Supplements to help weight loss

  • 29 Oct 2016
  • Reading time 3 mins
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There is no magic pill that will make you lose weight without making changes to your diet and lifestyle. However there are some nutritional supplements that can help support you in your efforts - reduce cravings, reduce appetite and help keep you positive so you don’t reach for a chocolate bar when you’re feeling a bit down.

1. Hydroxycitric acid (HCA for short)

How does it work?
HCA curbs your appetite and slows down the production of fat. It is extracted from the dried rind of the tamarind fruit which you may know from Indian and other Eastern cuisine. It has been extensively tested and found to have no toxicity or safety concerns. It works by inhibiting an enzyme that converts sugar (or glucose) into fat.

How much should I take?
I recommend taking HCA, especially during the first three months of any weight loss diet. You need 750mg a day. Most supplements provide 250mg per capsule, so take one capsule three times a day, ideally anywhere from immediately before, to 30 minutes before, a main meal. It is widely available as a supplement.

Vitamin C

2. 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP for short)

How does it work?
5-HTP helps you to ‘think thin’ The two most powerful controllers of your appetite are your blood sugar level and your brain’s level of serotonin, the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter. Serotonin is often deficient, especially in those on weight-loss diets. A low level can lead to depression – and increased appetite (which is why many depressed people over eat).

Can I get it from food?
If you are low in serotonin, one of the quickest ways to restore normal levels, and normal mood, is to supplement your diet with 5-HTP. It’s found in meat, fish and beans, although in rather small amounts. The African Griffonia bean, however, contains significant amounts, and extracts of this are sold as 5-HTP supplements.

How much should I take?
5-HTP is much more effective at normalising the brain’s serotonin levels if taken with some carbohydrate, such as a piece of fruit. This will also help prevent the minor abdominal discomfort that a small minority of people get when they take 5-HTP. My advice, therefore, is to supplement both your morning and afternoon snacks with 50mg of 5-HTP. But do not take 5-HTP if you are on serotonin-reuptake inhibitor drugs (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Lustral or Efexor, as it could generate too much serotonin.

3. Chromium – the secret of blood sugar control

How does it work?
When you diet it can be common for you to experience sugar cravings. This is because on some diets you are eating so little that the sugar in your blood which provides your energy, dips really low and you then crave a quick sugar hit to level it out. My low GL diet aims to keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day so you don’t experience sugar cravings. But there is also a mineral that helps you maintain blood sugar control - chromium.

Can I get it from food?
The average daily intake of chromium through diet is below 50mcg, while an optimal intake – certainly for those with a weight and blood sugar problem – is around 200mcg. Chromium is found in whole foods and is therefore higher in wholewheat flour, wholemeal bread or wholemeal pasta than refined, white products. Beans, nuts and seeds are other good sources, and asparagus and mushrooms are especially rich in it.

How much should I take?
The best form of supplementary chromium is chromium polynicotinate, which means it’s bound with vitamin B3. Most good multivitamins will contain 30mcg of chromium, but you can help maintain blood sugar control and reduce sugar cravings more quickly by taking 200mcg twice a day for the first three months of a weight loss regime (ideally with a mid morning and mid afternoon snack).

For more information, read the Holford Low-GL Diet Bible or The Holford Low-GL Diet Made Easy book.

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