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Science backing weight management ingredients promising but not overwhelming, panel participants agree

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images

Related tags: Weight management

There is a plethora of ingredients clamoring for attention in the weight management space and there are studies that support them—as long as you don’t get your hopes too high.

In NutraIngredients-USA’s first webinar of 2020 a team of experts looked into the category and concluded that there is a host of valid ingredients from which formulators can choose.  The panel consisted of consultants Tim Avila and Guru Ramanathan, PhD as well as Dr Hector MD, attorney Justin Prochnow.

The ingredients list includes hot items such as Garcinia cambogia extracts, which now figure into many weight management products.  There are also old standbys such as caffeine from natural or synthetic sources, or green tea extracts. There is some evidence for the satiety promoting effects of whey protein as well as the appetite blunting action of a couple of PI2 inhibitors derived from potato protein.

Joining the list are a number of botanical extracts that have been developed over a period of years.  These include extracts of Coleus forskohlii,Caralluma fimbriata​ and Salacia chinensis​. And there are some new kids on the block, such as branded ingredients based on the stimulant molecules theacrine and methylliberine.

These ingredients work on a variety of mechanisms.  The primary mechanism is the thermogenic pathway, stimulating fat oxidation via a metabolism boost.  Another pathway is blunting appetite.

Science is promising but doesn’t support overblown claims

One thing the panelists agreed on, though, is that much of the research done on these ingredients, while highly promising in some cases, is still mostly from animal studies or small human studies.  No breakthrough ingredient has been able to demonstrate strong enough results that would back the  kind of overblown claims and testimonials (I lost 18 lbs. in two weeks!) that have clouded the category.

It’s those overblown claims (along with the inclusion of active pharmaceutical ingredients in some adulterated products) that has made the category a cause of major concern for the US Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission, Prochnow said. 

Prochnow said a key element is designing studies to back dietary ingredients (and not just those meant for weight management products) is to design the study in such a way that the results can support compliant claims on the eventual finished goods.  

Too often this has not been the case, Prochnow said.  And there is an issue with conducting studies overseas with research contractors offing cut rates—it could result in a case of getting what you pay for.  Good study design, data integrity and simple follow through are sometimes lacking, which can lead to the sort of debacle that caused a precipitous drop in the popularity of green coffee bean extract. Confidence in your CRO and an opportunity for oversight are keys to having a quality study, Prochnow said.  These are hard things to achieve when going overseas to get your science, he said.

To listen to the full hour long discussion, visit the event homepage​.

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