Diet and exercise are the most essential factors in maintaining a healthy weight. However, more consumers are opting for dietary supplements to aid in weight loss; and as product transparency becomes increasingly more important, so do natural ingredients in these weight management products. In a study by Persistence Market Research they concluded that, “The global weight control dietary supplements market is also estimated to bring in $37.1 million (U.S.) by 2026 end” (1). This could mean an even bigger opportunity for natural retailers and the industry as a whole to offer products to consumers wanting a more natural approach.

Neil E. Levin, senior nutrition education manager of NOW, Bloomingdale, IL ,says supplementation can sometimes be necessary especially when someone is cutting something out of his or her diet. For example, someone limiting carbs may not be getting as many fruits and vegetables as they should, and limiting fats can reduce fatty acid and fat-soluble nutrient intake.

Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, sr. director of research & development at Bluebonnet Nutrition Corp., Sugar Land, TX, notes the most popular weight loss product categories: thermogenesis (burning calories/increasing metabolism), optimizing fat metabolism, regulating blood glucose levels and inducing satiety. She says a healthy lifestyle is the first priority but adding natural supplements in these areas can give consumers an edge.

AutophagyNaomi Whittel is the founder of Reserveage Nutrition and CEO of Twinlab Consolidated Holdings. In her new book, “Glow15, A Science Based Plan to Lose Weight, Revitalize Your Skin, and Invigorate Your Life,” she talks about the importance of autophagy and its relevance in weight management. She states “autophagy literally means ‘self-eating’ and is a natural detox process that allows for the removal of toxins from your cells” (2). It’s basically the body’s consumption of its own tissue as part of a metabolic process. In turn, this process can aid in weight loss in a few ways. Whittel notes that protein cycling — alternating between consuming high and low amounts of protein — can boost glucagon and autophagy, meaning your body won’t store food as fat but rather burn it and build muscle. She says protein cycling has been shown to reduce the risk of diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Whittel also mentions ketosis and how it is one of the best ways to boost autophagy. By putting the body in this state, it reaps the benefits of fasting without depriving the body. She recommends waiting until later in the day to consume carbs to prolong this state and the benefits (carbs are also used more effectively later in the day).

In “Glow15,” Whittel highlights some foods that are helpful in achieving autophagy and weight loss. First is green tea; with a low caffeine content and active polyphenols that activate autophagy. It has even been shown that those who drink a cup a day burn roughly 100 more calories than those who don’t. Cinnamon is another source that helps activate autophagy. This spice high in antioxidants has been shown to protect brain cells from neurodegenerative diseases and protects against cell damage and cell mutation. Coconut oil is a fatty acid that also stimulates autophagy. MCT in coconut oil is used directly for energy instead of being stored as fat. Whittel notes a few other things good for activating autophagy: polyphenols, sphingolipids, omega-3 fatty acids, sulforaphanes, vitamins C, D, E, K and spermidine.

Hot IngredientsJeff Brucker, VP of marketing for Genesis Today, Austin TX, has noticed a rise in consumers looking for MCT oil because of its numerous benefits (energy source, brain health, metabolism aid) and convenience since it can easily be used in foods and beverages.

Since keeping blood sugar levels down is a key to maintaining weight, ingredients like chromium, moringa and as mentioned earlier, superfood polyphenols, are popular among consumers. Brucker says one of the most consistently popular weight management supplements is garcinia cambogia, which is used in many powder and capsule products. If looking to lose weight, first comes diet and exercise, however, Brucker explains, “Supplementation can help fill in the gaps and provide additional support for a holistic lifestyle program.”

Sugarek MacDonald also cites garcinia cambogia as one of Bluebonnet’s most popular ingredients, explaining that it supports serotonin to curb appetite and reduces cellular fat production. Other key ingredients for weight management, she says are chromium picolinate, a trace mineral that metabolizes carbs and fat and supports healthy blood sugar levels; l-carnitine, an amino acid that transports fatty acids to use as fuel and supports exercise performance; choline and inositol, B vitamin derivatives that support brain health and boost energy; l-methionine, an amino acid that helps the body burn stored fatty acids for energy and potassium and magnesium, essential macro-minerals that maintain proper muscle function. Sugarek MacDonald observes that different things are going to work for everybody so there is certainly no one-size-fits-all solution. Identifying individual needs and reasons for weight gain is crucial to finding the individual’s effective combination. Anke Sentko, VP, regulatory affairs and nutrition communication, BENEO, Parsippany, NJ, brings up an interesting perspective on weight loss vs. management. At BENEO they prefer the term “management” because they believe stopping weight gain is what’s important and may also sound less intimidating to those struggling with their weight.

