Weight Loss Supplements: A Scientific View/Review
Note: all the dosages mentioned below are for a 200 pound person. Half as much is suggested for a 100 pound person.
Thermogenic Compounds: Comparing Metabolift TM and Metabolife 356 TM
The following comments are based on references 2, 3, 4, and 6.
Weight lifters have known for years about the "E/C/A stack" to reduce body fat. "E" stands for Ephedrine, "C" for caffeine, and "A" for aspirin. "Stack" means the supplements are taken together so that they can provide a synergistic effect (their combined effect is greater than the sum of the individual compounds). For reasons I'm not sure of (it could be because of restrictions by the FDA or for marketing purposes), diet pills use herbs instead of the isolated chemicals. The manufacturer's reputation is more important for herbs than it is for other nutritional supplements. Some brands do not contain the active chemical(s). The proper portion(s) of the herb (leaf, seed, bulb, fruit, sap, oil, rhizome, runner, stem, trunk, root, bark, and/or flower) should go through an extraction process to get a standardized concentration of the active ingredient(s). In the list below, I've compared Metabolift TM and Metabolite 356 TM. Metabolift TM is made by TwinLab, one of the most popular and reputable supplement manufacturers. Metabolife 356 TM is "sweeping the nation" in popularity mainly due to its aggressive multi-level marketing system. TwinLab has been distributing an almost identical product for years to weight lifters for 1/3 the cost under the names "Ripped Fuel" and "Diet Fuel". Metabolife's marketing has been so successful, TwinLab has recast its products as "Metabolift TM" in order to capitalize on Metabolife's success.
- Ma Huang (a.k.a. ephedra) supplies the ephedrine in the E/C/A stack. Ephedrine releases noradrenaline in the brain which raises the metabolic rate and body temperature. It can exacerbate panic attacks, insomnia, and anxiety. It is not safe in high doses or for those with a heart condition (some have died). The best results observed in a study are 5.3 pounds lost in 2 months. The suggested dose by weight lifting experts is 340 mg Ma Huang standardized to 6% ephedrine (20 mg ephedrine) 30 minutes before each meal. Metabolift TM contains 10 mg ephedrine per pill and Metabolife 356 TM contains 12 mg. It may lose its effectiveness after only a week, so "cycling" by taking it 2 days and skipping the third day may be beneficial. At the level suggested, it defininately has side effects ("nervousness" or "energy" depending on how you look at it) and larger doses are not safe.
- Guarana supplies caffeine which increases the effects of the ephedrine. There are several studies that investigate the combined effect. Many diet pills do not have enough caffeine. The weight lifting experts recommend 200 mg 30 minutes before each meal. Metabolift TM contains 100 mg per pill and Metabolife 356 TM contains 40 mg.
- White Willow Bark (a.k.a. Salix alba) provides salicin (very similar to aspirin). It's not included in very many diet pills (including the 2 brands mentioned here). The aspirin part of the E/C/A stack is not being implemented. The recommended dosage in a weight lifter's book is 200-300 mg aspirin 3 times a day. Three 325 mg aspirin pills a day seems too much to me, so I would take 1/2 of a standard 325 mg aspirin 3 times a day.
- The E/C/A stack of the above 3 supplements above has been shown to be synergistic. Doses smaller than those suggested here have been shown to cause a 11.5 pound reduction in weight in 5 months.
