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Maintaining proper weight can be a lifelong challenge. Despite the substantial amount of money Americans pay for weight-loss gimmicks, pills, and plans, taken together they all show a dismal 5% long-term success rate.
Researchers deem obesity a chronic health condition. They say that it must be managed, like high blood pressure or diabetes. That there’s no easy cure. Being overweight puts you at higher risk for diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease, stroke and cancer, and even modest weight loss will reduce these risks. Letting go of as little as 5 to 10% of your total weight may lower blood pressure, raise good cholesterol, and improve blood sugar balance. And you’ll live longer.
There are some genetic factors, but fundamentally, total body weight is due to diet and exercise. Nutritional supplements can also assist in controlling appetite or jump-starting metabolism.
Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), called zhi shi in Chinese, and used in traditional Chinese medicine for enhancing digestion and circulation, is the source of the anti-obesity active ingredient synephrine, a chemical cousin to neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. By binding to beta-3 receptors found in adipose tissue and involved in thermogenesis and increasing metabolism, synephrine accelerates the removal
of unwanted fat stores.
This extract of bitter orange provides a metabolism boost that is similar to ephedrine, but the mechanism of action is slightly different, so synephrine tends to cause less jitteriness and heart rate increase than ephedrine. One study from 2011 found that bitter orange raised metabolic rates without corresponding elevations in blood pressure and heart rates.
There have been assorted minor concerns raised about bitter orange and cardiovascular health, but a 2011 paper in Phytotherapy Research found it to be safe and to have no serious adverse effects. The usual dose is 3-30 mg of synephrine per day, as needed.
People have been using green tea for thousands of years, but only in the last few years have we begun to research the anti-obesity benefits of this ancient beverage. Over the past decade, evidence has been accumulating that demonstrates that green tea enhances weight loss, and several new scientific discoveries support it for that use. Taiwanese researchers recently studied 120 obese persons by giving them a green tea-based meal replacement. Over 12 weeks, subjects lost an average of 15 pounds and had improved cholesterol numbers. Dutch scientists concluded that the green tea catechins and caffeine act synergistically through diverse mechanisms to promote weight loss. A 2011 paper drew similar conclusions.
The usual weight-loss dosage is 300-450 mg daily of a green tea extract standardized to contain 80% total polyphenols and 50% epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), although studies have used up to 1,200 mg per day, often along with caffeine from the tea.
Caralluma cactus (Caralluma fimbriata) is a succulent plant that has been used as a natural appetite suppressant in India for centuries. Like hoodia, another popular slimming cactus, caralluma (sometimes appearing on the label as “Slimaluma”) has been used by indigenous traveling hunters to suppress appetite. For centuries, people have eaten the wild desert cactus as a vegetable, in chutneys and pickles, or raw. It is believed to block the activity of several enzymes involved in the formation of fat and to modify the appetite control mechanism of the brain. One study from India showed significant decrease in body weight, body mass index, hip circumference, body fat, and food intake over 60 days. Ayurvedic experts have noted no adverse effects and no toxicity.
Some products available in the U.S. combine caralluma extract with EGCG from green tea, which seems to create a synergistic effect on appetite control and weight loss.
Herbs can be a valuable adjunct to a weight loss or maintenance plan. When you give these a try, I think you’ll like what you don’t see.