In the U.S., more than one-third of adults are obese (34.9%, or 78.6 million). With a variety of related health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, the estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008.
Despite recent declines in the prevalence among pre-school aged children, obesity among children is still high. For U.S. children and adolescents aged 2-19 years, the prevalence of obesity has remained fairly stable at about 17%, affecting about 12.7 million children and adolescents over the past decade.
“The recent downturn in childhood obesity rates is encouraging for the long-term health prospects of consumers in the U.S.,” according to Barbara Davis, PhD, RD, vice president, medical & scientific affairs, PLT Health Solutions, Morristown, NJ. “To the extent that childhood weight issues are predictive of adult weight problems, we may be heading in the right direction for the first time in decades.”
A Market Shift?
After Dr. Mehmet Oz came under scrutiny last year for making outlandish claims regarding “magic” weight loss ingredients, the dietary supplement market may now be heading in a new direction.
Weight management products have been among the top selling nutraceuticals for many years, because so many people feel they need them, noted Shaheen Majeed, marketing director, Sabinsa, East Windsor, NJ. “It is a common myth among consumers that weight loss supplements are miracle pills that can give instant solutions to weight problems, and some marketing programs perpetuate this myth, which is why the regulatory agencies scrutinize them closely. Clinically validated, safe and effective standardized ingredients along with a balanced diet and exercise regime are the solution.”
With increased demand for weight management products, comes renewed responsibility within the industry to provide quality products, Mr. Majeed added.
Paul Dijkstra, CEO, InterHealth Nutraceuticals, Benicia, CA, agreed that reputability, efficacy and safety are among the biggest issues in the weight management category today. “The focus needs to be on education. Wild claims combined with negative media coverage have made consumers wary. Weight loss supplements continue to represent important sales drives, but many in the industry are waiting to see how negative attention will affect long-term category growth.”
Overall, the quality and efficacy of supplements on the market today are mixed, according to Steve Siegel, vice president of Ecuadorian Rainforest, LLC, Belleville, NJ. “Many perform very well and, when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise program, provide satisfactory results. However, there are some supplements that are not as effective and may be unsafe. It all depends on the supplement manufacturer’s quality-control practices to ensure they have a quality product containing quality-tested ingredients.”
Weight management supplements are only one part of the solution, Mr. Siegel added. “To address obesity it will take a collaborative effort involving the health industry, government and the public.”
Consumers have come to realize that diet and exercise are the keys to sustainable weight management, according to Lynda Doyle, vice president of global marketing, OmniActive Health Technologies, Morristown, NJ. “Supplements using premium, branded ingredients that are safe and backed by science can support weight management goals.”
She suggested the days of “magic bullet” pills boasting unfounded claims or questionable ingredients with potential side effects are in the past. “The category has undergone a market ‘correction’ as manufacturers rely less on sensationalism and realize that consumers are increasingly savvy when it comes to weight loss claims and want effective formulas. And with greater FDA scrutiny in this category, manufacturers are evaluating the science first to support their claims and formulas. That can only lead to better formulas that can prosper in this growing market.”
PLT’s Dr. Davis said companies need to become smarter about how they approach weight management formulations, “and address issues like age demographics and lifestyles if we are going to put our best foot forward as an industry.”
The sensible, long-lasting way to manage a healthy weight is to incorporate multiple modifications into a person’s lifestyle, noted Dr. Davis. Of course, these modifications involve healthier eating and physical activity. “Supplements can also play a critical role, helping with hunger, improving satiety, managing blood sugar and enhancing results,” she said. “They can help people take charge of their lives and reinforce these modifications with progress.”
The healthy weight management category remains one of the largest condition-specific areas in the nutraceutical industry, according to Bruce Abedon, PhD, director of scientific affairs, Icon Group LLC, Brattleboro, VT.
“This is because the number of overweight and obese consumers continues increasing,” he said. “A sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, lack of adequate exercise and other unhealthy lifestyle choices all contribute to this trend. With the percentages of overweight and obese individuals predicted to increase even more over the next decade, the use of superior weight management products containing high quality, efficacious nutraceutical ingredients should also rise.”
Weight management is a long-term approach to a healthy lifestyle, according to Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed. “It involves the maintenance of a healthy lean body mass, the shedding of body fat for a slim, lean physique, and of course what and how much you eat matters. There is a constant need and search for safe natural approaches to help manage obesity and its related socio-economic consequences.”
Most products available on the market are “fat burners,” he noted. Each of these supplements may work through different mechanisms of action (e.g., boosting energy, reducing appetite, promoting fat utilization, increasing metabolism). “However, it becomes very important to balance one’s food intake and have healthy eating habits with slow-digesting carbohydrates, healthy fats and fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as incorporating physical activity.”