BENEO uses ingredients like chicory fibers and functional carbs from sugar beet that help with energy and calorie balance. “This sustainable approach of supporting healthy eating is the only way to avoid the so called ‘yo-yo effect’ and other dieting frustrations,” says Sentko. Consumers only eat about half the fiber they should; so supplementing an ingredient like chicory root fiber (which helps regulate blood sugar levels) can be very beneficial. Since this ingredient helps with satiety, it can help consumers lower their calorie intake naturally.

Cocoa bean extract is a trending ingredient according to DaRon Gillilan, chief sales officer at LifeSeasons, Copper Canyon, TX. Gillilan says it contains theobromine and caffeine in a 10 to 1 ratio. “Caffeine has been shown to suppress appetite and burn calories that can aid in weight loss. It can also increase energy even when you are at rest to help stimulate thermogenesis.” Thermogenesis is a metabolic process in which the body produces heat from burning calories, therefore aiding in weight loss. He also says cayenne pepper can help speed up metabolism because it dilates the blood vessels. Levin adds apple cider vinegar to the list. Studies have shown it can be a beneficial ingredient in weight loss.

Other AidsIncorporating fiber and pre/probiotics into a daily regimen can help enhance weight loss. Brucker says this combination can improve digestion, nutrient absorption, satiety, regularity and reduce gas and bloating.

“Dietary fiber consists of non-digestible carbohydrates and lignins that are intact and intrinsic in plants,” says Sugarek MacDonald. “Functional fiber on the other hand is a bit different; this term refers to isolated, nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans. Together, dietary and functional fiber is known as total fiber.”

Sugarek MacDonald recommends eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes for fiber content, which can help satiety. Long-term fiber consumption can help control blood sugar levels and can reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes.

Levin recommends taking fiber before a meal and drinking plenty of water with it. He says traditional fiber products like psyllium husk, glucomannan, guar gum, and others have been used to improve satiety and can swell up to make the stomach feel full.

Kiran Krishnan, chief science officer, Just Thrive Probiotic, Park Ridge, IL, agrees fiber and probiotics play a huge role in healthy weight. Providing the body with the right foods can help good gut bacteria thrive. “Bacteria that keep the host lean, burning fat and overall healthier, prefer fiber over sugar,” says Krishnan. He recommends eating foods rich in fiber and straying away from sugar and processed starches. Consuming a prebiotic can also be helpful in that it feeds the good gut bacteria and helps produce butyrate, which stimulates fat burn, lowers inflammation and promotes satiety. Combining pre and probiotics together in a daily ritual can optimize a healthy gut and promote weight loss.

What to do about cravings? Interestingly enough, Krishnan shares that “bad” bacteria and fungus overgrowth can actually send neurotransmitters to the brain causing sugar or junk food cravings. This can make changing eating habits difficult for consumers. “Our bacteria can really make you eat a cupcake. You need to enhance the bacteria that make you want to eat carrots instead,” he states.

In terms of pre/probiotics, Levin says it has been shown that increasing prebiotic intake can change gut bacteria in a day or two (increasing bacteria like Bifidobacteria). This is especially true when switching over to a more plant-based diet. Typically more Bifidobacteria is found in leaner bodies. Having adequate probiotics and good gut bacteria levels are important in managing weight.

Delivery FormsBrucker stresses the importance of consumers knowing the difference between all their delivery form options so they can decide which is best for them. For instance, gummies are convenient yet can be less efficient and will require more than a capsule or powder, says Brucker. He says powders are great for consumers because they can maintain consistency, which is a key in supplementation. They are also convenient because they can easily be mixed in with foods or beverages. Capsules do have advantages as well.

“Capsule technology has greatly evolved over the past several years to improve stability and absorption,” says Brucker. “Delayed-release, vegetarian capsules are available for prebiotic/probiotic formulas to help ensure survival through stomach acids and absorption in the intestines.”

“Liquid, powder, gummy and chewable supplements are a huge trend right now in the natural health foods market, and that trend is here to stay,” says Sugarek MacDonald. More consumers are moving from traditional capsules to these trends and as Brucker said, there are multiple benefits of different delivery forms.

Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition’s (formerly Capsugel) marketing manager Barri Sigvertsen believes that delivery formats can appeal to consumers as much as ingredients, and dosage forms can influence consistent usage and efficacy. Some capsule advantages are that they are simple and convenient for customers to use; they can easily be thrown into pockets or bags to take on-the-go and Sigvertsen says, capsules can increase effectiveness of certain ingredients.

Lonza’s formulation scientist Justin Southern, says that capsules can eliminate problems with certain ingredients like bitter taste, protect against ingredient breakdown, protect moisture-sensitive ingredients, delay delivery for effectiveness and combine ingredients that don’t mix. Lonza even makes a capsule that can easily be separated so the contents can be poured into a liquid.

Restoring MetabolismMetabolism or metabolic rate is defined as “the series of chemical reactions in a living organism that create and break down energy necessary for life.” Essentially, it is the rate at which the body expends energy or burns calories (3).

Having a balanced metabolism is crucial in overall health, but especially important when trying to lose weight. Gillilan shares an interesting statistic that the number of calories we burn daily declines 1 – 2% per decade. This process accelerates around age 40 for men and 50 for women and declines further.

Krishnan suggests 15 – 21 g of fiber per day (from different sources), probiotics and eliminating processed foods to improve gut conditions. “Just 3 – 4 weeks of this type of dietary change can make a measurable functional change in your metabolism,” he states. Stimulant-free fat burners (also known as thermogenics) are on the market and can be paired with healthy exercise and diet for an extra boost. Stimulant fat burners trigger the nervous system, so stimulant-free ones are safer on the body. Consumers may choose to deal with metabolism without extra supplements, but some may want an extra way to burn fat.

Besides supplementation there are some other tricks to help boost metabolism. Consuming protein can give metabolism a boost and help with satiety. The calories used when digesting food is the thermic effect of food (TEF) “Protein causes the largest rise in TEF. It increases your metabolic rate by 15 – 30%, compared to 5 – 10% for carbs and 0 – 3% for fats.” Drinking cold water can also aid with metabolism. ­Studies have shown that more calories are expended with cold water since the body heats it and metabolism can be increased temporarily (4).

Certain types of tea can also be beneficial — like oolong and green tea. They can help burn fat by converting fat in the body to free fatty acids and are low in calories so they are good for weight loss and weight management. Also incorporating coconut oil into cooking rather than using butter or other fats can be helpful. Coconut oil has a multitude of benefits in addition to boosting metabolism. It has medium chain fats unlike butter, which has long chain fats; in one study, researchers found that medium-chain fats increased metabolism by 12%, compared to long-chain fats, which raised it by just 4% (4).

In terms of lifestyle changes one can make, getting enough sleep is extremely important. Lack of sleep can disrupt metabolism and cause increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, which can ultimately lead to type II diabetes. It has also been shown to increase the hunger hormone ghrelin and decrease the fullness hormone leptin. High intensity workouts also burn fat and can speed up metabolism even after a workout. “One study in overweight young men found that 12 weeks of high-intensity exercise reduced fat mass by 4.4 lbs (2 kg) and belly fat by 17%” (4). It’s good to mix up a workout routine with high intensity exercises and to be active in general.

Along with protein-rich foods, iron, zinc and selenium are important in diet as well; these all support the thyroid, which regulates metabolism. Deficiencies in these can impact the hormones and slow metabolism. Eating foods like meat, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds or supplementation is important to support thyroid health (5).

Educate Your CustomersGillilan stresses the importance of helping and educating customers and offers the idea of partnering with experts for customer seminars as an interactive and engaging approach. He also suggests having shelf signage to point out specific ingredients to customers, and possibly an ingredient library available in the health supplement aisle. “We believe sharing knowledge and being open and transparent builds a solid foundation to create a customer for life,” says Gillilan. He believes it’s critical that consumers are educated on choosing the right combination of ingredients, not just any ingredients.WF

References1. Persistence Market Research, “North America to Witness Strong Growth in the Global Weight Loss Dietary Supplements Market during the Forecast Period 2017 – 2026,”, accessed Jan. 19, 2018. 2. Whittel, Naomi. Glow15: A Science Based Plan to Lose Weight, Revitalize Your Skin, and Invigorate Your Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 3. Harvard Health Publishing School, “Does Metabolism Matter in Weight Loss?” 4. West, Helen, “10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Metabolism (Backed by Science),”, accessed Jan. 12, 2018. 5. Petre, Alina, “The 12 Best Foods to Boost Your Metabolism,”, accessed Jan. 9, 2018.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine March 2018