You’re trying to lose weight and the one thing you just can’t get around is hunger. Appetite suppressants are supposed to curb those pains so you eat less and lose more, but not all are the same. We scoured the web, looked high and low and under every rock for the facts. We took university websites and medical journals into consideration. You deserve to know the truth about the supplement you’re looking to buy, so we’re here to give you just that.
What are Appetite Suppressants?
Appetite suppressants are sold in both herbal and medical varieties. The idea is to curb hunger enough to decrease calorie intake and promote weight-loss. The diet market is strewn with thousands of products that are supposed to work in this way, but few have the clinical support associated with prescription drugs in the same category.
Herbal Ingredients – “What’s Commonly Used?”
There are four main herbal appetite suppressants sold as part of weight-loss formulas and as standalone supplements. The most common are fiber, glucomannan, caffeine and hoodia gordonii.
Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate found in some foods and supplements. It is resistant to digestion so it bulks up in the gut and, with water, helps promote healthy bowel movements. In terms of weight-loss, it is supposed to slow down the digestive process so food empties out of the stomach more slowly. That helps you stay fuller, longer.
The most common natural sources of fiber include beans, whole grains, popcorn, nuts, baked potatoes (in the skin), berries, bran cereal, oatmeal and green, leafy vegetables. Though sources seem abundant, most people are not taking in the amount they need.
According to the Journal of Nutrition, “Current fiber intakes are alarmingly low, (PDF) with long-term implications for public health related to risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, certain gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, and the continuum of metabolic dysfunctions including prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.”
We also found similar results from a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Participants with obesity (body mass index ≥30) consistently reported lower fiber intake than did individuals with normal weight.”
Glucomannan is a natural fiber found in the konjac plant. It is thought that it absorbs water working as a bulk-forming laxative, but it can also slow the digestive process to curb hunger.
There are no natural sources of glucomannan as it is only available in supplement form. You cannot consume it by adding certain foods to your diet.
Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and a variety of supplements. It is typically used to boost energy and metabolism, but it can also have an effect on hunger.
Less than 400mg is generally recognized as safe. Figuring as one cup coffee can contain between 70 and 250mg, it is important to take note of the total amount of caffeine you are consuming throughout the day. Drinking more will not reduce appetite even further.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Heavy daily caffeine use — more than 500 to 600 mg a day — may cause side effects such as: insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, fast heartbeat and muscle tremors.”
The Mayo Clinic goes on to claim it may not just be the caffeine in coffee that helps dieters lose more. “In addition, some studies found that even decaffeinated coffee may contribute to modest weight loss, suggesting that substances or factors besides caffeine may play a role in weight loss.”
Hoodia gordonii is derived from a succulent that is similar to a cactus. It is found in the Kalahari Desert in Africa. According to folk lore, the natives chewed the roots of the plant when on hunting expeditions to curb hunger. This story led to worldwide notoriety as the next big appetite suppressant.
You cannot consume hoodia gordonii in foods. The only means of using it is via supplementation. You can find it as a standalone product or as part of a weight-loss pill that contains other ingredients.
One thing many dieters do not realize is that taking hoodia gordonii comes with the risk of side effects, including “headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting”, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
Are Herbal Appetite Suppressants Clinically Proven?
There are some herbal appetite suppressants that are clinically proven to help promote weight-loss and curb hunger. Others do not have such support.
Dietary Fiber and Body Weight – According to the Nutrition, “The average fiber intake of adults in the United States is less than half recommended levels and is lower still among those who follow currently popular low-carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins and South Beach. Increasing consumption of dietary fiber with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes across the life cycle is a critical step in stemming the epidemic of obesity found in developed countries.”
Dietary Fiber and Weight Regulation – Another study published in the Nutrition offers the same, “In view of the fact that mean dietary fiber intake in the United States is currently only 15 g/day (i.e., approximately half the American Heart Association recommendation of 25-30 g/day), efforts to increase dietary fiber in individuals consuming 25 g/day may help to decrease the currently high national prevalence of obesity.”
