Part One of a Four-Part Series on Weight Management

Happy New Year! It won’t be long after the ball drops that shoppers will start asking your staff for their picks of the best weight management supplements on the market.

It’s a tough request. Everyone’s body responds to diet and exercise differently and there is so much to learn about the many ways supplementation can help support healthy weight management. Some people love thermogenic products, other shoppers want to focus on carb blockers, still others want satiety supplements—and many people want combinations of several weight management ingredients.

Given how vast this category is, WholeFoods decided to kick off 2016 with an editorial series devoted to healthy weight management, with the first installment focusing on thermogenics. By April, readers will have a collection of features on important topics to help you better sell products in this key category.

Setting the Record Straight

Rule Number One in this category is to set the record straight: you don’t have any miracles in a bottle on your shelves.

“There is no quick fix when it comes to losing.  It takes work on behalf of the individual looking to lose a set amount of pounds, which includes controlling their calorie intake and increasing the calorie-burning process in the body through exercise,” says Jay Levy, director of sales at Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd., Mission Viejo, CA.

Along with a healthy diet and exercise regimen, certain weight-management supplements—with the approval of a healthcare provider—may help benefit some individuals. This is an extremely important message to get across as this category is often plagued with bad players that make unrealistic promises.

In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted a consumer update titled, “Beware of Products Promising Miracle Weight Loss” (1). FDA has had its eye on this category for several reasons. Tainted weight-loss supplements have been laced with hidden illegal ingredients (like prescription antidepressants) and some diuretics and heavily caffeinated products have caused health problems. Some companies have also made outlandish claims that couldn’t possibly be true.sabinsa

Given all this, it’s not surprising that some shoppers (and regulators) are skeptical about the legitimacy and efficacy of weight-management supplements. Your best bet is explaining what separates your offerings from these illegal faux “supplements.” Talk to shoppers about the vetting process you used to select what’s on your shelves. Did you review the science behind them? Did you weed out any products promising a “quick fix” or “guaranteed results”? Did you buy your product from a quality-minded company that you trust? Let your clientele know the inside scoop about how products made it from the warehouse to your store.

Now, what about thermogenics, the focus of this month’s report? Are they viable options for shoppers?

Too Good To Be True?

The concept of a “fat burner” may conjure thoughts of fat melting away with little or no effort. Some unscrupulous marketers may want shoppers to believe this is how the category works. Take the time to explain to shoppers the facts.

According to Shaheen Majeed, marketing director at Sabinsa Corp., East Windsor, NJ, thermogenesis is all about metabolism, which is “the amount of calories one needs to sustain vital body functions. The higher the metabolic rate, the greater number of calories burnt.”

Certain agents—such as thermogenics—are said to affect this process. Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, director of research and development and national educator at Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation, Sugar Land, TX, puts it simply, “Thermogenesis (production of heat in the body) increases the resting metabolic rate and the rate at which fat is released from body stores and broken down (lipolysis) to help burn calories, thus reducing body mass and body fat.”

Several mechanisms affect the process of burning adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from stored fat in several ways. For instance, there’s lipolysis, which is the breakdown of fats in response to molecules like norepinephrine, says Lynda Doyle, vice president of global marketing at OmniActive Health Technologies, Morristown, NJ. This stress hormone is involved in several aspects of the fight-or-flight response, including increasing heart rate, spurring the release of glucose from energy stores and increasing blood flow to muscles (2).

If an increase of free fatty acids in a cell stimulates thermogenic proteins that are in charge of nutrient oxidation—and cellular energy isn’t needed—the fat is simply burned off. “Thermogenesis, therefore, safely promotes the mobilization of fats for energy production,” Doyle explains.

The Truth about Caffeine

So, which ingredients increase metabolism and help the body burn more calories? Some stimulants fall into this category like caffeine, though they should be consumed with caution.

