In the previous blog “Not all fats are equal”, we discussed “thermogenesis”, a process the body uses to burn fuel for generating heat. We reviewed a lengthy published study that discussed the difference between brown fat (BAT) and white fat, and how brown fat is better at thermogenesis. As a result, people with higher brown fat levels have an easier time with moderating their weight.
The article also reviewed natural ingredients which support thermogenesis in brown fat. In the last blog, we discussed capsaicin, one of the best-researched supplements is associated with increased BAT activity and decreased fat mass. In this blog, we will review other natural ingredients which were discussed.
Curcumin is a popular supplement most people are familiar with, which is known for a variety of health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory effects to support joint pain, antioxidant effects to support brain function, liver support and many other health properties. The review reported that curcumin can also support weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and positive lifestyle choices. A clinical trial found that by adding it to a weight loss program, curcumin enhanced the rate of weight loss from 1.9% without curcumin, to 4.9% with it, and it helped reduce waist measurements. Animal studies show that it offers the benefit of converting more white fat tissue to brown, and increases the creation of mitochondria, which make energy (ATP). Lastly, one animal study found that curcumin helped increase body temperature in animals when challenged in a cold environment. Since body temperature is a reflection of how fast the body is running, this may indicate a boost in metabolism.
Green tea extract (or drinking green tea) is a good source of “polyphenols” such as ECGC. This is beneficial as an antioxidant, to help lower cholesterol, and to support healthy blood pressure. Green tea also contains caffeine, which may be one of the reasons green tea has been shown in animal studies to lessen fat mass and improve fat metabolism. Several clinical trials indicate that green tea increases thermogenesis and increases resting energy, meaning a person burns more calories when resting. An analysis of green tea research shows that most studies showed that regular intake can help with weight loss and supports maintaining normal weight after losing it.
Berberine is an extract that can be derived from a variety of herbs, including Chinese goldenthread, goldenseal, and barberry. Animal studies show that it slowed fat gain, increased energy expenditure, increased fatty acid oxidation, increased the number of mitochondria (for making energy) and increased the conversion of white to beige fat. With all this positive news, berberine seems worthy of being included in a future clinical trial.
Lastly, fish oil and its specific compounds EPA and DHA were reviewed for their impact on
thermogenesis. We already love fish oil for its all-important anti-inflammatory activity, but it turns out it may also be an important component in a weight loss program. Animal studies showed that it inhibited weight gain in animals fed a high fat diet, improved glucose tolerance (blood sugar balancing), decreased inflammation, increased core temperature and inhibited obesity. Even though there aren’tyet human studies on fish oil for weight loss, it would still be helpful to take this supplement, since the typical American diet is quite deficient in EPA and DHA.
In summary, there is no magic bullet for weight loss and the recipe for success boils down to diet and exercise. But in a sense, supplements can be part of a healthy diet and what we eat can and does make a difference. Certainly, eating a handful of candy will have a different effect than eating a handful of green beans. Adding supplements which support thermogenesis may help you maintain a normal weight. As always, I recommend checking body temperature to be sure your thyroid and metabolism are running efficiently, since those factors optimize the maintenance of a healthy weight. Learn more HERE!
Reference: Adv Nut 2017; 8:473-83