In general, while the issue of weight control is multifaceted, too many products on the market attempt to target only one aspect of the condition, according to Paul Clayton, PhD, chief scientific advisor for GE Nutrients, Inc., Irvine, CA.
“While an increasing number [of products] have good science behind them, it is probably not possible to find a natural ingredient (or a synthetic one) which is both effective and safe enough to provide a single, simple solution to a public health problem which has multiple roots, ranging from the wide availability of shoddily designed foods to living and working environments which enable and facilitate low energy lifestyles.”
Ideally, consumers should incorporate safe, natural ingredients alongside a more complex regimen that must include other lifestyle changes, he added.
The fact that obesity/overweight remains a public health problem, despite increasing sales of weight loss supplements, indicates these products, even those which can be effective if used as part of a weight loss regime, “are insufficiently powerful on their own to stem the obesogenic effects of our terrible diet and lifestyle,” Dr. Clayton said.
Annie Eng, CEO, HP Ingredients, Bradenton, FL, agreed, saying successful weight loss “requires commitment to change, the willingness to abandon the bad foods in favor of nutrition-dense foods, along with incorporating regular exercise. The problem comes in when people try to figure out how to make these changes in their already busy lives. Change is daunting and overwhelming, so the small concessions often made are the use of supplements and maybe cutting down some on junk/bad food intake.”
Stress & Starch
While the weight loss supplement market has come under fire for quality and claims concerns, Mitch Skop, senior director of product development, Pharmachem Laboratories Inc., Kearny, NJ said there are still a variety of validated natural products backed by clinical evidence that demonstrate an ability to help manage a healthy weight.
People are living in a higher state of chronic stress than ever, he said. “Such a state disrupts how people think about food and their eating habits. Chronic stress is the crux of the matter, despite the tremendous increase in ‘better for you’ convenience foods and beverages widely available.”
Stress pressures the adrenals “to release adrenaline and cortisol,” he continued, “the latter being responsible for fighting the body’s ability to remain trim. Excess belly fat signifies too much cortisol roaming around the bloodstream, which signifies one is living with untamed chronic stress. It is a vicious circle, but one that can be broken.”
For example, Lactium is an ingredient that, along with learning how to manage or defray stressors with healthy lifestyle choices, can significantly reduce stress results, Mr. Skop said. Lactium is a hydrolysate of milk protein that contains a bioactive peptide, which helps regulate stress naturally.
A double-blind cross-over study conducted over a 30-day period on 63 female volunteers showing at least one stress symptom had a significantly greater improvement in symptoms when taking Lactium (dosage 150 mg/day) compared to placebo.
Improvements were noted in digestive, intellectual, social, cardiovascular and emotional well-being, Mr. Skop said.
Additionally, many people in a chronic state of stress experience “burnout.” In a new study published in the Journal of International Medical Research, a formula featuring Lactium helped significantly decrease symptoms of burnout. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial looked at the effects of the formula on participants with burnout syndrome, and followed study subjects’ symptoms using different evaluation instruments for the 12-week study period. In the placebo group, 14 participants still presented with a high level of burnout at the end of the trial compared with 26 on the first day, whereas in the supplement group, only two participants had a high level of burnout at the end of the trial compared with 33 on the first day. Study participants came from a wide range of professional backgrounds across several economic sectors.
Alongside stress, carbohydrate absorption and blood-sugar management are critical factors involved in supporting healthy weight. Backed by more than a dozen clinical trials, Pharmachem’s Phase 2 Carb Controller, a proprietary extract of white kidney bean, is a natural carbohydrate absorption inhibitor.
In the most recent and largest human study conducted on Phase 2 Carb Controller to date, subjects taking PhaseLite (Phase 2 Carb Controller) lost an average of seven pounds more than those on placebo after 12 weeks. In addition, 73.5% of the participants in the weight management phase successfully maintained their body weight after 24 weeks. Study results were published in the journal Obesity.
“After 12 weeks, the active arm in the weight loss study experienced a statistically significant decrease in their desire as well as in their frequency and strength of food cravings for chocolates and other sweet foods, whereas the placebo group experienced a significant increase in the difficulty in resisting particular types of food,” said Mr. Skop.
“Blood sugar and its impact on the hormone insulin are connected to such weight control mechanisms such as appetite, food cravings, energy levels and accumulation of body fat,” he continued, “as well as premature aging, stress and risk factors for heart disease, and of course, diabetes.”
Recent research dealing with weight management has shown that excess weight may have different and multiple origins, and that these root causes must be identified and addressed, noted Mathieu Dondain, director of business development with France-based Nexira. “For example recent research has identified the important involvement of the gut flora, and the relation that may exist between some metabolic troubles like diabetes or pre-diabetes, fat metabolism and weight gain,” he said.
