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If you want to add more vigor to your life and even extend your "expiration date," you have to maintain a healthy body weight. These seven plant-based compounds can help you get your weight down and your energy UP, naturally
According to the latest CDC data, 42.4% of U.S. adults are medically obese,[i] an alarming public health trend that has seen weight problems rising since the mid-20th century. Factors such as the proliferation of processed foods, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, environmental chemicals and larger portions on bigger plates have colluded in a perfect storm to cause obesity rates to more than triple in the last six decades.[ii]
While some weight problems are linked to medical causes, many people can affect significant weight loss through lifestyle and behavioral changes that include different foods, increasing physical activity and adding the right supplements to your daily health regimen.
Seven Natural Compounds for Weight Loss
Obesity and overweight problems require a multi-pronged approach to create lasting, sustainable results. Becoming aware of how you feel about food is important when seeking to understand triggers for self-sabotaging choices. Issues like food addiction may require psychotherapeutic interventions to get to the root of unhealthy behaviors.
In addition to long-term behavioral modification, supplementing with foods and plant compounds that are clinically shown to support healthy weight may give your body the boost it needs to shed excess pounds. We've identified seven of the most studied and effective natural compounds to help you achieve and sustain lasting weight loss.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an important micronutrient that has been scientifically linked to weight loss and improved body mass index (BMI) when present in adequate levels.[iv] Conversely, being deficient in vitamin D has been linked to obesity, irrespective of age or geographic location.[v]
In a 2015 study that evaluated the association between obesity and vitamin D deficiency in a meta-analysis of 23 studies that met inclusion criteria, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was 35% higher in obese subjects and 24% higher than in subjects considered overweight but not obese across all age groups.[vi]
A study of morbidly obese patients prior to bariatric weight-loss surgery found a whopping 96% were vitamin D deficient.[vii] There is some evidence to suggest that the deficits in vitamin D may be related to poor carbohydrate metabolism consistent with being diabetic and prediabetic.[viii]
2. Green tea
When you want to reduce pounds but maintain energy, there is no better beverage to boost your day -- and your metabolism -- than green tea. Green tea leaves possess an abundance of antioxidants called catechins, natural plant flavonoids that fight damaging free radicals in the bloodstream. Catechins also increase fat burning, both during exercise and at rest.[ix]
A study on supplementing with green tea extract tablets combined with a low-calorie diet found that, after 90 days, subjects taking green tea experienced significant weight loss, with an average loss of nearly 31 pounds, compared to the diet-only group, which averaged 11 pounds lost.[x]
A 2020 study on the amount of green tea extract needed to achieve weight loss found that subjects taking less than 500 milligrams (mg) a day for 12 weeks experienced the most significant reduction in body weight.[xi]
Dietary fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and weight-loss plan. Found mainly in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, highly processed foods are generally devoid of fiber, leaving many people deficient in healthy roughage. If you don't get enough fiber in your diet, problems like constipation, unbalanced cholesterol and bowel diseases like diverticulosis and colon cancer may result.[xii]
Adequate fiber intake is also part of a sound weight-loss strategy since high-fiber foods normalize bowel movements and keep you feeling full and satisfied. There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol.[xiii]
Examples of soluble fiber include fruits, nuts, oatmeal, beans and lentils. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps move food through the digestive tract, preventing constipation. Insoluble fiber is found in most vegetables and in whole grain foods like whole wheat bread and brown rice.
Studies on dietary fiber have shown that insufficient fiber intake can lead to overweight and abdominal obesity.[xiv] Conversely, increased soluble fiber intake coupled with increased physical activity is associated with decreased abdominal fat accumulation over time.[xv]
Polyphenols are one reason why fruits and vegetables pack such a healthy punch. These micronutrients found in plant foods are also what is extracted and concentrated into most plant-based supplements. Polyphenols are antioxidant powerhouses, helping prevent free-radical damage to cells that causes aging and can lead to diseases over time.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, foods that are high in polyphenols bath your body in nutrients and not only protect you from weight-related diseases, they are considered "lifespan essentials"[xvi] that may extend your years.
Citrus fruits are an exceptional source of polyphenols that are commonly associated with weight loss -- remember eating half a grapefruit for breakfast when dieting? A study involving citrus polyphenol extract and overweight men found that after 12 weeks, men consuming 900 mg of the extract each day had lost weight, significantly improved metabolic parameters and had less skeletal muscle breakdown than men not consuming the extract.[xvii]
Curcumin is one of the most heavily researched healing compounds. This potent plant polyphenol imbues the spice turmeric with its distinctive orange color. Known for powerful antioxidant properties, curcumin extract has been clinically shown to help regulate blood sugar[xviii] and has been explored as a therapy for preventing Type 2 diabetes mellitus.[xix] These properties can also help regulate weight by turning bad fat into good fat.
