10 natural appetite suppressants for weight loss
LAST UPDATED: Aug 02, 2023
10 MIN READ
HERE'S WHAT WE'LL COVER
But these can be challenging to keep up with so some people may turn to natural appetite suppressants to fast-track their weight loss. Around 15% of American adults use over-the-counter dietary supplements for weight loss. Do natural appetite suppressants really work? Let’s explore.
Do natural appetite suppressants work?
It’s true. Some foods, herbs, and plants have been shown to curb appetite and lead to some minor weight loss. But, it is important to remember that, as dietary supplements, they are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means that appetite suppressants you find at your local grocery or health food store may or may not contain:
As much of the active ingredient as they claim
Other ingredients that are not listed
Potentially harmful ingredients, depending on your health situation
Indeed, the FDA has found that several weight loss medications — both prescription and over-the-counter options — can contain hidden ingredients. Having said that, many dietary supplements are safe and well-tolerated, particularly if they’re purchased from a reputable brand. Serious side effects are rare and usually involve someone taking more of the supplement than recommended or an unintended interaction with other medications a person might be taking.
Beyond the potential health concerns, the lack of regulation with over-the-counter dietary supplements makes it challenging to know how much to take to induce the desired effect. Different weight loss supplements work in different ways: some lead to fat loss, others suppress appetite, and some increase energy expenditure.
Finally, even when the supplement works as expected and reduces appetite, they don’t typically lead to very significant of weight loss — or any at all. Some suppress appetite and lead to changes in body composition (like less fat), but they don’t cause weight loss. And, the weight loss they produce is typically only minimal, and might not be the dramatic reduction you’re looking to see on the scale.
The bottom line: Natural appetite suppressants may or may not lead to minor weight loss. But, just because they are natural does not mean that they are necessarily safe. They may interact with other medications you are taking, or you may respond poorly due to underlying health conditions. If you are interested in a natural appetite suppressant, talk to your healthcare provider about which one they might recommend for you, and what dosage they think might work, so that they can take into account your current health and any medications you’re using.
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Natural appetite suppressants for weight loss
Your mileage may vary, but here are ten natural appetite suppressants that may help curb your cravings and lead to weight loss.
Fenugreek is an herb in the soy family that has long been used to help control appetite. Its seeds are mostly fiber, which can help increase feelings of fullness and help you eat less. In addition to being a natural appetite suppressant, fenugreek can lower blood sugar and cholesterol, which may benefit people with diabetes and other metabolic conditions.
In one study, women with overweight who drank fenugreek tea before a lunch buffet reported less hunger and increased satiety (or fullness). They also felt like they could eat less when asked. But in the end, they still ended up eating just as much as those who drank a placebo tea.
In another study, fenugreek seed extract did not impact body weight, appetite, or feelings of fullness in a group of people who were overweight. But, it did lead them to eat significantly less dietary fat.
An animal study suggests fenugreek may slow weight gain. In the study, obese rats were fed a high-fat diet and given either orlistat (a weight-loss medication) or fenugreek seed extract. The rats who had the fenugreek extract gained less body weight and fat, while also experiencing improvements in their blood sugar and cholesterol.
2. Green tea extract
Multiple studies have found that green tea can lead to reductions in body weight, waist circumference, and body mass index (BMI). While the reductions are clinically significant, however, they are still relatively small. For example, people may lose around 4 pounds and about 2 centimeters off their waistlines after a few months of using a green tea supplement.
Some researchers believe that green tea may inhibit the secretion of ghrelin, the “hunger” hormone. The high level of catechins in green tea, particularly epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG), may also explain its effects on appetite suppression.
Tea has long been believed to help with appetite suppression. In fact, one analysis found that people who were habitual green tea drinkers were more likely to lose body fat and slim their waistlines at a 10-year follow-up than people who didn’t regularly drink tea.
When it comes to suppressing appetite, not all green tea is created equal. Researchers have been careful to note that you likely won’t see these weight loss effects simply by drinking cups of green tea. Rather, you’ll need to take a supplement of green tea extract (usually in a pill or tablet form) which contains more caffeine and catechins. While you may still lose some body weight from drinking green tea, green tea extract is more effective because it is more concentrated.
The bottom line: Taking green tea extract may help you shed some pounds, but it won’t lead to significant enough weight loss to significantly reduce your cardiovascular risk. Still, every bit helps, and green tea offers other benefits like improved cholesterol.
Several studies have found a correlation between drinking coffee and body weight. Coffee drinkers are less likely to have obesity, belly fat, and a high BMI when compared to non-coffee drinkers. But, when you compare heavy coffee drinkers (four cups per day) against those who drink less often, the association becomes less clear. Other variables may muddy the waters, like adding sweeteners or sugar to your coffee — which can be associated with obesity.
