While a well-rounded diet should ideally provide all the nutrients your body needs, supplements can serve as valuable complements. This week, we'll explore the world of supplements, discussing their role in supporting weight loss and overall health.
Today, we have a huge amount of readily accessible information available through the internet or Social Media. It is important to consider if this information shared with you is truthful. Unfortunately, there is a lot of unsolicited advice or unqualified individuals with a hidden agenda that can share information to highlight the “benefits” of their products. With access to this conflicting information, it can be confusing to understand the most appropriate supplement for your weight loss journey. From vitamins and minerals to herbal supplements, we'll provide insights into the most popularly searched vitamin supplements, making informed choices tailored to your individual needs.
Below, we’ve used information from the National Institute of Health to summarise the supplements which may support your weight loss journey14.
|Researched-back weight loss
|Reduces leptin and inhibits fat production
|Thought to increase satiety and slow glucose absorption
|May increase metabolism and energy expenditure
|Stimulates the nervous system to increase energy expenditure
|No - but associated with protein
|Thought to increase fat breakdown and reduce fat absorption
|May reduce energy intake
|Breakdown of fat
|Thought to bind to dietary fat to reduce fat deposition
|Thought to reduce hunger and promote fat loss
|Thought to increase fat breakdown and reduce fat production
|Thought to increase satiety and fullness
|Green coffee bean extract
|Stops fat accumulation and increases glucose metabolism
|Green tea extract
|Increases energy expenditure and reduces fat absorption
|A bulking agent used in foods to increase satiety
|Suppresses appetite to reduce food intake
|Alters the gut microbiome to change appetite
|Increases fat breakdown and energy expenditure
|Alters breakdown of fat
|No mechanism explained
|White kidney bean
|Alters carbohydrate breakdown
As you can see, the evidence surrounding weight loss supplements is inconclusive and requires a lot more work before we make conclusions regarding their role in weight loss. Therefore, we suggest consuming a balanced diet which includes important vitamins and nutrients from natural sources. We highlight these below and where you can find them.
Several clinical trials have explored the link between vitamin D supplementation and obesity, however no conclusive results have been drawn1. However, vitamin D is essential calcium and phosphate absorption to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.! You can gain vitamin D from foods such as oily fish, egg yolks and fortified products (e.g. cereal), however it’s recommended that adults take vitamin D supplements in the autumn and winter as the body makes vitamin D naturally from sunlight, which is less available during these seasons2.
B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, and Folate, play roles in energy metabolism. They are often included in weight loss supplements. A few studies have shown a link between vitamin B12 deficiency and obesity, however human studies are lacking3. Vitamin B12 can be gained naturally from foods such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products4, and if you are struggling with B12 deficiency symptoms you should speak to your GP. However, it is not recommended that you have B12 injections purely for weight loss.
Calcium is involved in fat metabolism. Studies suggest a link between higher calcium intake and lower body weight or less weight gain over time. This may be due to calcium reducing fat cell concentrations by impacting hormone levels or by binding to dietary fat, preventing its absorption. However, the explanation could also be that dairy products, with added components like protein, may further influence body weight through effects on appetite-regulating hormones5. Further research is needed to understand the role of calcium in weight loss.
Iron is essential for transporting oxygen in the blood. Research suggests that iron doesn’t have an impact on metabolism, however individuals with an iron deficiency may experience fatigue, which could affect their ability to exercise for weight loss6. If you are experiencing symptoms of an iron deficiency, you may want to consider adding iron-rich foods to your diet such as dark-green leafy vegetables (e.g. curly kale), iron-fortified cereals and bread (check the label), dried fruit (e.g. apricots) and pulses (e.g. beans)6. Taking iron supplements or getting iron infusions will not instantly result in weight loss, and should not be used as a weight loss tool.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Omega-3s, found in fish oil supplements, are associated with various health benefits such as improved skin, reduced depression and improved heart health7. The studies associated with omega-3 fatty acids show inconclusive results relating to weight loss, where some individuals report an increased appetite and others reduced8. So omega-3 fatty acids can support your health, but might not impact your weight.
Green Tea Extract:
Green tea extract contains antioxidants and catechins, which are believed to have metabolism-boosting properties. The active components in green tea linked to weight loss are caffeine and catechins, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Green tea may help reduce body weight by boosting energy expenditure, enhancing fat oxidation, and decreasing fat absorption. It could also lower carbohydrate digestion and absorption9.