- L-carnitine is mentioned as a POSSIBLE fat burner at high doses (which is expensive) in my references. It is in some diet pills in small amounts. 1
Other Compounds that Reduce Body Weight
© 1999 Scott Roberts www.heelspurs.com
- Chromium stabilizes blood sugar by increasing cell sensitivity to insulin. This prevents excess blood sugar from being turned into body fat. It is very useful for some diabetics in preventing the need for insulin or glucatrol. In a study of 15 people, 200 mcg 3 times a day resulted in a decrease of 3.3 pounds of body fat and a 1.5 pound gain in muscle after 10 weeks. 400 mcg a day resulted in 5 pounds of body fat lost and 1 pound gain of muscle mass. This is about half a pound per week. Metabolift contains 100 mcg per pill and Metabolife contains 75 mcg. Chromium at greater than 1000 mcg per day appears dangerous. More than 400 mg a day for more than a year may also be dangerous. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
- Pancreatin (pancreatic enzymes) appears very effective at reducing appetite to dramatically reduce weight, but I only have anecdotal case reports. One person reports a 40 pound reduction using only pancreatin. It is not expensive. Take 1 or 2 pills 20 minutes before each meal. 1, personal experience, friends, message board
- 5-HTP also reduces appetite. It is more expensive. It causes approximately a one pound per week decrease in weight. This rate of body weight reduction will be more or less for individuals depending on their need for serotonin. 50 to 300 mg 20 minutes before each meal. Start at the lower doses and increase until one pound per week is lost. It increases serotonin levels which are low in many who are overweight. It's primarily used as an anti-depressant. It's very safe. 1, 6
- Fiber such as guar gum, chitosin, and psyllium have been shown to cause at least a pound a week reduction in weight when taken at about 7 grams before each meal (with 8 ounces of water). Its main function is to reduce appetite. Start out at only a gram before each meal because it will produce a lot of gas if high doses are started right away. Do not take with fat-soluble supplements such as Coenzyme Q10, vitamin E, vitamin A, and CLA because it prevents them from absorbing. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
- DHEA can be taken by people over 40 to reduce weight and increase muscle mass. It's a hormone that decreases with age. It does not help in some, but helps a lot in others. It's primarily used to elevate mood and improve sex in older people. It's a precursor to both testosterone and estrogen. 50 mg a day. 4, 5, 6
- CLA at 3 grams a day reduced body fat in 18 subjects from 22% to 17%. It's safe and expensive. 4, 5, 6
- Coenzyme Q10 at 100 mg a day may cause as much as 10 pounds to be lost in 2 months if an obese person is deficient in this compound. Up to 300 mg a day can be used. It's available at WalMart and is expensive. It's used primarily to alleviate periodontal disease and heart disease (very effective) in older people. It is extremely safe. 1, 2, 6
- Dandelion leaves could possibly be very effective at reducing weight, especially if it's due to water retention. In one study, mice and rats lost 30% of their weight in 30 days. Dandelion is extremely safe. 3
- Hydroxycitric Acid or hydroxycitrate (can be found in the herb Garcinia cambogia, aka Malabar tamarind - yellow, the size of an orange, found in India and used in curry). Inhibits fat production in animals and may also decrease appetite. A recent JAMA article showed no effect in humans. 500 mg 3 times a day. 2, 6
- Michael Murray's "Encyclopedia of Nutrional Supplements" 1996 (phenomenal, 1500 references)
- Michael Murray's "Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine" 1998 (excellent)
- Michael Murray's "The Healing Power of Herbs" 1995 (the best available about herbs with 100's of references)
- "Sport Supplement Review" 1998 (a phenomenally good and well-referenced (300) resource for weight lifters) published by EAS (a weight lifter's supplement company). It may still be FREE: Mile High Publishing, Dept 4060, PO Box 277, Golden, CO 80402-0277.
- "Disease Prevention and Treatment Protocols" 1998 published by Life Extension Foundation. About 4,000 references. The protocols can be found for free at the phenomenal site www.lef.org.
- Nutrition Science News makes great casual reading but is also well referenced and has a search function.
- "The Right Dose" 1987 by Patricia Hausman. My primary and double-check reference for determining toxicity of supplements. Loaded with case histories of the results of high intakes.
- "The Nutrition Desk Reference" 1995 by Elizabeth Somer and Robert Garrison. My second-best overall supplement book. I use it a cross-check. It's more skeptical than some other sources. Well over a 1000 references.
- "How to Live longer and Feel Better" 1986 Linus Pauling. One cannot claim to know very much about health and nutrition unless they've read this book.