The Truth About Weight Loss Supplements

Do Any Effectively Battle the Bulge?

Obesity is a major public health concern throughout the Western world, affecting all ages.  No age group is immune; children, parents, and grandparents, approximately one-half of North Americans are overweight, one-quarter are obese and three-quarters feel they are above their ideal weight. Clearly the battle of the bulge is an ever expanding epidemic.

While it may feel like it, we do not wake up one morning 100, 20 or even 5 pounds heavier.  There are many products touted as “revolutionary” and can work “miracles” with fat just melting away.  Celebrities 'let you in on their secret' but what they don't tell you is how they had to change their lifestyle and eating habits to achieve their success.  As a manufacturing company we see spikes in demand for these quick fix products every time they are broadcast on television shows or written up in a major publication.  If these products could work the miracles people hope they can, we would be wealthy beyond our dreams, retired and resting on a sandy beach on our own private island.  Weight is gained (usually slowly) over time and so too will it take time to lose the weight. 

To effectively lose weight and, more importantly, to keep it off we need to understand the chemical reasons why people gain. Gaining weight occurs when we consume more calories than we use. Your body efficiently stores these excess calories as fat for use later.  When we decrease calorie consumption alone our body goes into 'famine' mode, reducing your metabolic rate (how much energy your cells burn) to enable more energy (fat) storage.  As long as the body is taking in more calories than it uses a person will become "fatter".  In this equation, it doesn't matter what type of calories (fat, carbohydrates, protein, etc). Even though lifestyle changes are difficult, the most effective dieters combine calorie reduction with increased activity for lifelong success.

While there is no magic pill to change this fact, there are substances that can help reduce your calorie intake or increase the amount you burn.  Regardless, if you eat everything in sight and live an exercise-free lifestyle you will be FAT and unhealthy.


Green Coffee Bean extract (GCA®)

is the latest buzz in weight loss supplements.  A functional ingredient derived from unroasted coffee beans, it is 100% natural and purified to contain greater than 65% of total polyphenolic acids, specifically chlorogenic acids (GCA®).   GCA® has two scientifically proven mechanisms of action on carbohydrate metabolism.  First it inhibits the Glucose-6-phosphatase pathway in the hepatic system which causes the body to burn glucose (sugar) and fat, mainly in the liver. The second mechanism slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream, increasing the body’s use of stored carbohydrates for energy.  There is a promising human clinical on GCA® but further study is required.

Raspberry Ketones

are the primary aroma compound of red raspberries and another ingredient that has gotten a lot of celebrity attention. This compound is supposed to help you lose weight by increasing lipid metabolism. However, to date this effect has been shown only in lab animals and human safety hasn't yet been demonstrated. Be cautious if you decide to go this route.

African Mango (Irvingia gabonensis) (IGOB131)

is a fat-burning supplement that is said to reduce appetite, boost the breakdown of fats, improve blood sugar control and reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides. Like other forms of soluble fibre, the soluble fibre of the seed of Irvingia gabonensis may assist in weight loss. There are two human trials on the effect of Irvingia that indicate that some weight loss effect is occurring. Several weight-loss products contain varying amounts of soluble fibers such as inulin, glucomannan, guar gum and psyllium as they can increase satiety (make you feel full) to reduce caloric intake.

Chromium Picolate

is common in weight control supplements.  It is thought to play a role in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and appears to have a small weight-reduction effect. However, you should talk to your doctor if you have a kidney disorder and/or diabetes.

Green Tea

is rich in a type of polyphenol called catechins which may trigger weight loss by stimulating the body to burn calories and decrease body fat. Green tea also has antioxidant compounds that appear to work with caffeine to increase calorie burning.

Conjugated linoleic Acid (CLA)

is a naturally occurring fatty acid with claims of helping people lose fat, maintain weight loss, retain lean muscle mass, and control type 2 diabetes.  Several studies have demonstrated that CLA can support a modest improvement to body composition in conjunction with a program of reduced intake of dietary calories and increased physical activity.

Garcinia Cambogia

There are several studies that suggest Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) – the active ingredient might prevent fat storage and control appetite.  These effects in humans are unclear and further investigation is needed.


comes from the shells of crustaceans such as shrimp, lobster, and crab. Research has shown that chitosan binds dietary fats and bile acids, helping remove them from the digestive system before they can be digested. However, evidence for effectiveness is conflicting since the studies also included a calorie restricted diet. Additionally you have to take care when taking chitosan as it can bind to nutritional oils (omega-3, vitamin D, CoQ10, etc) eliminating them before digestion.  


Remember there is no "magic bullet" for weight loss. Common-sense habits such as exercising, eating healthy, behaviour and lifestyle modification, proper nutrition and getting the proper amount of sleep will help you reach your ideal weight. The combined effects of these simple steps can turn your body into a calorie burning machine. If you do decide to supplement make sure you buy from a reputable manufacturer, not an unknown who may cut corners (or ingredients).  Always be wary when Internet shopping as the blends, combinations, and proprietary mixtures may not contain an adequate amount of functional ingredient (if in fact there is any) to provide any health benefits.



Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.

Categories: Supplements, Neutraceuticals, & Herbs