A lot of people believe in diet pills. Some actually look at these products as the be-all, end-all of their weight woes. While it is admirable that people would like to lose weight, sometimes the manner in which they would like to achieve such an outcome is faulty, at best. Many think that diet pills can solve their problems without having to resort to stressful dieting, always watching what you eat, and sometimes forcing yourself to eat something that you really don’t like. Many look at diet supplements as miracle exercise wonders in a tablet or capsule form, allowing them to lose weight without sweating it out in the gym or even in the park. Unfortunately, as the term implies, these are mere supplements. And if you do understand what a supplement means, then you know that these will never really work by themselves. These will only work if you will also complement your intake with a change in your mindset and your lifestyle. Otherwise, you will only be spending your life’s fortunes on these useless diet pills.
But wait, there’s another issue to these diet supplements. There have been numerous reports of aggressively-marketed diet and weight loss supplements that have been laced with highly addicting, dangerous, and banned substances such as fenfluramine and phentermine. While these drugs may actually work wonders by suppressing the brain’s appetite signals, you do know what will happen to you if you don’t eat. Malnutrition can be deadlier than being obese as your body’s vital organs will all be shutting down completely if they don’t receive adequate nutrition. This is also the reason why pregnant and lactating mothers are always advised not to go on a diet or even take diet pills as they are severely compromising not only their wellbeing but also that of their children.
We are not saying that all weight loss products are dangerous and should be avoided completely. The only thing we are saying is that if you do decide to take diet supplements you should also have the common sense to know that it works well with sensible eating and moderate exercises. Additionally, don’t ever expect to see results in a matter of just a few days because this is simply an impossibility. More importantly, because of the many dangerous side effects of artificially synthesized weight loss preparations, it is a lot better to stick with what Mother Nature has given us.
While these products don’t necessarily have the full backing of the scientific community, the mere fact that these have been used by many civilizations even since the ancient times will suggest that they do work. Best of all, there are no synthetic products involved. Regrettably, some diet pill manufacturers know this and would often employ unscrupulous activities to stay well ahead of the competition. That is why you do hear of natural products being investigated for containing “unnatural” ingredients. So, if you are going to buy a natural product, make sure to buy only from a reputable company and ensure that the product you are buying really contains all-natural ingredients.
In this post, we are presenting to you three natural diet supplements that have been continuously hugging the headlines for all the right reasons.
Garcinia Cambogia – The Fat Blocker
Peoples of Southeast Asia know Garcinia cambogia as the close relative of one of their most prized fruits, the purple mangosteen. In fact, the mangosteen has been widely regarded for its many health benefits in these parts of the globe. So, it is not really surprising if Garcinia cambogia will also provide similar benefits, more importantly, its effects on helping the body get rid of unwanted and excess fat. Garcinia cambogia exerts its weight loss properties through a variety of mechanisms. However, three of these processes really stand out.
- G cambogia prevents excess glucose from being converted into fatty acids.
- G cambogia promotes the oxidation of fatty acids.
- G cambogia enhances the sensation of fullness.
Experts now understand that the weight loss properties of G cambogia is directly related to the ability of its active ingredient to stop the conversion of glucose molecules into fatty acids. This is accomplished by the hydroxycitric acid or HCA which antagonizes, blocks, or prevents the action of ATP citrate lyase, the enzyme needed for fatty acid conversion from glucose. The question is why would the body convert glucose into fatty acids?
The food that we eat contains three fundamental macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. They are called macronutrients simply because they are very large molecules which have to be broken down further to produce their basic units – glucose from carbohydrates, amino acids from proteins, and fatty acids from fats. The process of breaking down these large molecules into their component nutrients is accomplished by enzyme systems without which it will be very difficult for the cells to absorb and use these molecules. That is why cells will only take in glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids.
Now cells are like us. They need energy in order to function in much the same way as we need food to help us see through our activities of daily living. Glucose is the primary source of energy for cells. In the event that glucose is not sufficient to supply this energy demand, then cells must use the next best thing – fats. Technically, fats have the most energy on a per gram basis. Imagine a gram of fat containing 9 calories while carbohydrates and proteins only contain 4 calories. That is why in cases of starvation or prolonged fasting, the body mobilizes the fat that have been stored.
So how is fat stored?
Remember we said about cells requiring glucose for their energy needs? There’s another side to this story. Cells only require a certain amount of fuel. It’s quite simple, really. Cells have a limit to its capacity. For instance, if your truck can only hold 20 gallons of fuel, can you fill it with 25? So what do you do with the excess 5 gallons? You don’t put it in, right? Well, the same thing with cells. If there’s simply too much fuel, they will not use the excess. Instead, they will store these for future use. Regrettably, they cannot store these molecules as is so the molecules are repackaged into fats and glycogen. The latter is stored in muscles and the liver while the former is stored under the skin and in regions in the abdominal cavity. In converting glucose, the body needs enzymes. And one of these is ATP citrate lyase. Now imagine if you can stop this enzyme from becoming active, then you are left with glucose being converted into glycogen but not fat. That is why Garcinia cambogia can be rightfully called a fat blocker.
