A’s metabolic health benefits. One 2016 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial4 sponsored by Sabinsa’s parent company Sami Labs (Bangalore, India) examined the safety and efficacy of a standardized calebin A extract on body weight, body mass index (BMI), leptin and adiponectin levels, blood triglyceride concentrations, HDL and LDL cholesterol, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in 40 overweight and obese subjects. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive either one 25-mg calebin A capsule twice per day or a placebo, for 90 days.

After 90 days, subjects receiving calebin A exhibited statistically significant reductions in body weight and BMI compared to placebo. In the calebin A group, weight loss was accompanied by a substantial increase in HDL cholesterol, improved lipid levels, decreased leptin resistance, increased adiponectin levels, and decreased inflammation.

Psychobiotics Curb Emotional Eating

While most weight-management ingredients focus on metabolic health or thermogenesis, an emerging category of supplements is leveraging the gut-brain axis to help consumers better manage their diets.

Consumers are growing more interested in probiotic ingredients like psychobiotics as part of a weight-management strategy, says Camille Binachon, product manager for Lallemand Health Solutions (Montreal, QC, Canada). “Lumina Intelligence data shows that between February 2020 and February 2021, the online search volume for ‘weight-management probiotics’ increased by 41%,” Binachon says. “There is a strong potential role for probiotics to support weight-management efforts thanks to their action on the gut-brain axis.”

One 2021 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial5 currently pending publicationinvestigated whether 10 billion CFU/day of Lallemand’s proprietary, patent-pending L. rhamnosus HA-114 ingredient could stimulate weight loss, help manage problematic eating behaviors, improve mood, and decrease stress in 152 overweight adults with no comorbidities who were starting a diet. This trial was supported by a grant from Lallemand Health Solutions, which also supplied both the probiotic capsule and the placebo.

All of the subjects were placed on a personalized diet designed to induce a 500 kcal/day energy deficit. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 10 billion CFU/day of HA-114, or a placebo, for 12 weeks. Body composition, insulin levels, insulin resistance, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels were measured at baseline and on study conclusion. The subjects also completed the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, the Binge Eating Scale Questionnaire, and the Food Cravings Questionnaire at baseline and on study conclusion to assess food habits. Finally, mood and stress levels were evaluated at baseline and on conclusion via the Beck Depression Inventory, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Perceived Stress Scale.

After 12 weeks, both groups experienced reductions in body weight, BMI, body fat, and waist size due to the nutritional intervention. However, HA-114 consumption caused significant changes in eating behaviors and mental health measures. The subjects receiving HA-114 reported higher cognitive restraint of eating, fewer binge eating episodes, fewer cravings, less hunger, and more control over their eating habits relative to the placebo group. HA-114 also caused reductions in scores of perceived stress, anxiety, and depression within the experimental group, although there was no difference between groups.

“These results reinforce the validity of the gut-brain axis concept,” Binachon says. “There is already increasing evidence that the gut profile influences the brain, and in this experiment, L. rhamnosus HA-114 supported weight-management efforts by restoring the balance of eating behaviors through the gut-brain axis. This could facilitate diet compliance.”

Opportunities Ahead

As weight-management products emerge from their pandemic slump, ingredient suppliers are coming out swinging. As consumers commit themselves to losing the Quarantine 15, demand for scientifically validated, natural weight-loss solutions will grow. Whether it’s probiotics or herbal blends and extracts, there is no shortage of options for formulators to experiment with. Given the diverse secondary functions of ingredients in this space, brands will also find plenty of opportunities to develop unique products.

Companies in the weight-management space should also keep other important factors in mind. For instance, “Brands also should not neglect delivery formats,” Lallemand’s Binachon notes. “Consumers are looking for adapted formats like sachets or capsules that fit their lifestyles.”

Ingredient safety in the weight-management space should continue to be a priority for brands. Sabinsa’s Nagabhushanam says rapid alteration of metabolic parameters can lead to negative health effects, which is why any supplement or ingredient claiming to induce rapid and dramatic weight loss may not be safe for consumer use.

“There may also be drugs masquerading as dietary supplements,” Nagabhushanam warns. “Unethical peddlers are known to mix unapproved and unsafe pharmaceutical ingredients. Ensuring product safety and exposing unethical actors are key to maintaining consumer confidence in this category.”

Finally, weight loss is about more than just shedding pounds. PLT’s Fink points out that consumers have a new view of the role healthy weight plays in overall health—and this has led weight-management brands to focus on developing holistic products. Rather than prioritizing the number on the scale, brands are now recommending diet and exercise as two important parts of maintaining general health.

“When developing a weight-management product for seniors, for example, it’s important to consider issues like maintaining muscle mass and blood sugar management,” Fink says. “From a broader perspective, as important as weight loss is to consumers, we know that sustainable and healthy changes to body weight must involve supporting related systems like cardiovascular and metabolic health.”

References

  1. Kundimi S et al. “Combined extracts of Moringa oleifera, Murraya koeningii leaves, and Curcuma longa rhizome increases energy expenditure and controls obesity in high-fat diet-fed rats.” Lipids in Health and Disease, vol. 19, no. 1 (August 28, 2020): 198
  2. PLT Health Solutions press release. “PLT announces new clinical studies that shed light on the non-stimulant thermogenic benefits of Slendacor Weight Management Complex.” Posted online March 2, 2022.
  3. Morde A et al. “Capsimax increases resting energy expenditure in males under fasting state: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, cross-over study.” Current Developments in Nutrition, vol. 5, suppl. 2 (June 2021): 514
  4. Majeed M et al. “Efficacy and tolerability of a novel formulation for weight management in obese subjects: A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, clinical study.” International Journal of Ayurveda and Pharma Research, vol. 4, no. 11 (November 2016): 10-17
  5. Choi et al. “L. rhamnosus HA-114 improves eating and mood-related behaviors in adults with overweight during weight loss.” Publication pending. 2021.