The chlorogenic acid, or CGA, in coffee may help fight obesity. Clinical studies that provide participants with CGA-enriched coffee (like green coffee extract, which contains a higher amount of CGA) tend to report more weight loss and higher reductions in BMI, visceral fat, and waist-to-hip ratio.
Drinking caffeine 30 minutes to 4 hours before a meal may lead you to eat fewer calories. And, studies have found that in people with obesity or overweight, drinking about one cup of coffee can reduce your calorie intake not only in the next meal but the entire day.
The bottom line: Your daily cup of joe may have more to offer than a simple energy boost. Drinking caffeinated coffee may suppress your hunger throughout the day.
4. Yerba mate
Yerba mate is a plant that you can find in over-the-counter supplements, herbal teas, and other beverages. It contains several biologically active ingredients, including caffeine, polyphenols, amino acids, vitamins, and more. Yerba mate has been linked to health benefits like lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, as well as weight loss. It may even impact obesity at a genetic level, and relieve obesity-related inflammation.
Yerba mate has been shown to reduce caloric intake and meal duration. Researchers believe yerba mate may increase your satiety during a meal, in part because it delays gastric emptying, which is the rate at which food leaves your stomach. As food fills your stomach, you tend to get full. If it takes longer for food to leave your stomach, you may get full sooner, stay full longer, and eat less food overall.
Some research suggests that yerba mate may even interact with glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a gut hormone involved in appetite regulation that is targeted through medications like Wegovy and Ozempic.
Exercise can boost metabolism, and studies show that yerba mate also helps with energy expenditure. The two may work synergistically, at least according to one study. The participants who took a yerba mate supplement before exercising reported improved energy, focus, and concentration during their cycling workout, along with reduced hunger and a lower desire to eat.
The bottom line: Yerba mate may help suppress your appetite, and boost your energy and focus, making it easier to keep up with other weight loss interventions, like your exercise routine.
5. Caralluma fimbriata
Caralluma fimbriata is an edible succulent that has been shown to suppress appetite, although researchers still aren’t sure exactly how it does so. Its cactus-like leaves were eaten by native people in India to suppress hunger. Caralluma fimbriata may also help lower blood sugar and bad cholesterol and has been used to relieve pain and inflammation.
In particular, Caralluma fimbriata may reduce belly fat, which is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome. In one study of people with obesity and overweight, those taking 500 mg capsules of Caralluma fimbriata extract twice daily lost four more centimeters off their waistlines than those taking the placebo. They also perceived food to be less palatable.
One study compared the effects of a daily Caralluma fimbriata extract against a placebo in people with overweight over a period of 16 weeks. By the end of the study, those who supplemented with Caralluma fimbriata were eating about 200 fewer calories daily and had shaved nearly three centimeters off their waistline. Moreover, those taking a placebo actually gained weight, while those using the Caralluma fimbriata lost a small amount.
The bottom line: Caralluma fimbriata is a safe and natural appetite suppressant that has been used for centuries. While it may not lead to a large amount of weight loss, it may help curb appetite.
Glucomannan is a water-soluble dietary fiber found in the elephant yam, or konjac. Its high-fiber content may make it a good candidate for appetite suppression, but it also absorbs water and expands as it travels through your gastrointestinal tract, creating literal feelings of fullness. In addition, glucomannan may lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Glucomannan seems to have all the right things to suppress appetite, but the research is mixed on whether it ultimately leads to weight loss. One 8-week study found that taking daily supplements of glucomannan produced no changes in body weight or composition, while another study found that it produced significant reductions in body weight, body fat, and circulating cholesterol in the same time period. Other studies have found that the weight loss produced by glucomannan supplements may be short-lived.
7. Garcinia cambogia
Garcinia cambogia is a fruit that’s part of a plant family associated with anti-obesity, anti-diabetes, antioxidant, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. The hydroxycitric acid (HCA) in this plant may be what makes it effective as a natural appetite suppressant. HCA may lead to a reduced food intake by impacting your serotonin levels, which in turn, affect your brain’s perception of fullness.
However, Garcinia cambogia is similar to glucomannan in that the results are mixed when it comes to weight loss. Some studies have found it produces weight loss, while others have found no changes in body weight. It is also possible that the rest of your diet may impact the effectiveness of garcinia cambogia, as too much fiber can reduce your body’s ability to absorb enough HCA to suppress your appetite.
Even so, garcinia cambogia is generally considered safe, although it may cause adverse side effects in some people.
The bottom line: Talk to your healthcare provider before taking garcinia cambogia. While it may help with weight loss, its effectiveness, and safety can vary.