Powdered caffeine, for instance, is one such product, but it is very important that shoppers avoid it. Part of the problem with powdered caffeine is that it is difficult to measure and ensure the right amount is taken. Bob Mohney, product and training manager at Olympian Labs, Inc., Phoenix, AZ, states, “Most people do not have a laboratory scale capable of measuring in milligrams. Standard kitchen scales often only work in grams or ounces, so it is extremely easy to take too much. This can be very dangerous.”

According to an FDA Consumer Advice message, pure powdered caffeine has been linked to death (3). Just one teaspoon of pure caffeine provides as much caffeine as 28 cups of coffee (more than 2,600 mg/serving)—certainly enough to cause an erratic heartbeat, vomiting, seizures and other side effects or even death.

More than Numbers

Healthy weight management covers far more that dropping pounds. Sometimes, weight management is more about feeling better in one’s clothes, or even ensuring too many pounds don’t disappear with age. Many times, this comes from age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia. New research suggests supplementation with branded collagen peptides (BodyBalance from Gelita) may help.

Fifty-three older men with sarcopenia (i.e., age-related muscle loss) participated in a 12-week resistance-training program and also took powdered collagen peptides (15 g/day) mixed in water or a placebo. After the study, those receiving the collagen peptides had improved fat-free mass (+4,2 kg versus +2,9 kg in the placebo group), isokinetic quadriceps strength (+16,5 Nm compared to +7,3 Nm in the placebo group) and fat mass (-5,4 kg versus -3,5 kg in the placebo group).

“It could be possible that the short post-exercise interval and the rapid digestibility and absorption of collagen peptides following supplementation (15,44) may have supported the post-exercise muscle protein anabolism,” the researchers stated. They added a few other theories for why the collagen peptides affected the muscles: the collagen supported joint comfort allowed the men to exercise better, the collagen peptides improved amino acid delivery or since collagen is rich in arginine and glycine, it supported creatine synthesis in the body.

These data were published in the British Journal of Nutrition by researchers for the Institute of Sports and Sports Science at the University of Freiburg, Germany.


But, there may be some safe ways to consume caffeine while avoiding powdered caffeine, if it’s consumed in moderation and with a doctor’s okay. For instance, Mohney believes natural sources of caffeine are “extremely safe if taken as directed.” Many are encapsulated, thereby avoiding any measurement problems by the user.

As for how much to consume, according to Elyse Kantrowitz, director of market research at Beautiful Nutrition, New York, NY, “The safest way to use caffeine is probably to limit its intake to 100 mg per serving. Most people seem to do okay with that amount. It is the much higher doses that are typically associated with nervousness and the ‘caffeine jitters.’”

Dallas Clouatre, Ph.D., consultant for R&D at Jarrow Formulas, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, agrees with Kantrowitz that caffeine consumption in moderation may be fine for many people. “Caffeine is a problem only if taken in excess. Caffeine is necessary for the thermic actions of a number of thermogenics, including the preponderance of the thermic effects of green tea catechins.”

Levy believes combinations of natural caffeine with other ingredients helps increase the thermogenic state of the body such as combining EGCG from green tea (135 mg) with lower levels of caffeine (75–100 mg). He states, “Studies show that this combination can be less damaging to the nervous system while also helping you achieve a significant increase in overall calorie burning.”

But shoppers may want to track their day’s intake of caffeine to ensure they aren’t overdoing it. “The concern is more about total exposure rather than what form you are using. Taking too much can cause problems,” says Mohney.

According to Rob Maru, chief innovation officer at Reserveage Nutrition, Boca Raton, FL, “Caffeine derived from natural sources appears to cause less jitters and side effects versus the synthetic forms. This may be due in part to other naturally occurring compounds in the plant that work to lessen the stimulant-like effect.”

Examples include guarana, kola nut, yerba mate, Theobroma cacao (Cocoa beans) and Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta. Majeed says the latter, coffee beans, “contain chlorogenic acids other than caffeine.

Recent research has identified a compound called ‘cafestol” that improves cardiac health.”
In addition, Maru says green tea not only delivers natural caffeine, but also offers the added bonus of delivering theanine, “which helps to relax and calm the body. This results in a more centered and sustained energy with less of the unpleasant effects.”

