Special Edition: Weight Management

To win in weight management game a botanical ingredient needs science, transparency, suppliers say

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Sabinsa contracts with farmers in India to grow its coleus raw material.  Sabinsa photo.
Sabinsa contracts with farmers in India to grow its coleus raw material. Sabinsa photo.

Related tags Weight management Obesity Nutrition

As weight management products enter a new landscape with sales expected to flatten out over the next five to ten years, well-researched ingredients will be well positioned to weather that storm and to continue to prosper, suppliers said.

The objective opportunity for weight management ingredients will never go away within the lifetimes of anyone reading this article. Global obesity rates continue to rise in almost every developed country. Without a reversal of this trend, in the coming decades the world will be treated to the spectacle of many people dying prematurely not because they had too little to eat, but because they ate too much.

Overweight or obesity, over last decade and half, has become major global problem in the post-industrial era. While in the time of the ‘baby boomer’ generation we had seen cases of malnutrition, today the tide has turned with changing dietary habits and more processed food intake in populations to being over weight. We see a tendency towards excess calories in food with lack of nutrition leading to phenomenon of ‘overfed and under nourished,’”​ Anurag Pande, PhD, vice president of scientific affairs for global ingredients supplier Sabinsa Corp. told NutraIngredients-USA.

Solid science underpins long-standing ingredients

Botanical ingredients marketed for weight management go back to the mid ’90s and even before.  One thing that marks the products that have persisted in the marketplace as opposed to the here-and-gone ingredients is that they are supported by long product development histories, adequate scientific dossiers and a culture of ethical business dealings and transparency.

Sabinsa puts the growth of weight management products at about 6% over the next 10 years, whereas Euromonitor, looking forward in a five-year time frame, puts the growth of the sector as flat to slightly positive. Sabinsa offers a range of botanical ingredients for weight management, including two forms of Garcinia cambogia​ (Citrin and Garcitrin), and Forslean, an extract of Coleus forskohlii​. All of these ingredients are backed with clinical studies and have market histories stretching back for years.  Pande said a flood of me-too products with little if any scientific backing and poor quality control has hurt the sector.

Adulteration with pharmaceutical products and poor compliance towards label claims added more problems. After post market surveillance and regulatory action taken against certain bad apples, this category is now showing signs of revival in the last 2-4 years. As long as industry does the self-regulation and provides the market with safe and efficacious products, backed by science, the future holds promise for both weight management category and human health itself,”​ he said.

Consumers looking for targeted benefits

Brian Appell, marketing manager for OmniActive Health Technologies said consumers are better informed than ever on what to look for in weight management ingredients. OmniActive has two offers in the weight management sphere: Capsimax, a thermogenic ingredient that is an extract of hot peppers, and Omnilean, an extract of the woody vine Salaciachinensis.

“Consumers also want to understand the specific targets and benefits of their weight management supplements. So, there’s a shift beyond just “weight management” or “healthy weight” claims to more meaningful statements like “improved waist-to-hip ratio,” “increasing resting energy expenditure,” “promoting healthy glycemic response” and “reducing the urge to snack,” to name a few. These resonate with consumers and instill confidence that there’s science behind those claims,”​ he said.

Both Appell and Pande said that science backing is the key to competing with newer, perhaps flashier ingredients.  Some of these ephemeral late comers ultimately cannot deliver what they promise.

“The good news is the fads are fading. The ‘magic bullet’ is being replaced by objective science because consumers want to know how their supplements work and what they can expect,” ​Appell said.

“Capsimax continues to be a promising ingredient for weight management for several reasons.
Consumers are increasingly looking to food and natural extracts from food to address their health goals, including weight management. And since Capsimax is a food-based extract from capsicum peppers, it fits this need in the weight management market.

Capsimax targets key areas for weight management by boosting metabolism, controlling hunger and increasingly lipolysis (i.e., the breakdown of fat) in a small dose. For example, our recent Metabolic Rate (MR) study showed that taking 100 mg of Capsimax significantly increased caloric expenditure equivalent to about 100 calories each day. Imagine what expending 100 calories could potentially mean when added up over the course of 30 days. That’s 3,000 calories which is almost one pound of fat,”​ he added.

As the market developed for weight management ingredients, several other ingredients and “ Me too “ products emerged, however sometimes poor education in weight management also led to poor choice of supplements, such as those promising loss of 10 pounds in 2 weeks. Poor compliance to label claims lead to exaggerated claims which were too good to be true. In the long run products with nonexistent science or exaggerated promises don’t hold consumer confidence. Old ingredients like ForsLean, GarCitrin, Citrin etc are able to hold their market despite new ingredients and products launched every few weeks, because they are supported by science, clinical validation, label compliance and transparency. In addition, for products like ForsLean where the growing demand had to be constantly met, Sabinsa took bold step to be one of the very few R&D companies to get into cultivation of herbs like Coleus through farmer friendly contract farming. This lead to sustainable cultivation practices and better yields,”​ Pande said.

Multiple modes of action

omniactive capsimax

Botanical ingredients work through various modes of action. Omniactive’s Capsimax is a thermogenic ingredient, helping to burn more calories.  OmniLean works to control blood glucose spikes. Sabinsa’s ForsLean is said to increase cAMP levels and thus the lipase activity to break down fat, with Garcitrin plays an important role in reducing the appetite due to the role of HCA (hydroxycitric acid, the main active component).  Another long time player in the market, Gencor Pacific, offers Slimaluma, an extract of Caralluma fibriata, which works as an appetite suppressant.  And it also offers ActiveAMP, an extract of Gynostemma pentaphylum​, a thermogenic ingredient that is said to increase fat burning by up regulating an enzyme called AMP-activated kinase (AMPk).

Transitioning away from ‘weight’ and toward ‘health’

Sabinsa’s president Shaheen Majeed said the overall category may be transitioning away from ‘weight management’ toward a concept of supporting consumers’ journeys toward greater health and fitness.  He said in a recent conversation with a Food and Drug Administration auditor during an inspection of one of the company’s plants he was given the distinct impression that the agency is viewing obesity as an inflammatory condition. This would put any product with the word ‘weight’ on its label on potentially shaky ground.

“The conversation that Sabinsa has on such ingredients leans towards the sports angle. Ive been quoted as saying, No one says they are trying to lose weight anymore, they say instead, Im getting in shape, going to the gym, being more active, etc.This is a shift in how we manage weight, and its a good shift, because we can then take such ingredients/products from being a fad to being a lifestyle choice where ones weight/fat is not looked down upon, but is being managed in a healthy way. Of course, this healthy way has to do with foods and supplementation,​ Majeed said.

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