Fat Burners Explained

Author: Joe Cannon MS, CSCS
I have an addiction that only my closest friends know. I know admitting a problem is the first step to recovery so here goes. I'm utterly addicted to talk radio. Whenever I'm in my car traveling to and from client’s homes I hardily ever listen to music. Rather my days are filled with the voices of a variety of talk show personalities who many of you who share my addiction are probably familiar with. Throughout the day I find myself listening to all of the commercials, paying special attention to those about nutritional supplements because as you probably know by now, supplements are my favorite topic to talk about (that’s another addiction I have). Because weight loss supplements are very popular, below is a brief review of some of the more common ingredients found in fat burners today.

· Green Tea: Green tea has some preliminary evidence finding that it might promote weight loss in overweight people. Supplements that contain green tea usually list it as EGCG which stands for a compound called Epigallo Catechin Gallate (now you know why they call it EGCG for short!). The exact amount which might help weight loss is still undergoing study and readers should be reminded that green tea is actually a combination of hundreds of diverse compounds, including caffeine, which also has a mild fat burner effect. I would much rather see people drink green tea (hot or cold) than use an isolated compound like EGCG. This is because I wonder if these other green tea compounds help EGCG impact weight loss.

· L theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. Some evidence finds L theanine may be of help to those with anxiety. Currently though there isn’t much evidence on L theanine and weight loss.

· Garcinia cambogia: Also called HCA which stands for hydroxy citric acid, garcinia cambogia does have some preliminary but controversial evidence suggesting that it may decrease food intake in overweight people. More research is needed to confirm these findings but research has shown positive results with 300 mg a day used over the course of several weeks. Other evidence suggests that this supplement may help long duration aerobic exercise buy promoting the burning of stored fat over carbohydrates. Based on this, garcinia cambogia or supplements that contain it may prove beneficial to triathletes, marathon runners and other similar athletes.

· Vitamin C: Vitamin C is one of the water soluble vitamins and is needed for the production of collagen. High doses may also slightly shorten the time that people experience colds and flus. Currently there isn’t much evidence that vitamin C promotes fat loss.

· Vanadyl Sulfate: The mineral vanadium (which is what vanadyl sulfate is derived from) acts like the hormone insulin in some sea dwelling animals by lowering blood sugar. Because of this, some speculate that vanadyl sulfate might help regulate blood sugar levels in people. Vanadyl sulfate is used in some weight loss supplements because of the thought that by better stabilizing blood sugar, it might curb appetite and contribute to weight loss. While in theory, this might make sense, curretly there is limited evidnce of vanadyl sulfate promoting weight loss in humans. Realize that vanadium is not without negative side effects such as possible harming of the kidneys when used in high doses. Vanadyl sulfate was popular among bodybuilders in the 1990s because of speculation that it might help people get stronger. Just for the record, it doesn’t do this. Diabetics should see their doctor before using vanadyl sulfate because of its blood sugar lowering effect. As an aside, people who are thinking about vanadyl sulfate to lower their blood sugar should look no further than the treadmill that is probably coll

lecting dust in their basement. A simple 20 min walk can lower blood sugar levels and has a lot of other benefits that vanadyl sulfate just can't compete with.

· Banaba leaf extract: Banaba extract is another compound that has some preliminary evidence suggesting that it might lower blood sugar levels in type II diabetics. Other preliminary research finds banaba may reduce weight—in obese mice that have been genetically altered to be obese. This is intriguing and I am looking forward to seeing human weight loss studies conducted on this supplement.

· Chromium: Chromium, continues to pop up in most weight loss supplements despite the overwhelming amount of research that it doesn’t work. Chromium might help stabilize blood sugar in some diabetics but again. A better way to stabilize blood sugar while dieting is to eating 5 to 6 small meals over the course of the day. Each meal should consist of no more than 300 calories and contain a little protein. Some evidence also finds that eating 5 to 6 meals a day may be better at reducing weight than eating 3 big meals.

· Calcium: Weight loss supplements are starting to add calcium to their list of ingredients. Some studies do suggest that calcium might help people lose weight (you’ve probably seen the milk commercials that mention this). However, all of the studies to date showing a weight loss effect have used dairy products such as milk and yogurt, that naturally contain calcium. If you want to experiment with this intriguing aspect of calcium research, drink an extra glass of milk a day while dieting and see if it works for you. For more information on calcium and weight loss go to www.milkburnsfat.com

· Bitter orange (AKA Citrus aurantium) is a common ingredient in most “ephedra free” weight loss supplements. Another name for bitter orange is synephrine. If you were thinking that synephrine sounds like ephedrine—the active ingredient in ephedra—you are correct. Synephrine is chemically similar to ephedra. Thus, the idea behind using bitter orang is that if it looks like ephedra, then it should work like ephedra. Studies do show that synephrine can raise blood pressure and heart rate. Thus, bitter orange is not appropriate for anyone with heart disease, blood pressure issues or kidney disease. Currently though there isn’t much accepted evidence for bitter orange and its effect on weight loss.

· Ephedra. Since ephedra was mentioned above, let’s talk about it here because it has been in the news again recently. Ephedra does have evidence that it works with some research finding that it might promote an average of two pounds more weight loss per month than when nothing at all is used. That being said, ephedra also is associated with some very serious side effects (like death) when used inappropriately or by the wrong people. Because of this, in December 2003 the FDA banned ephedra from the US market. Recently however a judge has ruled that the FDA has no evidence that ephedra, when used at 10 mg or less, is harmful. Therefore, it is possible that ephedra supplements containing 10 mg or less may one day be sold. Don’t hold your breath though because it may be sometime before this happens. Supplement companies are waiting to see what the FDA does next before they start making ephedra supplements again.

This list is of course incomplete because supplements contain many ingredients, but its enough to help you interpret the reasons behind what's in the products you use. If you have any others you’d like me to add to this list or suggestions for future editorials, drop me an email and let me know.

For more questions and answers visit: Email JoeCannon@rcn.com or visit www.joe-cannon.com