Dan Lifton, CEO of Quality of Life Labs, Purchase, NY, adds that a branded phytosome green tea extract from his company (GreenSelect) “helps to safely increase fat metabolism by inhibiting the enzyme, catechol-O-methyltransferase.” This enzyme degrades norepinephrine, the agent that triggers fat burning described earlier.

In one three-day study of 20 overweight and obese men, green tea catechins (300 mg/d of EGCG) “were found to increase postprandial fat oxidation by 33%, similar to the increase found when 200 mg/d caffeine was given” (4). In another trial, 35 obese participants were given a placebo, green tea (four cups/day) or green tea extract for two months (5). The researchers found, “At intervention end, a significant decrease in body weight and BMI (body mass index) was observed in the green tea groups, compared with the control group.”

Next, Steven Myers, vice president, Bio Nutrition Inc., Island Park, NY, believes green coffee bean extract is “one of the safest sources of natural caffeine.”

Green coffee bean extract was tested in several animal studies with positive results for weight management. In a 2014 study involving mice, the extract was found to “reverse high-fat diet-induced fat accumulation and insulin resistance by downregulating the genes involved in adipogenesis and inflammation in visceral adipose tissue” (6). Adding to the possible mode of action, Lifton believes green coffee antioxidant extract, “safely inhibits excess lipoprotein lipase, leading to decreased absorption of fats; in addition, the coffee polyphenols increase metabolism and reduce fat accumulation.”

Some believe the chlorogenic acid content in the extract is responsible for its weight-management benefits. Meyers explains that chlorogenic acid “is thought to be beneficial for how the body handles blood sugar and speeding up the metabolism.” Don’t expect to find huge amounts of chlorogenic acid in your morning cup of Joe, however, as the chemical is often degraded during roasting.

Moreover, the amount of caffeine and chlorogenic acid may vary from supplement to supplement, and even from bean to bean. To this point, Timothee Olagne, sales project manager at Naturex USA, South Hackensack, NJ, says his company offers a coffee bean extract (Svetol) with no caffeine at all, but still offers key chlorogenic acids. “Many consumers indeed want to avoid jitters. The good news is that alternatives exist,” he states, explaining that his company’s green coffee bean extract has two demonstrated mechanisms of action: “the fat burning effect and an activity on glucose regulation.”

In one study, the ingredient’s effect on the release of free fatty acids from adipose tissue was studied. “The results revealed that while the lipolytic activity during the short-term exposure was linked to residual caffeine traces, the long-term exposure clearly showed the effects of Svetol on the release of free fatty acids. These findings provide further evidence of the long-term health benefits of chlorogenic acids and Svetol,” the researchers write (7).

Maru gives this ingredient his nod of approval. “If you are looking for a quality green coffee, look for Svetol. This is the only valid form of green coffee that is supported by research that demonstrates both safety and efficacy.”

Don’t expect any of these ingredients to offer a free ride to weight loss. While they may increase energy and help individuals work harder during a workout, Mohney says the effects are short lived and are very exercise dependent. “By themselves, they will not burn very many extra calories. In conjunction with exercise, they may increase the calories you burn and the sense of energy and that may help you work out more intensely,” he explains.

Lifton says shoppers should be very leery of any products that say or seem to work without exercise and diet. He states, “If fat seems to be melting away with no effort—like with the old ECA [ephedra, caffeine and aspirin] stack products from the 1990s—then safety is taking a back seat to fat loss. Safe metabolism-supportive products are available for consumers to responsibly incorporate into their overall health and fitness regimens.”


Select Offerings

Beautiful Nutrition: Lemon Venom Appetite Control Drink Mix, Lemon Venom Slimming Dietary Supplement.
Bio Nutrition Inc.: Pure Green Coffee Bean (standardized to contain 50% chlorogenic acid) and Garcinia Cambogia (50% or 60% hydroxycitric acid).

Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation: Bluebonnet’s Super Fruit Garcinia Cambogia Fruit Rind Extract Vegetable Capsules, Bluebonnet’s Standardized EGCG Green Tea Leaf Extract Vegetable Capsules, Bluebonnet’s Standardized Cayenne Pepper Fruit Extract Vegetable Capsules and Bluebonnet’s Diet Chrome Care Vegetable Capsules.

Jarrow Formulas, Inc.:
HCActive highly pure potassium-magnesium hydroxycitrate, Green Coffee Bean Extract, Green Tea Extract, Seven (7)-Keto DHEA, Wild Bitter Melon Extract (Glycostat).

Naturex USA: Svetol green coffee bean extract.

NuvoCare Health Sciences Inc.: SlimCentials and WeightOFF.

Olympian Labs, Inc.: E-Force, Caffeine, Green Tea Extract, FucoGreen, Corti-Cut, CLA, Vanadyl Sulfate, Chromium Polynicotinate, Chromium Picolinate and Vanadyl Plus.
OmniActive Health Technologies: Capsimax Capsicum Extract.

Quality of Life Labs: Fucoxanthin MD, Green Coffee MD.

Sabinsa Corp.: Offerings include Capsaicinoids, ForsLean, BioPerine and Green tea extract.

Stepan Company: Clarinol CLA.

Reserveage Nutrition does not market thermogenics. Its weight-management products include Meratrim, Svetol Green Coffee and Saffron.


Bitter Orange

Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) has had its share of both positive and negative press. The herb grew in popularity after FDA pulled ephedra from the U.S. market for safety reasons in 2004.

But some have questioned whether the herb should be considered safe. A 2010 Consumer Reports article slammed the herb, but a piece published later that year in the Journal of Functional Foods found that bitter orange was not responsible for any of the adverse event reports filed about it from April 2004 to October 2009. The report found that other ingredients in the product or even health and lifestyle factors could have caused the adverse events (8).

There is a fair amount of misinformation circulating about this ingredient. For starters, consider its makeup. Says Clouatre, “Unlike synthetic synephrine, bitter orange synephrine is associated with polyphenolic compounds that may have lipolytic effects.”

For instance, its dominant alkaloid is p-synephrine, not m-synephrine, which Clouatre says makes the herb “safer as a result.” The latter has been found to affect blood pressure and heart rate, but p-synephrine is not a central nervous system stimulant, says Clouatre, and is said to increase thermogenesis and lipolysis without affecting blood pressure (9).

Another point of clarification is that while bitter orange may be structurally similar to ephedrine, it is quite different in its pharmacology. Supporters believe bitter orange does not create any stimulant effects (9).

Research on a branded form of bitter orange (AdvantraZ) suggests it does not cross the blood–brain barrier, but it does “stimulate beta-3 cell receptors with minimal impact on alpha 1,2 and beta 1,2 receptors” (10). Majeed adds that the binding to adrenergic beta-3 receptors may be responsible for the stimulation of fat metabolism. “This means that it supports an increased metabolic rate without affecting heart rate or blood pressure,” he says.

Nonetheless, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and other experts believe that bitter orange may not be safe for some individuals to use because “there have been reports of fainting, heart attack and stroke in healthy people after taking bitter orange supplements alone or combined with caffeine” (11). They suggest people with any concerns, especially those with cardiovascular issues and those taking certain supplements, avoid this ingredient.

pharmachemBut Levy says that the safest way to offer bitter orange on your shelves is to go with those that incorporate “branded materials that were the actual materials used in the clinical trials and shown to be safe and effective for weight-loss or the mechanisms involved with supporting weight-loss…When choosing a Synephrine product always look for the Advantra Z brand of synephrine.”

Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA)

Garcinia cambogia has been an “it” ingredient in the weight-management category in the past couple of years thanks to some positive segments airing on The Dr. Oz Show. But, what is this ingredient all about?

