Slim Down for Summer
Overweight? Add Protein to Subtract Pounds
Helpful Herbs & Supplements
Greens & Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Vitamins & Minerals
What Veggies Are Best to Buy Organic?
Get the skinny on weight loss
Slim Down for Summer
If, as the spring sunshine brings the first hints of the warmer
weather to come, the mere thought of getting into your bathing suit
fills you with dread, read on for some helpful weight management tips.
In addition to simply feeling more confident about your body,
remember that excess body weight is implicated as a risk factor for
many different disorders, including heart disease, diabetes, several
cancers, female infertility, uterine fibroids, gallstones, as well as
several disorders of pregnancy, including gestational diabetes,
preeclampsia, and gestational hypertension.
The location of excess body fat may affect the amount of health risk
associated with overweight. Increased abdominal fat, which can be
estimated by waist size, may be especially hazardous to long-term
Discover what works for you to improve your chances of losing weight
and keeping it off. According to research or other evidence, the
following self-care steps may be helpful. To help prevent overweight
that leads to obesity:
- Eat healthy—Follow in the footsteps of successful long-term dieters by avoiding too much fat and eating a regular breakfast.
- Control appetite by controlling blood sugar—Choose foods with a low-glycemic index to help avoid blood sugar swings that can stimulate cravings.
- Maintain your weight with exercise—Make exercise a regular habit to help keep body weight stable.
- Avoid the yo-yo—Adopt realistic diet and lifestyle changes
you can stick with, and get help forming healthier habits, to avoid
frequent ups and downs in weight.
- Spice up your diet—Add cayenne pepper to your meals to help curb appetite and increase calorie burning.
If you are working on losing excess weight already, keep these tips in mind:
- Aim for total nutrition with a multivitamin—Extra vitamins
and minerals will help ensure your body gets the nutrition it needs,
especially if you are avoiding certain foods.
- Find a diet that fits—For long-term success, choose a healthy diet that you can stay with.
- Create a custom exercise plan—Exercise you truly enjoy is
much easier to stick to, so find activities that fit your personal
style, fitness level, and workout opportunities.
- Find support—Improve your chances for long-term weight loss by joining a group while you adjust to new diet and exercise habits.
- Talk to your doctor—Ask about medical options and for advice on how to form a safe, successful exercise program.
Diet Right: Cut Calories, Not Nutrition
Embarking on a weight-loss diet can be a challenge as you exchange old
habits for a new eating routine. As you shift your eating patterns,
don’t let vital nutrients slip through the cracks. Cutting back doesn’t
have to mean a nutritional nosedive. Remember to seek a healthcare
practitioner’s advice prior to kicking off your diet.
- Don't skimp on fat
Many diets encourage decreasing fat consumption. By all means avoid
saturated fat, but say yes—in moderation—to poly- and monounsaturated
fats—the good guys. Fat helps with the absorption of fat-soluble
vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. It’s also a
concentrated source of energy, and the essential fatty acids in some
fats are vital for many important body functions. Reach for foods rich
in omega-3—an important polyunsaturated fat. Good sources are flaxseed
and its oil; walnuts; oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna; and
- Fill up on fiber
To curb hunger between meals, bulk up on high-fiber foods such as
fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Fiber gives you a
feeling of fullness and slows digestion. When food moves slowly through
the digestive system, blood-sugar levels remain on an even keel.
- Vitamins for vigor
Exercise goes hand in hand with dieting and will help you reach your
weight-loss goals more quickly. Don’t fall prey to low energy levels
due to your lower calorie intake. Pack your diet full of B vitamins,
which assist in many bodily functions, from energy production to
regulating metabolism to overseeing thyroid and adrenal function.
Include the following B-vitamin foods in your diet: whole grains,
beans, eggs, yogurt, green leafy vegetables, almonds, avocados,
poultry, broccoli, brewer’s yeast, organ meats (like liver), nuts, and
- Calcium: the powerhouse mineral
Recent studies have linked calcium intake to weight loss. Whether or
not further studies bear this out, calcium remains a critical nutrient,
especially for women. Calcium is vital to the formation and growth of
the bones and teeth and helps to prevent osteoporosis, among its other
roles. Get your calcium from green leafy vegetables, tofu, canned
salmon, and dairy products.