8. Gymnema sylvestre
Gymnema sylvestre is a vine that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diabetes, obesity, and inflammation. The leaves of the plant contain gymnemic acids, which temporarily impair your ability to taste sweetness, without impacting your ability to taste other flavors. You can experience this effect by chewing the leaves of the plant, brewing it as a tea, or eating lozenges or mints that contain Gymnema sylvestre.
In one study, participants were given samples of their favorite chocolate. Then they ate either a mint containing Gymnema sylvestre or a placebo. Those who ate the Gymnema sylvestre mint ate 21% less chocolate within the next 15 minutes. They also said that they were less interested in eating the chocolate, and if they did eat it, that it tasted less pleasant. Interestingly, these effects were even more pronounced among those who had a self-proclaimed “sweet tooth.”
Other studies have found that combining garcinia cambogia with gymnema sylvestre can suppress appetite to such an extent that weight loss occurs.
The bottom line: Gymnemna sylvestre has been proven to suppress appetite and produce some weight loss, and may be even more effective among people who crave sweet foods.
9. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in animal foods like beef, lamb, and dairy products. In addition to suppressing appetite, it may have some anti-carcinogenic effects, as well, although more research is needed.
Human and animal studies suggest CLA may help with fat burning. In one study of healthy adults, those who took a daily CLA supplement lost more body fat, with those who took higher doses losing more body fat. But, they didn’t necessarily lose body weight, suggesting that CLA may affect body composition but not body weight. Still, other studies have found that people lose both fat mass and body weight when taking supplements of CLA.
But, CLA can have its downsides as well. In one study of men with abdominal obesity, participants lost weight and fat, but they also experienced reduced insulin sensitivity, increased blood sugar, and other negative effects on their metabolic health. And while some studies have found that CLA can improve glucose metabolism in people with type 2 diabetes, others have found that it has no impact.
The bottom line: CLA can help suppress your appetite, but it may not be the right fit for everybody, particularly if you have type 2 diabetes or other metabolic conditions.
If you like spicy food, you’re probably a fan of capsaicin, even if you’ve never heard of it before. It’s the ingredient that gives peppers their signature heat. You can find capsaicin in chili and cayenne peppers as well as supplements.
Traditionally, capsaicin has been used to relieve pain and headaches and to improve circulation. Research shows that it may suppress ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and kickstart a number of other reactions that may affect your appetite and metabolism.
Capsaicinoids and capsinoids increase feelings of fullness and reduce appetite, leading people to eat less. Eating capsaicin, especially more than 2 grams, before a meal can reduce your caloric intake during that meal. Capsaicin also increases energy expenditure.
However, while scientists agree that capsaicin tends to promote a short-term energy imbalance, it’s unclear whether it leads to sustained weight loss.
The bottom line: Good news for lovers of spicy food: all that spice may help you eat a little bit less, at least in the short term.
Get access to GLP-1 medication (if prescribed) and 1:1 support to meet your weight goals
Alternatives to appetite suppressants
Natural appetite suppressants sound great, but if you are looking to lose a significant amount of weight, they are probably not going to be all that helpful.
Lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are usually recommended as the first steps. For weight loss, however, changes like these can be challenging to initiate and maintain on your own. But, don’t lose hope. Studies show that people who have a health coach are significantly more likely to stick to their weight loss routine. In one two-year study, those who received intensive lifestyle coaching lost nearly 5% of their body weight, while those who didn’t lose less than 0.5%.
The Ro Body Program includes a dedicated health coach who provides weekly resources to keep you on track. First, you’re matched with a licensed healthcare provider who will review your medical history, weight loss goals, and experience with losing weight. Based on your appointment and a follow-up lab test, they will connect you with your health coach and may also provide a prescription for a GLP-1 medication like Wegovy or Ozempic.
Originally developed to treat type 2 diabetes, many GLP-1 medications were found to produce significant weight loss — up to 16% in the case of Wegovy — and may now be prescribed, on- or off-label, to treat obesity as well. Gastrointestinal side effects like nausea and vomiting are common to these medications but typically go away with time.
There are also prescription weight loss drugs like Orlistat, phentermine/topiramate, and naltrexone/bupropion. These have proven to produce weight loss of 5% or more in most people within a year. Gastrointestinal side effects are also common with these diet pills.
Both GLP-1 drugs and prescription weight loss medications can have adverse side effects or safety profiles that aren’t safe for everybody. Always speak to a health provider or nutritionist first before trying a new supplement or medication.
Finally, remember that you can always incorporate some of these natural appetite suppressants into your diet. For instance, fenugreek and glucomannan owe a lot of their power to their high-fiber content, and you can find CLA in high-protein foods like beef, lamb, and dairy products.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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