This ingredient mainly supports satiety and will be thoroughly discussed in Part Three of this series. But, sources offer conflicting information about whether HCA, such as that derived from Garcinia cambogia, is truly a thermogenic. According to Clouatre, “HCA is not a thermogenic compound and it is not a stimulant. There is no in vivo evidence for this claim in either animals or humans and one cannot find support for such a claim on”  

But, he believes that it works with l-carnitine to improve fat metabolism. HCA may do this by indirect activation of l-carnitine transferase, according to Majeed.  

Majeed adds that HCA is a “potent linear competitive inhibitor of ATP citrate lyase enzyme. This leads to both the reduction of fatty acids synthesis and lipogenesis.” HCA also facilitates the oxidation process of fatty acids and supports satiety. According to Myers, it is suitable for shoppers that want to avoid caffeine and stimulants.

According to Sugarek MacDonald, one branded form of HCA from Garcinia cambogia has been found by a Georgetown University researcher to be three times more effective for weight management than diet and exercise alone. She adds, “Specifically, Super CitriMax’s patents and clinical strength demonstrate that optimal doses of Super CitriMax (1,500 mg standardized to 60% HCA) when combined with proper diet and exercise can reduce body weight three-times more than diet and exercise alone; curb appetite; promote healthy serotonin levels; burn fat; and promote normal cholesterol levels.”


Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

CLA may be another option for those interested in healthy weight management. Rob Bailey, global commercial development manager at Stepan Company, Northfield, IL, says this polyunsaturated fatty acid is derived from safflower oil and is naturally found in foods like milk, ice cream and steak. “In the past, we could get enough CLA simply by consuming lots of dairy and beef products. But with today’s healthy trend toward a lower-fat diet, it’s difficult to get all the CLA your body needs from food alone,” he believes.

Here’s how CLA supports healthy weight management. According to Bailey, CLA inhibits lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that helps the body store fat for use as a future energy source. “CLA blocks this enzyme and diverts unused fat to our muscle cells,” he explains. “CLA also activates an enzyme that promotes the burning of fat, especially during exercise.”

Bailey believes that CLA supplementation will help decrease the amount of fat the body stores, burn calories more efficiently and “prevent fat cells from refilling so you remain toned and lean.”
One meta-analysis involving 15 peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies found that CLA reduces fat mass. Specifically, consuming 3.2 g/day resulted in 90 g of fat mass loss per week (12).

Maru says his company markets a branded high-linoleic acid (HLA) from safflower oil (Safslim) that was compared to CLA in a study involving obese post-menopausal diabetic women. He says, “Results from the crossover study showed that women taking unadulterated HLA lost more mid-section fat, had increased lean tissue, had more stable blood sugar and HBA1C levels and increased adiponectin, a hormone involved in fat metabolism. The CLA group did not show any benefit for the same markers.”


Some say that eating spicy peppers can help you lose weight, and experts say there is some truth to this tradition.

“Science is mounting on the weight management potential of capsicum (aka red hot peppers), and ‘lore’ is now turning into a scientifically validated option for formulators to include a natural, stimulant-free ingredient that is easily recognized by consumers since it comes from a food source,” Doyle states.

She explains that capsaicinoids like capsaicin found in red hot chili peppers induces lipolysis and thermogenic activity. “However, one would need to ingest 10 grams daily of red hot chili peppers for health benefits,” says Doyle. “Aside from the large amount needed, capsaicinoids are extremely hot.”
For this reason, several companies offer capsaicinoids in an encapsulated supplement, thereby avoiding any burning sensations in the mouth or gastrointestinal tract.


Doyle’s company offers a branded capsaicinoid (Capsimax) that has been studied in more than 90 clinical trials “to safely promote lipolysis and support the mobilization of fat for energy production.” In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on this ingredient, 20 people took a placebo or the supplement for a week. It was found that taking 2 mg of the supplement helped increase free fatty acid and glycerol concentrations in the blood (13).

Majeed believes that capsaicinoids offer thermogenic properties because they stimulate beta adrenoceptors on the surface of fat and muscle cells, thereby elevating metabolic rate.