Fibre is known for promoting a feeling of fullness, however whilst fibre supplements may be used to support weight loss by reducing overall calorie intake, you would be better to get fibre naturally in your diet rather than as a supplement form. Consuming fibre as part of a healthy diet will mean you also gain a range of vitamins and minerals from whole foods. These could include wholemeal options (e.g. bread, pasta, rice), keep the skin on your vegetables, choose high fibre cereals (e.g. weetabix, bran flakes), have fresh fruit rather than juice10.
Protein is important for muscle maintenance and can contribute to a feeling of fullness. Studies have shown that consuming high-protein foods maintains satiety for a longer period, leading to a reduced calorie intake11. Additionally, studies have shown that calorie restriction (required for weight loss) can cause muscle and fat loss which slows metabolism and may facilitate weight regain post-diet. Conversely, sufficient protein intake and strength training help prevent muscle loss and maintain a healthy metabolism11. Protein supplements, such as whey or plant-based proteins, are commonly used in weight loss efforts as they are convenient and easily accessible. However, you can gain adequate protein from your normal diet by choosing options with a higher protein content e.g. greek yoghurt, chicken or tofu, dark-leafy greens and eggs12.
The human microbiota, surpassing human cells in number, primarily reside in the colon and play vital roles in health. They influence energy extraction, expenditure, and storage. While mouse studies suggest a link between gut microbiota and energy dynamics, results in humans remain inconclusive. There's speculation that manipulating gut microbiota, possibly through probiotics found in foods like yoghurt or supplements, could prevent or treat obesity13. Probiotics vary widely, with genera like Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, and Bifidobacterium. However, the impact on body weight depends on factors like strain, dose, duration, and user characteristics, necessitating further research for a comprehensive understanding in humans14.
Activity: Meal Planning
Download our Enhance Your Meal Plan worksheet to ensure that your meal plan ticks all the boxes you need to optimise your weight loss journey through the food you eat!
Remember, meal planning is about how the elements of your diet contribute to your overall health. It is important to gain a range of nutrients from your diet, but don’t worry if some days are less nutritious than others. We want to create a balanced lifestyle which improves your health, and worrying about hitting your nutrient target will only create a stressful situation. If you can find foods you enjoy that make you feel good and have good nutritional content, then you’re onto a winner!
- Mallard SR, Howe AS, Houghton LA. Vitamin D status and weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized and nonrandomized controlled weight-loss trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2016;104:1151-9.
- NHS, Vitamin D, 2020, available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/
- Boachie J, Adaikalakoteswari A, Samavat J, Saravanan P. Low Vitamin B12 and Lipid Metabolism: Evidence from Pre-Clinical and Clinical Studies. Nutrients. 2020 Jun 29;12(7):1925. doi: 10.3390/nu12071925.
- Stabler SP. Vitamin B12. In: Marriott BP, Birt DF, Stallings VA, Yates AA, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 11th ed. Washington, DC: Elsevier; 2020:257-71.
- Parikh SJ, Yanovski JA. Calcium intake and adiposity. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:281-7.
- NHS, Iron deficiency anaemia 2021, available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia/
- Lorente-Cebrián S, Costa AG, Navas-Carretero S, Zabala M, Martínez JA, Moreno-Aliaga MJ. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases: a review of the evidence. J Physiol Biochem. 2013 Sep;69(3):633-51. doi: 10.1007/s13105-013-0265-4.
- Gray B, Steyn F, Davies PS, Vitetta L. Omega-3 fatty acids: a review of the effects on adiponectin and leptin and potential implications for obesity management. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Dec;67(12):1234-42. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.197.
- Manore MM. Dietary supplements for improving body composition and reducing body weight: where is the evidence? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2012;22:139-54.
- NHS, 2022, How to get more fibre into your diet, available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/digestive-health/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/
- McCarthy D, Berg A. Weight Loss Strategies and the Risk of Skeletal Muscle Mass Loss. Nutrients. 2021 Jul 20;13(7):2473. doi: 10.3390/nu13072473.
- NHS, 2022, Eating a balanced diet, available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-eat-a-balanced-diet/eating-a-balanced-diet/#:~:text=Beans%2C%20pulses%2C%20fish%2C%20eggs%2C%20meat%20and%20other%20proteins,iron%2C%20zinc%20and%20B%20vitamins.
- Moran CP, Shanahan F. Gut microbiota and obesity: role in aetiology and potential therapeutic target. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol 2014;28:585-97.
- National Institutes of Health, 2022, Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss, available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WeightLoss-HealthProfessional/