After holiday indulgences, the diet resolution inevitably follows. Indeed, most people could benefit from dropping a few extra pounds—or maybe more than a few. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 35 percent of American adults are overweight and another 35 percent obese, conditions that raise the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, among other illnesses.
Despite the FDA’s recent approval of two new weight loss drugs, there’s still no magic pill to melt off unwanted pounds. Exercising regularly and trading processed foods for nutrient-dense ones—especially slow-digesting, low-glycemic foods, according to new research—are the foundation for any lasting, healthy weight program. But these natural nutrients (listed in order of likely effectiveness) may offer extra support if you also follow a healthy diet and stay active.
Athletes and people seeking a convenient but lasting metabolic boost have long relied on whey protein. Abundant clinical research backs its benefits, which include—according to a recent review in The Journal of the American Medical Association—supporting healthy blood sugar levels, maintaining muscle mass, and promoting feelings of fullness. It also helps remove toxins and may reduce inflammation, studies show.
For healthy weight management, “meal replacements,” or fortified protein shake mixes, are increasingly popular. Beyond supporting lean muscle, they’re helpful because drinking one “meal” daily usually means fewer total calories consumed.
Dose: Follow label directions.
The average American diet falls far short on fiber, which improves heart and bowel health and encourages normal blood sugar levels by slowing digestion rates. According to a recent study at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, eating a low-glycemic diet of fiber-rich whole foods decreases hunger and increases metabolism, making it easier to lose weight and keep it off.
Weight loss research focuses on soluble fiber supplements, which form a gel in the gut, promoting fullness and slowing the absorption of sugars. For example, glucomannan, derived from konjac root, swells up to 17 times its original volume when mixed with water and has been shown in studies to enhance weight loss. Initial research also indicates that prebiotic fibers such as inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) may help with weight management by attacking hormones associated with hunger and by improving glucose regulation. Other helpful, fiber-rich supplements include psyllium, oat bran, rice bran, guar gum, and sea vegetables.
Dose: Follow label directions.
A Dr. Oz pick, this naturally occurring byproduct of prohormone DHEA—which diminishes as you age— stimulates fat-burning enzymes and may boost resting metabolism, which often slows when dieters cut calories. In several studies conducted by 7-Keto’s manufacturer, Humanetics, subjects taking 7-Keto (and following a diet and exercise program) lost up to three times as much weight as those who used diet and exercise alone.
Dose: 100 mg, twice daily with meals.
Green tea extract.
A 2012 study suggests that green tea’s most potent polyphenol, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), reduces starch absorption by inhibiting the enzyme amalyse, which helps the body break down starch into sugar. In a 2009 study of 107 overweight subjects who exercised 180 minutes weekly for three months, those who drank green tea lost more abdominal fat than those who just exercised. Choose a product that’s been extracted with water, not a solvent.
Dose: 3–10 cups of green tea or 300–1,500 mg of an extract daily.
This mineral activates insulin, a hormone that helps the body burn blood sugar instead of storing it as fat. A study of 180 people with type 2 diabetes found that chromium supplements significantly improved blood sugar and insulin levels after just four months. Anyone trying to lose weight must keep blood sugar levels stable: Low levels trigger food cravings.
Dose: 200–500 mcg once or twice daily.