Lesser-known minerals are also hard at work keeping your body
healthy and running at top speed. The trace mineral chromium assists in
stabilizing blood-sugar levels and is found in brewer’s yeast, egg
yolks, beef, hard cheeses, liver, and whole-grain breads. Zinc supports
protein synthesis and is essential to the formation of insulin. Zinc
sources include Brazil nuts, shellfish, eggs, and lean meats. Manganese
helps regulate cholesterol metabolism and blood glucose and is found in
wheat germ, spinach, split peas, nuts, and oatmeal.
Vitamins That May Help
Multiple vitamin minerals
Diets that are low in total calories may not contain adequate amounts
of various vitamins and minerals. For that reason, taking a multiple
vitamin-mineral supplement is advocated by proponents of many types of
weight-loss programs, and is essential when calorie intake will be less
than 1,100 calories per day.
Pyruvate, a compound that occurs
naturally in the body, might aid weight-loss efforts. A controlled
trial found that pyruvate supplements (22 to 44 grams per day) enhanced
weight loss and resulted in a greater reduction of body fat in
overweight adults consuming a low-fat diet. Three controlled trials
combining 6 to 10 grams per day of pyruvate with an exercise program
reported greater effects on weight loss and body fat than that seen
with a placebo plus the exercise program. Animal studies suggest that
pyruvate supplementation leads to weight loss by increasing the resting
In a double-blind study of obese people who had previously lost an
average of about 66 pounds, supplementation with 5 grams of borage oil
per day (providing 890 mg per day of gamma-linolenic acid)
significantly reduced the average amount of weight regained over the
next 12 months (4.8 pounds versus 19.3 pounds in the placebo group). It
is believed that borage oil worked by correcting certain abnormalities
of essential fatty acid metabolism that are common in people
predisposed to obesity.
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), the precursor to the chemical messenger
(neurotransmitter) serotonin, has been shown in three short-term
controlled trials to reduce appetite and to promote weight loss. In one
of these trials (a 12-week double-blind trial), overweight women who
took 600 to 900 mg of 5-HTP per day lost significantly more weight than
did women who received a placebo. In a double-blind trial with no
dietary restrictions, obese people with type 2 (non-insulin-dependent)
diabetes who took 750 mg per day of 5-HTP for two weeks significantly
reduced their carbohydrate and fat intake. Average weight loss in two
weeks was 4.6 pounds, compared with 0.2 pounds in the placebo group.
This amount has not been established as a safe long-term treatment and
should not be tried without a doctor’s supervision; people taking
antidepressants or other medications should be aware of potential drug
The ability of 7-KETO (3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone), a
substance related to DHEA, to promote weight loss in overweight people
has been investigated in one double-blind trial. Participants in the
trial were advised to exercise three times per week for 45 minutes and
to eat an 1,800-calorie-per-day diet. Each person was given either a
placebo or 100 mg of 7-KETO twice daily. After eight weeks, those
receiving 7-KETO had lost more weight and lowered their percentage of
body fat further compared with those taking a placebo. These results
may have been due to increases in levels of a thyroid hormone (T3) that
plays a major role in determining a person’s metabolic rate, although
the levels of T3 did not exceed the normal range.
In a study of obese people consuming a low-calorie diet for 24 weeks,
those receiving a calcium supplement (800 mg per day) lost
significantly more weight than those given a placebo. Calcium was
effective when provided either as a supplement, or in the form of dairy
products. In a second study, however, the amount of weight loss
resulting from calcium supplementation (1,000 mg per day) was small and
not statistically significant. In that study, participants' typical
diet contained more calcium than in the study in which calcium
supplementation was more effective. Thus, it is possible that calcium
supplementation enhances weight loss only when the diet is low in
Chitosan is a fiber-like substance extracted from the shells of
crustaceans such as shrimp and crab. Animal studies suggested that
chitosan supplementation reduces fat absorption, but controlled human
trials have found no impairment of fat absorption from supplementation
with 2,700 mg of chitosan per day for seven days or 5,250 mg per day
for four days. A double-blind study found that people taking 1,500 mg
of chitosan three times per day during a weight-loss program lost
significantly more weight than did people taking a placebo with the
same program. Similar benefits were seen in another double-blind study
that used 3,000 mg of chitosan per day. Other studies using smaller
amounts of chitosan have reported no effects on weight loss.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
A double-blind trial found that exercising individuals taking 1,800 mg
per day of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) lost more body fat after 12
weeks than did a similar group taking a placebo. However, two other
studies found that amounts of CLA from 0.7 to 3.0 grams per day did not
affect body composition. Most double-blind trials have found that
larger amounts of CLA, 3.2 to 4.2 grams per day, do reduce body fat;
however, one double-blind study of experienced strength-training
athletes reported no effect of 6 grams per day of CLA on body fat,
muscle mass, or strength improvement.