Lifton cites a 2010 study in which consuming dihydrocapsiate (DCT) from a non-spicy relative of hot peppers increased energy expenditure. Thirty-four individuals consumed a very low-calorie liquid meal replacement product for 28 days along with a placebo or a non-burning DCT. It was found that DCT increased food-induced heat production in the body (14).

Mohney believes that some research in small animals suggests that capsaicin in peppers stimulates brown fat cells. While white fat cells store energy, he explains that the other helps regulate body temperature and burn fat stores. “Most people have very little brown fat compared to the amount of white fat. So, theoretically, if you stimulate brown fat cells to work better, you speed up metabolism and burn more fat,” he explains, noting that this is currently being studied in humans.

As for how much to take, Sugarek MacDonald says the answer is not as straight forward as you mightjarrow think. She believes that supporting weight management and healthy peripheral circulation may require 100–800 mg if the concentration is standardized to 0.21–0.31%.

But she points out that the amount of active constituent present with declared Scoville heat units is as important as the dosage. She cites an example from her company (Bluebonnet’s Standardized Cayenne Pepper Fruit Extract Vegetable Capsules), which offers 600 mg of total cayenne pepper fruit extract standardized to 0.21–0.31% capsaicin and provides 1.26–1.86 mg of the herb with a minimum of 40,000 Scoville heat units. Sugarek MacDonald says this formula is better than one that offers “500 mg of cayenne pepper fruit extract standardized to no capsaicin at all and a minimum of 40,000 Scoville heat units.”

But, there’s more than just capsaicinoids to consider. According to Majeed, black pepper-derived piperine “improves the process of nutrient absorption by enhancing thermogenesis.”

He talks readers through how this works: “Piperine stimulates the release of catecholamine (thermogenic hormones). As thermogenesis occurs, the demand of fresh nutrients increases in order to sustain the metabolic process, thus facilitating better absorption of nutrients in the intestine.”
His company uses its branded form (BioPerine, 95% piperine) to increase the bioavailability of various nutritional compounds. “It is the only source from piperine to have undergone clinical studies in the U.S. to substantiate its safety and efficacy for nutritional use,” Majeed says. WF

See for more information about dietary supplements.

This editorial series is sponsored by:

phase 2


1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Beware of Products Promising Miracle Weight Loss,”, accessed 11/23/15.
2. “Norepinephrine,”
pdf, accessed 11/30/15.
3. FDA, “FDA Consumer Advice on Pure Powdered Caffeine,”, accessed 11/23/15.
4. F. Thielecke, et al., “Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate and Postprandial Fat Oxidation in Overweight/Obese Male Volunteers: A Pilot Study,” Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2010 April 7; [Epub ahead of print].
5. A. Basu et al., “Green Tea Supplementation Affects Body Weight, Lipids, and Lipid Peroxidation in Obese Subjects with Metabolic Syndrome,” J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 29 (1), 31–40 (2010).
6. S.J. Song, S. Choi and T. Park, “Decaffeinated Green Coffee Bean Extract Attenuates Diet-Induced Obesity and Insulin Resistance in Mice,” Evid. Based Complement Alternat. Med., 718379 (2014).
7. Naturex,, accessed 11/23/15.
8., accessed 11/23/15.
10. AdvantraZ,, accessed Nov. 24, 2015.
11. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Bitter Orange,”, accessed Nov. 24, 2015.
12. Stepan Company, “Clarinol Summary,”
ClarinolSummary.pdf, accessed Nov. 24, 2015.
13. R.J. Bloomer et al., “Effect of Oral Intake Of Capsaicinoid Beadlets On Catecholamine Secretion And Blood Markers Of Lipolysis In Healthy Adults: A Randomized, Placebo Controlled, Double-Blind, Cross-Over Study,” Lipids in Health and Disease 9:72 (2010), doi:10.1186/1476-511X-9-72).
14. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, “Peppers May Increase Energy Expenditure In People Trying To Lose Weight,” ScienceDaily, April 28, 2010,, accessed 11/23/15.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine January 2016