Brands harness plant polyphenols for weight management

By Claudia Adrien

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers seek natural, clean-label dietary supplements that serve as a potent metabolic. @ Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images
Consumers seek natural, clean-label dietary supplements that serve as a potent metabolic. @ Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

Related tags Polyphenols Antioxidant Oxidative stress

Demand for polyphenol-powered weight management supplements continues to grow as consumers seek out natural, science-backed aids to activate their metabolisms, curb appetite and reduce excess fat mass.

According to Grand View Research​, the global polyphenols market was valued at $1.68 billion in 2022 and projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.4% to 2030. Popular sources of polyphenols—a class of more than 8,000 compounds found in many plant foods—include grape seed, green tea, apple, citrus, olives, berries, cocoa and coffee beans, algae and pomegranate.

The companies NutraIngredients-USA spoke with for this article noted that market growth for their polyphenol-based ingredients and brands is overwhelmingly positive.

Marcos Lopez, U.S. regional director at Spanish botanical ingredient manufacturer Monteloeder, said the company’s weight management ingredient Metabolaid—a combination of lemon verbena and hibiscus flower extract—can be found in more than 70 finished products around the world, mostly in the form of food supplements.

“Metabolaid is our top ingredient, and it’s having an excellent performance,” he said. “Many brands have trusted our ingredient already across the globe, from MLM, D2C and retail to practitioner brands, with great acceptance among their consumers.”

Luxury and lifestyle brand Bella Grace Global is one of Monteloeder’s customers. The Florida-based company uses the polyphenol-packed properties of Metabolaid (in addition to Nutrition21’s Chromax) in its new BellaTrim product, which launched last year timed to the holidays.

“Launching a weight management product in late October, just before the holiday season and its associated overeating, was deliberate but certainly unusual,” said Mark Miller, chief innovation officer at Bella Grace Global. “It allowed us to engage in the January health and weight management goals with a plethora of testimonials, positive vibes and enthusiasm. To this extent we have had trouble keeping up production as sales have been robust and continue to climb.”

French company Fytexia also employs citrus polyphenols for its weight management ingredient Sinetrol—a combination of grapefruit and sweet orange extracts, 26 other flavanones, 13 additional phenolic compounds and caffeine—sold in more than 50 countries.

“Hundreds of brands worldwide chose Sinetrol as the core component for their dietary supplement formulation…putting the accent on quality and a consistent scientific dossier,” said Laure Nogier, marketing operations manager of the botanicals business unit at Fytexia.

The science

Among the companies NutraIngredients-USA interviewed, spokespersons cited some combined 70 scientific papers backing the efficacy of their polyphenol-based ingredients or products.

According to a 2020 review published in Future Foods​, most of the beneficial properties of polyphenols are “believed to be contributed by their free radical scavenging ability forming stable complexes and blocking further chemical reactions.”

Polyphenols impart anti-obesity functions by reducing the digestion of carbohydrates and fats lowering energy intake, the researchers wrote. The compounds also stimulate energy expenditure, appetite suppression, inhibit the formation of fat cells from stem cells, regulate lipid metabolism and modulate the gut microbiota.

The researchers drew a comparison between the incidence of obesity a decade ago among adults in Japan (3.7%) and European countries (9.8–24.8%). They suggested that the lower rate of obesity in the Japanese population may be due to higher levels of dietary polyphenol intakes reported at 1,500 mg per day (79% of which came from drinking green tea and coffee). In European countries, consumption was 283 to 1,100 mg per day.

“Plant-based phenolic compounds suppress appetite either by slowing down secretion of appetite-stimulating hormones, modulating MCH receptors [implicated in appetite and/or energy homeostasis] or by inactivation of appetite sensors,” the researchers explained.

Acting on body composition

Explaining how Sinetrol works to alter body composition, Fytexia says that it takes advantage of a process called adipose beiging. This is where white adipose tissue assumes the characteristics of brown adipose tissue, which is highly metabolically active and specialized for burning calories to produce heat.

“This process has been suggested as a promising strategy to combat excess fat mass,” Nogier said. “Moreover, the lingering effects of Sinetrol are proven: changes in body composition continued even 30 days after the cessation of the supplementation.”

French ingredient supplier Activ’Inside focuses on body composition as well with Grap’Inside 15V, a patented whole grape extract with polyphenol and flavanol monomers, including ε-viniferin and epicatechin, which holds promise for the reduction of cellulite, body weight, fat mass and waist circumference.

“As consumers increasingly focus on natural and science-backed solutions for health and wellness, Grap’Inside 15V appears to align with these preferences, offering a standardized extract that could play a beneficial role in supporting individuals on their weight management journey,” said Maité Jeanroy, marketing and communications manager at Activ’Inside.

Grape extracts, marketed for weight management, often highlight properties related to highly bioavailable monomeric polyphenols where up to 82% of epicatechins are absorbed, Jeanroy added.

A metabolic ‘switch’

Some supplements offer a one-two-punch to combat obesity. Monteloeder’s Metabolaid promotes both satiety and fat burning components by focusing on AMPK, or AMP-activated protein kinase, which plays crucial roles in regulating growth and reprogramming metabolism.

“AMPK acts like a metabolic switch in our cells,” Lopez said. “Whenever we need to consume energy, our body activates the AMPK pathway cascading into increased energy consumption and causing body fat to be ‘burned off’. For this reason, it has been considered as a therapeutic target to treat obesity.”

Another important factor to consider is the mechanism by which the human body controls energy intake, or calories, through hormonal signaling. Overweight individuals can generate a resistance to certain hormones involved in the sensation of hunger or satiety.

“Our clinical research evidenced that individuals taking Metabolaid felt satisfied with their diet and felt less hungry during the day,” Lopez added. “This coincided with an increase in GLP-1, which is a hormone released in the gut to induce satiety, as well as a glucose regulator.”

Simultaneously, leptin hormone levels, related to appetite control as well as fat storage, were decreased.

“Overweight individuals tend to experience a decrease in their metabolism making [the weight management] process less efficient,” he said. “But luckily it is not something irreversible. Actions can be taken to get the metabolism back on track.”

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