Consequently, Nexira has developed several different ingredients targeting various aspects of weight management, including Fibregum, a soluble dietary fiber from acacia gum, for the improvement of the gut flora; ID-alG brown seaweed extract that is able to impede fat and sugar assimilation through the inhibition of specific enzymes; NeOpuntia (Opuntia ficus indica), which is able to reduce fat absorption; and Cacti-Nea cactus fruit extract to help sculpt the body.
Interest in fibers for weight management has grown, particularly for natural fibers with high digestive comfort, Mr. Dondain added. “Daily recommended intake of fibers (25 g/day for women and 38 g/day for men, according to the U.S. Institute of Medicine) is still far from being reached, and the average intake of dietary fibers is only 15.9 g/day on average. In order to easily accept a high-fiber diet, fibers with a proven digestive tolerance, such as acacia gum, are gaining more and more interest.”
Mr. Majeed agreed that certain natural bioactives in the weight management category offer a multi-targeted approach. Sabinsa offers ForsLean, extracted from the roots of Coleus forskohlii, in three grades: standardized for 10%, 20% and 40% Forskohlin. Approved by the Korean FDA as a weight management ingredient, several clinical studies with ForsLean have been carried out globally to evaluate its role in promoting lean body mass. The company also offers Citrin and GarCitrin from the fruits of Garcinia cambogia that have been validated in pre-clinical and clinical studies. The active constituent Hydroxycitric Acid has been evaluated for its potential role in weight loss.
Additionally, the company’s LeanGard contains an advanced spectrum of natural ingredients that work synergistically to support satiety, lean body mass and a healthy body composition, with a beneficial impact on healthy body weight, according to the company. Composed of ForsLean, GarCitrin and bioavailability enhancer BioPerine black pepper extract, the composite has been clinically evaluated for its safe and effective role in weight management.
According to OmniActive’s Ms. Doyle, mechanisms of action for weight management ingredients include satiety, thermogenesis and lipolysis. Capsaicinoids—the active compound in capsicum (red hot chili peppers) play a role in several of these mechanisms.
“Capsaicinoids are known to stimulate energy expenditure through activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which induces catecholamine (e.g., epinephrine/norepinephrine) secretion from the adrenal glands). Capsaicinoids have also been reported to increase thermogenesis and reduce appetite. Increased lipolysis, as measured by increased serum glycerol and free fatty acids, is another benefit. The science supports an association between capsaicinoid-containing food consumption and a lower incidence of obesity.”
However, capsicum is extremely hot and many consumers find it difficult to consume beneficial amounts due to oral and gastric distress. The company’s Capsimax is a concentrated, highly-active, natural capsicum extract that is encapsulated using patented OmniBead technology. This controlled-release coating allows Capsimax to deliver beneficial levels of capsaicinoids without the burning sensation of unprotected red hot peppers, Ms. Doyle said. The capsaicinoids in Capsimax support energy production by promoting healthy metabolism, mobilizing fats for energy production (a process called lipolysis), and supporting thermogenesis.
PLT’s Dr. Davis said natural ingredients for weight is a broad and promising—albeit sometimes confusing—category because of the variety of different mechanisms that are related to the energy management component of weight control. “These include control of energy intake (appetite modification and satiety); control of the availability of substrates (such as blocking the absorption of dietary fats); control of fat reserves (modulation of lipolysis and lipogenesis); and control of energy expenditure (increasing thermogenesis).”
Currently, PLT Health Solutions markets three different ingredients in the weight management/control space. Xanthigen supports healthy body weight through the synergistic effects of the natural compounds found in brown seaweed (Undaria pinnatifida) and pomegranate seed oil. Separately, the bioactive compounds in these two ingredients target pathways involved in body weight regulation including adipocyte differentiation, resting energy expenditure and lipid metabolism.
Satiereal is a patented, clinically studied satiety ingredient derived from saffron. A unique mechanism of action not only promotes satiety but helps avoid snacking and compulsive eating behaviors. The formula is thought to work by improving levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a role in increasing satiety while decreasing appetite.
Additionally, Adipromin is a patent-pending ingredient composed of Moringa oleifera, Murraya koenigii, and turmeric extracts that targets body composition by inhibiting adipose (fat) cell formation and enhancing the breakdown of fatty tissues, said Dr. Davis. “In a double-blind, placebo-controlled human study, Adipromin has been shown to promote weight loss, reduce Body Mass Index (BMI) and positively impact cholesterol, triglycerides and serum adiponectin levels. Adiponectin is a protein hormone that modulates a number of metabolic processes, including the regulation of glucose and the breakdown of fatty acids for use by the body as energy.”