Fiber supplements are one way to add fiber
to a weight-loss diet. Several trials have shown that supplementation
with fiber from a variety of sources accelerated weight loss in people
who were following a low-calorie diet. Other researchers found,
however, that fiber supplements had no effect on body weight, even
though they resulted in a reduction in food intake.
Supplementation with 3 to 4 grams per day of a bulking agent called
glucomannan, with or without calorie restriction has promoted weight
loss in overweight adults, while 2 to 3 grams per day was effective in
a group of obese adolescents in another controlled trial.
Biochemical and animal research show that HMB has a role in protein
synthesis and might, therefore, improve muscle growth and overall body
composition when given as a supplement. However, double-blind human
research suggests that HMB may only be effective when combined with an
exercise program in people who are not already highly trained athletes.
A double-blind study of young men with no strength-training experience
reported greater improvements in muscle mass (but not in percentage
body fat) when HMB was used in the amount of 17 mg per pound of body
weight per day. Another group of men in the same study given twice as
much HMB did not experience any changes in body composition.
Herbs That May Help
Research has suggested that adding cayenne pepper to the diet may help
people lose weight. Controlled studies report that adding 6 to 10 grams
of cayenne to a meal or 28 grams to an entire day’s diet reduces hunger
after meals and reduces calories consumed during subsequent meals.
Other controlled studies have reported that calorie burning by the body
increases slightly when 10 grams of cayenne is added to a meal or 28
grams is added to an entire day’s diet. However, no studies have been
done to see if regularly adding cayenne to the diet has any effect on
Green tea extract rich in polyphenols (epigallocatechin gallate, or
EGCG) may support a weight-loss program by increasing energy
expenditure or by inhibiting the digestion of fat in the intestine.
Healthy young men who took two green tea capsules (containing a total
of 50 mg of caffeine and 90 mg of EGCG) three times a day burned
significantly more calories and oxidized significantly more fat than
those who took caffeine alone or placebo. In a preliminary study of
moderately obese individuals, administration of a specific green tea
extract (AR25) resulted in a 4.6% reduction in average body weight
after 12 weeks. The amount of green tea extract used in this study
supplied daily 270 mg of EGCG and 150 mg of caffeine.
While caffeine is known to stimulate metabolism, it appears that
other substances besides caffeine were responsible for at least part of
the weight loss. Although the extract produced few side effects, one
individual developed abnormal liver function tests during the study. In
another study, consuming approximately 12 ounces of oolong tea (a
semifermented version of green tea) daily for 12 weeks reduced waist
circumference and the amount of body fat in a group of normal-weight to
overweight men. However, in another study, 300 mg per day of EGCG was
no more effective than a placebo for promoting weight loss in
overweight postmenopausal women. Additional studies are needed to
confirm the safety and effectiveness of green tea extracts for
promoting weight loss.
One small, double-blind clinical study in humans found that hoodia
latex and inner plant can significantly reduce food intake. Available
products are of unknown quality and much more work remains to be done
to determine if hoodia will be a sustainable, safe way to reduce
The ability of yohimbine, a chemical found in yohimbe bark, to
stimulate the nervous system, and to promote the release of fat from
fat cells, has led to claims that it might help weight loss by raising
metabolic rate, reducing appetite, or increase fat burning. Although a
preliminary trial found yohimbine ineffective for weight loss, a
double-blind study found that women taking 5 mg of yohimbine four times
per day along with a weight-loss diet lost significantly more weight
than those taking a placebo with the same diet after three weeks.
However, a similar study using 18 mg per day of yohimbine for eight
weeks reported no benefit to weight loss compared with a placebo. A
double-blind study of men who were not dieting reported no effect of up
to 43 mg per day of yohimbine on weight or body composition after six
months. All of these studies used pure yohimbine; no study has tested
the effects of yohimbe herb on weight loss.
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