Brown fat is a darkly colored adipose tissue that protects organs and plays a key role in regulating energy. Unlike white fat, aka "bad fat," brown fat is associated with a healthy metabolism by effectively breaking down blood glucose and fat molecules to create heat and help you maintain a healthy body temperature.[xx]
A 2020 study of curcumin found that young, overweight females receiving a 2-gram daily curcumin supplement for 90 days had significantly reduced body weight, BMI, waist circumference, body fat percentage, systolic blood pressure and lower anxiety scores than baseline.[xxi]
Curcumin, rather than turmeric, has a higher concentration of curcuminoids, one of the active polyphenols that have been isolated in the Curcuma longa plant. Be sure to source an organic supplement to receive the highest quality herbs.
6. Alpha-lipoic acid
Alpha-lipoic acid is a natural antioxidant compound found in yeast, organ meats, spinach, potatoes and broccoli, among other foods. It is also produced for medicinal use and is commonly prescribed for nerve pain in people with diabetes.[xxii] It may also be helpful to individuals interested in losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight, as studies increasingly show.
A 2020 meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials on alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) found that supplementation significantly reduces the risk of obesity.[xxiii] Other studies support using ALA supplements to reduce obesity in children[xxiv] and to modulate the inflammatory response in overweight and obese women.[xxv]
Alpha-lipoic acid is sold as an herbal supplement and is therapeutically available in pill and cream forms, and via intravenous drips through a physician or health care provider.
Resveratrol is another plant polyphenol that is found in the highest concentration in red and purple plants, particularly in the skin and seeds of grapes and in red wine.[xxvi] Resveratrol has been linked to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and may help regulate blood sugar, contributing to healthy carbohydrate metabolism and regulated body weight.[xxvii]
Studies on resveratrol have shown that it has the potential to help turn toxic white fat into fat-burning brown fat, in a healthy remodeling effect.[xxviii] Daily supplementation with resveratrol may also help to curb the risks of cardiovascular disease, a serious risk factor for obese and overweight individuals.[xxix]
Losing Weight for Life
Obesity and overweight problems are often complex, requiring comprehensive lifestyle changes, not just supplements and certain foods. To learn more about the healthy lifestyle changes that can add years to your life as well as vigor to your years, consult GreenMedInfo.com, the world's most widely referenced, evidence-based natural medical resource.
*WARNING: Always consult a medical herbalist or your health care practitioner when using both natural and pharmaceutical medicines for any diagnosed condition. This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be used as medical advice.
[i] CDC.gov, NCHS, Data Briefs, Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Adults: United States, 2017-2018, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db360.htm
[ii] The American Journal of Medicine (2007) 120, 242-250, Increasing Trends in Incidence of Overweight and Obesity over 5 Decades, https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(06)00674-7/pdf
[iii] Mayo Clinic, Diseases & Conditions, Obesity, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obesity/symptoms-causes/syc-20375742
[iv] Khosravi ZS, Kafeshani M, Tavasoli P, Zadeh AH, Entezari MH. Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Weight Loss, Glycemic Indices, and Lipid Profile in Obese and Overweight Women: A Clinical Trial Study. Int J Prev Med. 2018;9:63. Published 2018 Jul 20. doi:10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_329_15 PMID: 30123437
[v] M Pereira-Santos, P R F Costa, A M O Assis, C A S T Santos, D B Santos. Obesity and vitamin D deficiency: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2015 Apr ;16(4):341-9. Epub 2015 Feb 17. PMID: 25688659
[vi] M Pereira-Santos, P R F Costa, A M O Assis, C A S T Santos, D B Santos. Obesity and vitamin D deficiency: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2015 Apr ;16(4):341-9. Epub 2015 Feb 17. PMID: 25688659
[vii] Roxane Ducloux, Estelle Nobécourt, Jean-Marc Chevallier, Hervé Ducloux, Negib Elian, Jean-Jacques Altman. Vitamin D deficiency before bariatric surgery: should supplement intake be routinely prescribed? Obes Surg. 2011 Jan 14. Epub 2011 Jan 14. PMID: 21234699
[viii] Mercedes Clemente-Postigo, Araceli Muñoz-Garach, Marta Serrano, Lourdes Garrido-Sánchez, M Rosa Bernal-López, Diego Fernández-García, Inmaculada Moreno-Santos, Nuria Garriga, Daniel Castellano-Castillo, Antonio Camargo, Jose M Fernández-Real, Fernando Cardona, Francisco J Tinahones, Manuel Macías-González. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and adipose tissue vitamin D receptor gene expression: relationship with obesity and type 2 diabetes. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Apr ;100(4):E591-5. Epub 2015 Feb 23. PMID: 25706239