According to HP Ingredients’ Ms. Eng, the company’s CitruSlim is a proprietary blend of Citrus flavanone-O-glycosides and Eurypeptides from Eurycoma longifolia that can promote an anabolic state, reduce cortisol, activate AMPK, reduce triglycerides and help balance blood glucose levels. “CitruSlim can promote healthy weight loss by helping dieters maintain high energy levels, prevent the body from storing fat, reduce appetites, prevent binge eating, and help stop the ‘yo-yo’ diet effect.”
According to Icon Group’s Dr. Abedon, the best weight management products contain clinically tested nutraceuticals that possess comprehensive safety profiles, substantiated claims, and are offered at an efficacious dose.
Icon Group offers a select portfolio of ingredients supported by one or more randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trials. Each ingredient possesses substantiated structure/function claims in the areas of healthy weight management and metabolic wellness, and has undergone extensive safety and toxicity testing, according to Dr. Abedon.
WellTrim iG is a patented African Mango (Irvingia gabonensis) seed extract that promotes healthy weight management through multiple mechanisms, including satiety, appetite control, thermogenesis, and by blocking the conversion of blood sugar into stored fat, the company said.
Derived from Cissus quadrangularis, Synetrim CQ reduces the absorption of dietary fat, carbohydrates and starch-derived sugar by limiting the activity of the fat-digesting enzyme lipase, as well as alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase, which break down starch carbohydrates and starch-derived sugar.
Additionally, DygloFit is a patented, standardized extract of Dichrostachys glomerata fruit that contains polyphenol bioactives. Finally, LeptiCore consists of plant-based polysaccharides, antioxidants, and blue-green algae. “This advanced nutraceutical’s satiety, appetite control, thermogenesis and antioxidant mechanisms of action resulted in significant weight improvement as well as enhanced metabolic wellness in a human clinical trial,” Dr. Abedon said.
InterHealth’s Mr. Dijkstra said his company’s ingredients, Super CitriMax, Meratrim and 7-Keto are all supported by two or more published clinical research studies.
Five published peer-reviewed research studies showed Super CitriMax (Garcinia cambogia) is three times more effective than diet and exercise alone, increases serotonin levels by 44%, reduces daily calorie intake by 25% and maintains healthy cholesterol levels, he said.
Recent findings published in Obesity and the Journal of Medicinal Food have shown that supplementation with Meratrim for 8 weeks resulted in a statistically significant increase in adiponectin levels compared to placebo. “It has been shown that the circulating levels of this hormone are inversely proportional to the amount of body visceral fat. These results suggest that Meratrim may influence lipid metabolism.”
Additionally, taking 7-Keto twice a day has been shown to reduce body weight 2.9-times greater than placebo with a significant six-pound weight reduction seen in eight weeks. A significant reduction in body fat of 1.8% was also seen after eight weeks.
Dr. Clayton said GE Nutrients’ Slimaluma and ActivAMP have strong pre-clinical and clinical data behind them.
Ecuadorian’s Mr. Siegel noted that spinach extract has shown promise for weight management. “According to a study by the Lund University in Sweden, a chemical in spinach extract called thylakoids may support hunger management, which may also lead to weight loss.”
Future Areas of Interest
As the weight management category expands into healthy weight wellness and active lifestyles, new market opportunities are emerging, according to OmniActive’s Ms. Doyle. “People we have coined as the ‘Proactives’ aren’t necessarily overweight but are still making conscious decisions in their lives to maintain a healthy weight, whether it is watching their caloric intake, wearing trackers such as Fitbits, using monitoring apps or supplementing with safe, and effective weight management, sports nutrition and healthy lifestyle ingredients.”
According to Nexira’s Mr. Dondain, personalized solutions are on the horizon. “Nowadays, we develop ingredients to be able to offer customized solutions depending on each consumer profile. With the different studies we conducted with Cacti-Nea, for example, we know that we can specifically target the women who have water retention issues and cellulite.”
As research continues to evolve, so too will products that target specific mechanisms, he concluded. “Like a painter needs a lot of colors for canvas, product manufacturers need many different ingredients to be able to offer the best solutions to their customers.”
PLT’s Dr. Davis said weight management is likely the single most important and effective thing people can do—at any point in their lives—to age more healthfully. “An unhealthy weight is the underlying or contributing cause to any number of chronic health conditions present in later years, and can exacerbate others.”
However, there are relatively few weight loss supplement products targeted to the senior demographic, she added. “This may be because of a concern about the impact of a weight loss program on muscle mass and bone mineral density.”
However, research indicates that when properly applied, weight management has a number of extremely important benefits for seniors—both metabolic and functional, including enhanced mobility, reduced disability from osteoarthritis, improved cognitive function, etc. “Just as we see multivitamin and nutritional formulations targeted to the senior demographic, it makes sense that we have intelligently designed weight management products as well.”