The safety of weight management products has become a heated issue in several state legislatures with thermogenic, lipotropic, and satiety ingredients specifically being questioned. California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Rhode Island have all introduced legislation limiting access to dietary supplements just this year alone.
In order to address these safety concerns, researchers have come up with the paper Dietary Supplements for Weight Management: A Narrative Review of Safety and Metabolic Health Benefits, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients.
“As scientists, we want to make sure that discussions around weight management are based on the available science, and not just advocacy viewpoints. Recent legislations have very broad and vague definitions of weight loss and muscle building supplements and it is concerning that it will lead to the restriction of various supplements or ingredients with known beneficial health effects. So we wanted to provide a balanced, objective review of the safety and related health outcome evidence for some of these ingredients,” said first author Eunice Mah, PhD, Principal Scientist at Biofortis Research.
Ingredients in focus
The paper examines the safety of six dietary supplement ingredients - caffeine, green tea extract (GTE), green coffee bean extract (GCBE), choline, glucomannan, and capsaicinoids and capsinoids.
Mah explained that these specific ingredients were chosen because they represent a range of types of ingredients having differing metabolic activities and are often associated with weight loss or weight management. Caffeine and green tea extracts are popular thermogenic ingredients that have been shown to increase resting metabolic rate. Along the same lines, capsaicinoids and capsinoids are also believed to have thermogenic properties. Choline and GCBE are examples of lipotropic ingredients, which are ingredients that help with fat metabolism. Lastly, she said glucomannan is a fiber that may help with satiety, which is an important factor when trying to reduce food intake.
- The authors noted the overall safety and metabolic health benefits of the ingredients examined, stating, “Weight management supplements containing caffeine, GTE, GCBE, choline, glucomannan, and capsaicinoids and capsinoids are generally safe when taken as directed and demonstrate metabolic health benefits for overweight and obese people.”
- According to the report, green tea extract may be beneficial for weight management, glucose regulation, and reducing total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol as well as blood pressure in people who are overweight or obese.
- The authors also highlighted the importance of choline as an essential, required micronutrient of which most people consume less than the recommended intake.
- The review also notes that glucomannan has an approved claim for weight loss by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and clinical evidence suggests beneficial effects on blood glucose, lipid profile, and gastrointestinal function.
Mah told NutraIngredients-USA that an important fact to understand is that an ingredient or nutrient does not simply do just one thing. “Our review outlines the various benefits of the selected ingredients. For example, caffeine is well-known for increasing mental energy and helping improve exercise performance, green tea has been shown to be beneficial for glucose regulation and reducing cholesterol levels, and choline is a micronutrient that is essential for brain development and brain health. If supplements containing these ingredients are restricted because they are considered weight management supplements, it will limit access for people who are looking for these other health benefits. This legislation is particularly worrisome for certain ingredients such as choline and fiber which are under-consumed by Americans.”
Mah said when it comes to safety, some ingredients such as caffeine, GTE (specifically epigallocatechin gallate), and choline have been extensively evaluated resulting in recommended intake limits. “Our review of supplements marketed for weight management suggests these intake limits are not exceeded when these supplements are used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Plenty is also known about the safety of the other ingredients, but there is certainly more work that needs to be done.”
“It is always great to see health-forward legislations, but these have to be science-based. We hope our review revealed the fact that the efficacy and safety of these ingredients are very well researched by many different groups over the years. So there is a lot of scientific data that is readily available,” said Mah. “Of course, there are knowledge gaps as well that will need to be addressed. Objectively and critically reviewing all available scientific evidence is especially important when drafting legislatures related to health because health is multifaceted.”
Nutrients 2022, 14(9), 1787; doi.org/10.3390/nu14091787
Dietary Supplements for Weight Management: A Narrative Review of Safety and Metabolic Health Benefits
Authors: E. Mah et al.