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glass of milk

Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 415 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.

For fat loss, I’ll cut right to the chase: there is no safe supplement that I know of that will directly reduce body fat.

I’m going to list some of the more popular “fat-loss” supplements right now and quickly summarize what the research shows for each of them:

  • Green tea or green coffee extract – made popular by Dr. Oz, this seemed so promising as a potential fat burner, but the studies that were conducted were designed poorly so we can’t make any strong conclusions about whether this helps or not. Plus, some of the products contained impurities, so it’s safer to stay away from this one.
  • Capsaicin – naturally found in chili peppers, capsaicin is being isolated and sold as a supplement. The idea of supplementing capsaicin gained popularity after a 2013 study found that people may burn more fat when they take a capsaicin supplement. While promising, the problem was that the study was really small and followed people for only a very short period of time. If I were you, and you can tolerate it, just add some chili peppers to some of your meals. Plus, chili peppers in their more natural forms may contain powerful antioxidants that has the potential to decrease the risk for other chronic diseases.
  • Hoodia – the claim is that hoodia contains a compound that helps curb the appetite. But again, there’s no credible evidence to say this actually works. Save your money on this one.
  • CLA or conjugated linoleic acid – this one can actually increase your risk of disease. Studies are finding that taking CLA may increase a person’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease (like a heart attack or stroke) and diabetes. I would recommend staying away from CLA.
  • Ketones or exogenous ketones – here’s the fundamental problem with supplementing with ketones: so many of them contain impurities that it’s difficult to tell with any certainty whether they actually promote weight or fat loss. When you buy ketone supplements, you don’t really know whether you’re actually getting ketones or whether it’s something else entirely. At this time, I would stay away from buying ketone supplements.
  • Ephedra – street name: speed. This is the same stuff found in your over-the-counter cold and flu remedies, like Sudafed. About 20 years ago, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of supplements containing ephedra because it was linked with some horrible side effects. There were even reported deaths due to its use. Sadly, that hasn’t stopped some supplement manufacturers from sneaking it into their products. Scary, I know. Be careful when you shop around for supplements.

Where does that leave us? When it comes to fat loss, the best things to do are:

  1. Control your portions – if you want to lose fat, you have to force the body to burn it for fuel. To do that, you may have to decrease the amount of calories you consume each day. It doesn’t have to be by a lot; even a little reduction done consistently can lead to fat loss.
  2. Exercise – aerobic activity (like walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, etc.) combined with resistance training (yes, yoga and pilates counts) seems to be the best formula.
  3. Get enough sleep – aim for 7-9 uninterrupted hours of sleep most nights. We’re learning that adequate sleep helps control hunger hormones.
  4. Manage stress – when we’re under stress for long periods of time, our bodies release this nasty hormone called cortisol. Cortisol not only lowers the body’s ability to fight off infection, but it increases appetite and tells our body to store more fat when we do eat!

Are there any supplements that can help with bloating?

Before exploring supplements to relieve bloating, I always recommend folks keep a food record and jot down anytime they have symptoms. That way we can see if the bloating is food related. Our guts are a complicated system… so many things can mess with them. The aforementioned stress can lead to bloating. Carbonated drinks, certain types of fiber, spicy foods, high fat foods, anxiety, lactose, eating too fast, artificial sweeteners… all of these and more can lead to bloating.

The key is trying to find the cause.

  • If certain vegetables and beans or lentils lead to more bloating, there are over-the-counter products that can help. Look for a pill or liquid containing alpha-D-galactosidase, an enzyme that breaks down indigestible sugars in beans and vegetables. Tablets or capsules containing simethicone can also help alleviate symptoms of excess gas.
  • If it’s dairy products, there are supplements that contain lactase, an enzyme that helps digest lactose (which is usually the primary culprit when it comes to dairy products and belly bloat).

Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 415 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.

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Neal Malik

Dr. Neal Malik ("Dr. Neal") has a Doctorate in Public Health with emphases in disease prevention and nutrition. He is also a Registered Dietitian and Certified Health Education Specialist. He is currently an assistant professor at California State University, San Bernardino. Dr. Neal has published peer-reviewed scientific research and been featured as a nutrition and wellness expert in over 70 media outlets including Parade and The L.A. Times.Send in your health related question and Dr. Neal will answer it on the Optimal Health Daily show!
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