This leads to the second mechanism of action of Garcinia cambogia which is the improved fatty acid oxidation.
Remember that cells are always in need of energy and that the primary source is glucose. Unfortunately, it gets easily depleted. So, if the cells will be requiring more energy to fuel the various cellular processes, they need to get energy molecules somewhere else.
We did mention that fats are the densest forms of stored energy. Hence, if the body needs energy, it will unlock the storage depots and release volumes of fat to be used as energy. One molecule of fat is more than twice the energy contained in a molecule of carbohydrate.
Let us provide an example for this. Let us pretend that you are doing several laps of butterfly strokes in an Olympic-sized swimming pool and you’re burning 700 calories per hour. Let us say that your last meal contained around 500 calories. So, technically you are still deficient by 200 calories. However, this is not a problem for the body because it gets the additional 200 calories from fat deposits. And given that a gram of fat is equal to 9 calories, this means that your body will have to mobilize about 22.2 grams of fat.
The question now is how can you increase the energy requirements of your body?
By exercise, of course. Or, if you cannot exercise, you can boost your metabolic rate by stimulating the release of norepinephrine. This increases your heart rate as well as other vital processes of the body. This helps release fat molecules from their storage depots in a process called gluconeogenesis. Additionally, glycogenolysis is also stimulated to convert glycogen back into glucose. However, we all know that this will take some time. That’s why, when it comes to readily available energy, fat is the king of concentrated fuel for cells.
So, where does Garcinia cambogia fit into the puzzle?
G cambogia has been shown to boost the metabolic rate of the body leading to increased glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis. Of particular importance especially in terms of losing weight is its activity on gluconeogenesis or the production of energy from stored fat. The more sustained the rate of metabolism, the greater the amount of fat that is mobilized and burned. And this is how Garcinia cambogia can help.
There is another mechanism in which G cambogia can help in the management of weight. Many call it appetite suppression although we would like to call it satiety enhancement.
HCA has been shown to stimulate the release of cerebral serotonin. We call it cerebral because serotonin is a substance that is more abundant in the digestive tract than it is in the brain and spinal cord. That said, serotonin is best known as a regulator of mood and, together with dopamine, can help in the more efficient regulation of appetite as well as cognitive processes like learning and memory.
If we think about food, our brain releases dopamine which gives us the sensation of being happy at the thought of eating our favorite dish or favorite meal. This can greatly increase our appetite. The more we think about the food we are about to feast on, the hungrier we get. Serotonin is also released to associate the act of eating as something very meaningful and pleasurable. However, serotonin also acts on one particular receptor on the cells that produce dopamine. This receptor is called 5-HT2C which is short for 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor 2C. What this receptor does is that it sends signals to the nerve cell that is producing dopamine to halt its activity. In other words, it is telling the brain to stop producing dopamine. And if you stop producing dopamine, your appetite is lost.
There is another mechanism that is closely related to the effect of serotonin on satiety. Research has shown the HCA has some of the characteristics of leptin which is a hormone produced and released by fat cells. What leptin does is that it tells the brain that the body doesn’t need food just yet because there is still substantial amount of stored fat for emergency energy needs.
Both of these mechanisms have a profound effect on weight management.
- Serotonin stimulates the receptor telling the brain to stop producing dopamine.
- This leads to a decrease in appetite.
- If you don’t feel like eating, then you lower your intake of calories.
- If you lower your caloric intake, then there’s fewer glucose that can be converted into fat and fewer fat to be stored in fat depots.
- If you can sustain this for longer periods of time, it is possible to lose weight.
Similarly, for the leptin-like characteristics of HCA:
- HCA mimics the action of leptin telling the brain there’s sufficient supply of energy.
- If there’s sufficient supply of energy, the brain will not activate its hunger center.
- If the hunger center is not activated, then you don’t feel like eating.
- And the rest of the process follows that of serotonin stimulation.
So, Garcinia cambogia can be a good natural supplement for weight loss. However, it is very important to understand that this must be supported by sensible eating habits as well as moderate physical activity. While G ambogia can promote the burning of fat and even block the conversion of glucose, if you are not going to help it with a low calorie diet and moderate exercise, the gains you may achieve today may already be gone tomorrow.
Regarding its safety profile, Garcinia cambogia is considered safe as long as you don’t take more than the recommended dose. Some of the more common side effects are attributed to its laxative effects (fat blocking, remember?) and may include diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Some have also reported headache, constipation, and nausea.