Effect of Glucomannan on Obese Patients: A Clinical Study – According to the International Journal of Obesity, “Results showed a significant mean weight loss (5.5 lbs) using glucomannan over an eight-week period.”
Glucomannan and Obesity: A Critical Review – Another study in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine offers, “There is some evidence that GM [glucomannan] exerts its beneficial effects by promoting satiety and fecal energy loss.”
Safety and Efficacy of Glucomannan for Weight Loss in Overweight and Moderately Obese Adults – Unfortunately, not all studies came to the same conclusion. According to a review in the Journal of Obesity, “In summary, glucomannan supplements (3.99 g daily) were well tolerated but did not promote weight loss in overweight and moderately obese individuals consuming self-selected diets and maintaining usual physical activity patterns.”
Coffee for Morning Hunger Pangs: An Examination of Coffee and Caffeine on Appetite, Gastric Emptying, and Energy Intake – The journal Appetite published a trial that shows caffeine does not have an impact on hunger. “No significant effects of decaffeinated coffee, caffeine or their combination were detected.”
Coffee, Hunger, and Peptide YY – It is also interesting to note that, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, decaffeinated coffee may be more effective at curbing hunger than the caffeinated variety. “Our randomized human trial showed that decaffeinated coffee can acutely decrease hunger and increase the satiety hormone PYY.”
Hoodia Gordonii: To Eat, or Not to Eat – One study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology appears to support this appetite suppressant, but in the end it actually warns dieters about using it. “We conclude that although Hoodia gordonii seems to have a desired effect on appetite and weight loss, this effect may at least in part be a secondary symptom of the serious adverse effects that are associated with consumption of the high doses required to achieve therapeutic clinical effect.”
If you are looking for clinical proof hoodia gordonii works on humans, you may find it difficult to find any. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “There is no reliable scientific evidence to support hoodia’s use. No studies of the herb in people have been published.”
Prescription Options – “The Doctor’s By Your Side”
There are three big prescription appetite suppressants on the market today – phentermine, Belviq and Qysmia. All have been clinically tested and proven to curb hunger, in some users. The problem with these medications is that they cost far more than herbal alternatives, they require you be under a doctor’s care and they come with a long list of potential side effects.
Phentermine is sold under the brand names Adipex, Pro-Fast, Ionamin, Adipex-P, Fastin, Atti-Plex and Suprenza. It is typically prescribed to dieters who’ve been unable to lose weight with diet and exercise alone. You must tell your doctor of any other medications you are taking before starting this appetite suppressant.
According to PubMed Health, potential side effects include, “allergic reaction, fast, slow, pounding or uneven heartbeat, seizures, tremors, severe headaches, shortness of breath and swelling of your feet or lower legs.” It’s also important to tell your doctor if you suffer from “dizziness, drowsiness, mild headache, dry mouth, bad taste in your mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation or stomach cramps.”
Belviq is the brand name for lorcaserin, a prescription appetite suppressant. It works by affecting the chemicals in the brain that control hunger. Though this medication is clinically proven to work, “if you do not lose at least 5% of your starting weight after taking the medication for 12 weeks” you need to speak to the prescribing physician, according to Drugs.com. This could mean the medication will not work for you.
According to WebMD, the potential side effects dieters may experience include, “nausea, dry mouth, headache, dizziness, constipation, or tiredness.”
Qysmia is another clinically proven, prescription appetite suppressant available from doctors. This one combines the power of phentermine with topiramate. Topiramate is typically prescribed as an anti-convulsant for people with seizure disorders. In this case, it is being used off-label, likely because it suppresses excitement in the brain. One of the potential side effects is the loss of appetite.
Qysmia can affect mood, so it is important to tell your doctor if you have feelings of depression, mood changes or difficulty sleeping. According to the official website, the appetite suppressant “may affect how you think and cause confusion, problems with concentration, attention, memory or speech.”
What’s the Bottom Line on Appetite Suppressants?
There are two varieties of appetite suppressants on the market today – herbal and prescription. With herbal alternatives you are getting a natural solution to hunger, if you choose one that is clinically proven. In the case of prescription medications, you are more likely to see the benefits, but there are long lists of potential side effects to consider.