[ix] Ota, Noriyasu & Soga, Satoko & Shimotoyodome, Akira & Haramizu, Satoshi & Inaba, Misako & Murase, Takatoshi & Tokimitsu, Ichiro. (2005). Effects of Combination of Regular Exercise and Tea Catechins Intake on Energy Expenditure in Humans. Journal of Health Science - J HEALTH SCI. 51. 233-236. 10.1248/jhs.51.233. https://jhs.pharm.or.jp/data/51(2)/51_233.pdf
[x] Francisco Di Pierro, Anna Borsetto Menghi, Angela Barreca, Maurizio Lucarelli, Andrea Calandrelli. Greenselect Phytosome as an adjunct to a low-calorie diet for treatment of obesity: a clinical trial. Altern Med Rev. 2009 Jun;14(2):154-60. PMID: 19594224
[xi] Ying Lin, Dianfeng Shi, Bo Su, Jing Wei, Mihnea-Alexandru Găman, Melahat Sedanur Macit, Israel Júnior Borges do Nascimento, Nathalia Sernizon Guimaraes. The effect of green tea supplementation on obesity: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytother Res. 2020 May 5. Epub 2020 May 5. PMID: 32372444
[xii] Harvard School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source, Fiber, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/
[xiii] Harvard School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source, Fiber, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/
[xiv] Liliana G González-Rodríguez, José Miguel Perea Sánchez, Javier Aranceta-Bartrina, Ángel Gil, Marcela González-Gross, Lluis Serra-Majem, Gregorio Varela-Moreiras, Rosa M Ortega. Intake and Dietary Food Sources of Fibre in Spain: Differences with Regard to the Prevalence of Excess Body Weight and Abdominal Obesity in Adults of the ANIBES Study. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 25 ;9(4). Epub 2017 Mar 25. PMID: 28346353
[xv] Kristen G Hairston, Mara Z Vitolins, Jill M Norris, Andrea M Anderson, Anthony J Hanley, Lynne E Wagenknecht. Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Jun 16. Epub 2011 Jun 16. PMID: 21681224
[xvi] WebMD, Diet & Weight Management, Healthy Foods High in Polyphenols, https://www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-polyphenols#1
[xvii] Julien Cases, Cindy Romain, Constantin Dallas, Alain Gerbi, Jean Max Rouanet. A 12-week randomized double-blind parallel pilot trial of Sinetrol XPur on body weight, abdominal fat, waist circumference, and muscle metabolism in overweight men. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2015 Jun 3:1-7. Epub 2015 Jun 3. PMID: 26037199
[xviii] Tozo Nishiyama, Tatsumasa Mae, Hideyuki Kishida, Misuzu Tsukagawa, Yoshihiro Mimaki, Minpei Kuroda, Yutaka Sashida, Kazuma Takahashi, Teruo Kawada, Kaku Nakagawa, Mikio Kitahara. Curcuminoids and sesquiterpenoids in turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) suppress an increase in blood glucose level in type 2 diabetic KK-Ay mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Feb 23;53(4):959-63. PMID: 15713005
[xix] Somlak Chuengsamarn, Suthee Rattanamongkolgul, Rataya Luechapudiporn, Chada Phisalaphong, Siwanon Jirawatnotai. Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2012 Nov ;35(11):2121-7. Epub 2012 Jul 6. PMID: 22773702
[xx] NIH.gov, News & Events, NIH Research Matters, How brown fat improves metabolism, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-brown-fat-improves-metabolism
[xxi] Rabia Latif, Sadaf Mumtaz, Mona Hmoud Al Sheikh, Shahanas Chathoth, Shaykhah Nasser Al Naimi. Effects of Turmeric on Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Mental Health, and Serum Homocysteine in Overweight, Obese Females. Altern Ther Health Med. 2020 Feb 21. Epub 2020 Feb 21. PMID: 32088675
[xxii] WebMD, Vitamins & Supplements, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-767/alpha-lipoic-acid
[xxiii] Mahdi Vajdi, Mahdieh Abbasalizad Farhangi. Alpha-Lipoic acid supplementation significantly reduces the risk of obesity in an updated systematic review and dose response meta-analysis of randomized-placebo controlled clinical trials. Int J Clin Pract. 2020 Feb 24:e13493. Epub 2020 Feb 24. PMID: 32091656
[xxv] Ana E Huerta, Pedro L Prieto-Hontoria, Neira Sáinz, J Alfredo Martínez, María J Moreno-Aliaga. Supplementation withα-Lipoic Acid Alone or in Combination with Eicosapentaenoic Acid Modulates the Inflammatory Status of Healthy Overweight or Obese Women Consuming an Energy-Restricted Diet. J Nutr. 2016 Mar 9. Epub 2016 Mar 9. PMID: 26962183
[xxvii] Berman, A.Y., Motechin, R.A., Wiesenfeld, M.Y. et al. The therapeutic potential of resveratrol: a review of clinical trials. npj Precision Onc 1, 35 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41698-017-0038-6
[xxviii] Noemí Arias, Catalina Picó, M Teresa Macarulla, Paula Oliver, Jonatan Miranda, Andreu Palou, María P Portillo. A combination of resveratrol and quercetin induces browning in white adipose tissue of rats fed an obesogenic diet. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Nov 22. Epub 2016 Aug 22. PMID: 27874268
[xxix] Haohai Huang, Guangzhao Chen, Dan Liao, Yongkun Zhu, Rong Pu, Xiaoyan Xue. The effects of resveratrol intervention on risk markers of cardiovascular health in overweight and obese subjects: a pooled analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2016 Jul 26. Epub 2016 Jul 26. PMID: 27456934