To be sure that you are getting the right Garcinia cambogia for you, make sure that it:
- Contains no less than 50 percent of HCA
- Is manufactured by a GMP-certified company
- Is produced by an FDA-approved facility
- Has superb documentation for its effectiveness and safety
Green Coffee Bean Extract – The Fat Burner
We all know that coffee can really perk up our mornings, giving us superb energy to last the whole day. The coffee that we know is rich in caffeine but not in chlorogenic acid, a substance that is now known by science to be very important in reducing the levels of blood glucose, preventing insulin spikes, and preventing the storage of fat. But do not worry because the raw, unroasted version of our favorite morning drink is rich in chlorogenic acid. This is what really makes green coffee bean extract truly a marvel to behold.
In a gist, green coffee bean extract contains the following key weight loss ingredients:
- Chlorogenic acid
Let’s talk about chlorogenic acid first. There are 4 health benefits of chlorogenic acid, 3 of which may have an effect on its ability to help us lose weight.
- It reduces the absorption of glucose to prevent sudden increases in insulin.
- It slows down the production of glucose from stored glycogen.
- It lowers the level of glucose in the blood.
- It lowers blood pressure.
So how can preventing the occurrence of insulin spikes help in weight loss?
Let us first start with a glimpse of what insulin does. Insulin is released if there is glucose in the blood. We already learned in our discussion of Garcinia cambogia that glucose is the main energy source of cells. The problem is that cells will not be able to use glucose if it is not moved into the cell. This is where insulin comes in. You can say that insulin is the transport mechanism whereby glucose in the blood takes a ride to be able to enter the cell. So, the more glucose in the blood, the more insulin needed to move these molecules inside for the cells to use.
So, it’s useful, right? But there’s a catch. Insulin also stimulates the storage of fat that is found in the food that we eat. So, the more fat you have in your diet, the more fat that can be stored. Additionally, any excess glucose is converted into fatty acids by the enzyme ATP citrate lyase. And you already know what this means. Together, you now have increased fat storage. But why would insulin do this? Well, for future use, of course. The body knows that it takes time to produce energy from food. So, it stores the excess in energy-efficient molecules – fats.
If you have increased glucose in your blood, the body will have to release large quantities of insulin as well in a phenomenon called insulin spike. This, as we have already seen, can promote the deposition of fat. So, if we are able to prevent the occurrence of insulin spikes, then we prevent the deposition of fatty acids.
The second mechanism of action of chlorogenic acid is somewhat related to the first. Remember we said that excess glucose gets transformed into glycogen and fat for future energy expenditure? When such needs arise, the body will have to mobilize both stored fat and stored glycogen. Since chlorogenic acid reduces the rate of transformation of glycogen back into glucose, the body will be forced to obtain all or most of its energy requirements from stored fat.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you need 500 calories and let’s pretend you’ll get 300 calories from fats and 200 calories from glycogen. If you introduce chlorogenic acid from green coffee bean extract, it will slow down the rate of glycogen production. But the body cannot wait that long. So, let’s just pretend that only 100 calories of glycogen can be processed, so the body will have to get 400 calories from fats. Pretty amazing, huh?
Technically, what green coffee bean extract does is that it facilitates the increased oxidation or breakdown of fat molecules simply because glycogen is too slow to be converted into usable energy.
As for the other ingredient of green coffee bean extract, caffeine, we already know its many benefits. In case you have forgotten already, they include the following:
- Enhancement of memory
- Improvement of reasoning
- Improvement of reaction time
- Replenishment of glycogen stores
- Detoxification of the liver
- Cleansing of the large intestines
- Promotion of mental alertness and focus
- Promotion of hair growth
- Improvement of asthma symptoms
- Pain relief especially with sore muscles
- Protection against Parkinson’s disease
- Protection against Alzheimer’s disease
- Enhancement of physical stamina
- Protection against eye spasms
- Reduction of suicide risk
- Reduction of risk of fibrosis of the liver
- Reduction of risk of kidney stones
- Increasing of semen volume
- Reduction of risk of sperm cell DNA fragmentation
- Reduction of risk of erectile dysfunctions
- Protection against cataracts
- Protection against tinnitus
- Protection against melanoma
- Reduction of risk of fatty liver disease
- Prevention of weight gain
We know what is really interesting for you is its ability to prevent weight gain. Now, here’s the issue. It does not say that it will help you lose weight. It just says, it will help prevent weight gain. Here’s why.
Caffeine is a stimulant. And like all stimulants, it has the ability to increase our rate of metabolism through activation of the autonomic nervous system. We already discussed this in Garcinia cambogia. Increasing metabolic rate leads to increased energy expenditure. So, technically we should be losing weight, right?
