The weight management category has developed a certain connotation that can at times be negative, but as the industry adapts to the market and evolves, dietary supplements targeting weight management have taken on a more holistic and palatable approach.
“Ever since the FDA came down on ephedra, there has been no ‘magic pill’ per se, and consumers are more aware that any product claiming to burn fat instantly is likely stretching the truth,” explains Thomas Li, technical product manager for IFF Health (New York City, NY). “Since that time, the once explosive growth has slowed without an ephedra replacement. Trendy ingredients have come and gone, and so the weight management market has taken a different approach by branching out into other health benefits for more comprehensive health benefits.”
This means that a product may not only target weight, but also peripheral health issues related to being overweight. This is a more healthy and positive approach because instead of just chasing a number on a scale, consumers are supporting their overall well-being.
“When it comes to weight management, marketing a supplement or ingredient for ‘weight loss’ is becoming taboo, so the focus needs to be on how it builds upon current diet and exercise efforts and how particular biometrics are affected,” states Morris Zelkha, co-founder of TriNutra (Ness Ziona, Israel). “In particular, supplements that support a healthy lipid metabolism, inflammation response, and blood sugar levels not only address weight management, but also provide benefits for consumers who are proactively looking to support both short- and long-term wellness and healthy lifestyle goals.”
Intertwining weight management and exercise has also created some overlap between the weight management and sports nutrition product categories.
“The rise of functional foods has contributed greatly to providing solutions for a wide spectrum of consumers, ranging from weekend warriors to on-the-go lifestyle enthusiasts,” says Li. He points out that ingredients like protein and meal-replacement powders, as well as energy products, can play in both spaces.
“We are seeing sports nutrition companies add weight management components to existing formulations and expand their product lines to include weight management entries,” adds Steve Fink, vice president, marketing, PLT Health Solutions (Morristown, NJ).
The shift in perception about weight management and its many avenues opens up a great deal of possibilities in the marketplace, broadening opportunities for dietary supplement ingredients providing these benefits.
One great way to manage one’s weight is to eat food or take supplements that heighten the feeling of satiety—in other words, that make one feel fuller for longer. This, in turn, prevents a person from eating excessively or frequently throughout the day, as we are all prone to do. A number of popular weight management ingredients operate in this way, though from a variety of different mechanisms.
Fiber is a good example of an ingredient that not only supports satiety for weight management but can also have positive effects on blood glucose. IFF Health supplies a fiber derived from fenugreek seeds called FenuLife that not only supports weight management and blood glucose but also reflux.
In a study published in Phytotherapy Research1, the ingredient was found to significantly increase satiety and improve insulin response when given to subjects in 8-g doses. Compared to no treatment and 4 g of FenuLife, the higher 8-g dosage was associated with significantly higher measures of satiety and fullness, and significantly lower measures of hunger and prospective food consumption.
Another ingredient from IFF Health that promotes satiety is SlimPro, which is made up of fish protein hydrolysates derived from whole blue whiting fillets. “[SlimPro] increases the satiating hormones CCK and GLP-1 during the digestion process, leading to a sensation of satiety and, as a result, supports weight loss,” explains Li.
A study published in Food and Nutrition Research2 found that supplementation with SlimPro at doses of 1.4 and 2.8 g per day for 90 days significantly increased levels of CCK and GLP-1, and significantly improved body composition. Compared to placebo, supplementation significantly improved body weight, body mass index, fat mass, extracellular water, waist circumference, thigh circumference, and hip circumference.
According to the researchers, the mechanism of action for weight management for the ingredient may be both indirect and direct. The indirect mechanism is the decrease in food intake stimulated by CCK and GLP-1 secretion, which leads to a decrease in total calories. The direct mechanism is the decrease in adipose tissue mass mediated by GLP-1 interaction with leptin.
An ingredient distributed by PLT Health Solutions also promotes satiety in a unique way. “Supresa Crave Control, derived from the flowers of a special cultivar of Crocus sativus L., offers a special route to weight loss support—by enhancing the neurotransmitter serotonin and reducing the desire to snack between meals,” explains Fink. Crocus sativus L. is more commonly known as saffron crocus.
In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study published in Nutrition Research3, mildly overweight women were given either Supresa or placebo twice daily for eight weeks. Neither the supplement nor placebo group had any caloric restrictions during the course of the study. Results showed that compared to placebo, subjects taking the supplement saw significantly decreased snacking frequency. The group taking Supresa also saw significant reductions in body weight compared to placebo, demonstrating that reductions in snacking had a tangible effect.
According to the researchers, “Modulation of norepinephrine and dopamine pathways, as well as selective serotonin reuptake inhibition, represent likely targets for a central component of saffron efficacy.” However, the researchers don’t rule out the possibility that saffron may have a direct effect on the GI tract, considering the physiology of appetite involves complex central and peripheral mechanisms under the control of different signaling peptides in the stomach mucosa and GI tract.
The ingredient is also versatile. “While Supresa can be used as a standalone ingredient, it can find its place in any weight loss product or program because its unique benefit—support for the control of craving—works as a complement,” explains Fink. “Supresa is a perfect ingredient for use in foods and beverages, especially in meal replacement and meal program applications. It has a low organoleptic impact. Other trending uses are lollipops, gums, chews, and shakes because it offers a low dose, minimal organoleptic impact, and excellent solubility.”