The issue is not so much in the amount of increase in metabolism but rather in how we supply the energy. Unfortunately, even if we drink several cups of coffee every day, this usually means nothing because we are also eating high calorie foods.
Imagine if a cup of coffee can increase our metabolism to burn 100 calories per hour, yet we are consuming 200 calories per hour, then we are clearly not going to lose weight. But if we are able to discipline ourselves into lowering our caloric intake to complement the metabolism-boosting effects of caffeine, then it is possible to achieve weight loss.
There have been controversies regarding the use of green coffee bean extract as a weight loss supplement that even Dr. Oz got the ire of the medical community as well as the distinguished US Senate. The controversy stems from the dubious results of studies on the effects of this particular natural diet pill with many in the scientific community saying that the research design of many of these studies were flawed and as such, its results cannot be really regarded as factual. Dr. Oz did say that, while the scientific community largely disagrees with him, his very own family uses the product and has seen its effects first-hand.
Is green coffee bean extract safe? Well, it is still coffee so whatever symptoms you may experience for drinking coffee, then you can expect these, too with green coffee bean extract.
Green coffee bean extract may not sit well with the scientific community but with a lot of consumers attesting to its effectiveness, we guess it’s worth a try.
Forskolin – The Metabolism Booster
Extracted from the Indian coleus, Coleus forskholii, forskolin has been largely dubbed as a metabolism booster because of its effects on the thyroid hormones. It accomplishes this by activating the enzyme adenylate cyclase. The thyroid hormones are responsible for increasing the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. These hormones can be viewed as the body’s ignition key whether the metabolism will go full blast or will grind to a halt. An increase in thyroid hormones naturally increases metabolism while a deficiency in these types of hormones gravely slows down the metabolism of the body.
Increasing the body’s rate of metabolism will require more fuel to burn. If we eat high calorie foods, then we are able to supply this increased demand for energy. Regrettably, doing so will also increase the likelihood of having excess calories which can be converted into glycogen and fatty acids which will then be stored in fat depots. But if we eat low calorie foods, it may not be sufficient to supply the energy required by the body. So, the body will have to get the energy from stored fat.
Technically, you don’t lose weight if you are just going to increase your metabolism without changing you’re your diet a bit. Some studies have shown that forskolin can help prevent the increase in weight. There are also studies that show forskolin can help in weight reduction but only in the presence of a low calorie diet.
This just confirms what we already know about diet supplements. These will not be able to help you lose weight if you continue consuming unusually large quantities of high calorie foods. For many scientists, it is okay to consume high calorie foods as long as you also increase your level of physical exertion. The point in losing weight is to achieve greater energy expenditure than energy consumption. This actually makes sense. If you eat less while maintaining your normal physical activities, you can lose weight. If you eat more but at the same time increase your physical activities, then there is a likelihood that you can curb weight gain. If the amount of calories you burn is twice as many as the calories you eat, then, over time, you will lose weight.
Forskolin has been shown to produce nausea, stomach upset, and dizziness. However, these are generally mild.
The good thing about forskolin is that it has been extensively used for many centuries by a number of civilizations. Maybe it’s not for weight loss. But the mere fact that it has been around since time immemorial strongly suggests that it is effective and that it is safe.
The Need for a More Holistic Approach to Losing Weight
Several times in our discussion we have emphasized the need for a three-pronged approach to losing weight – the use of natural diet supplements, the modification of one’s diet, and the inclusion of an exercise program that you will really enjoy.
While we present natural weight loss remedies that do not enjoy the full support of the scientific community, we are nevertheless non-believers in magic pills or miracle tablets. We believe that natural weight loss supplements work best if you include it in a holistic program for losing weight. Here are some tips to help you take a more holistic approach to shedding those extra pounds.
- Always choose healthy foods. You can still eat your favorite dish but be mindful of the calories and its nutrient values. There is bound to be a healthier alternative to our favorite foods.
- Always watch the fat and carbs in your meals. It is best to avoid simple sugars, trans-fats, and saturated fats.
- Increase your intake of protein-rich foods. These allow you to feel a lot fuller faster. Additionally, proteins are more efficient in providing you longer-lasting energy so you are not going to eat more frequently.
- Try to rev up your metabolism by increasing the frequency of your feeding but in smaller portions. This helps keep your metabolism always on a high.
- Try to do physical activities that you really enjoy. The key is to choose an exercise which you think you can accomplish successfully. You can then build on this later on.
Everyone wants to lose weight. But not everyone has the discipline to take the necessary and crucial steps to maximizing the benefits of natural weight loss supplements. If you can move beyond the idea that there is a miracle pill, then you will be successful in your weight loss endeavor.