Spring is coming! Spring is coming – and with it neuroses about the size of your ass. Unless, that is, you’re one of those well-adjusted people who doesn’t care about your derriere dimensions, in which case, goody for you.
Everywhere I look, there’s an “all- natural’’ supplement containing stuff like licorice, dandelion, green tea, bladderwrack and a whole bunch more, claiming to boost your metabolism.
But can these kinds of supplements really speed up your system?
And if you do find a substance that sends your chemistry into overdrive, will it do you in? Remember ephedra – one minute hailed as a weight-loss wonder, ripped from shelves the next?
What the experts say
“Very few supplements have documented effects on metabolism. There is evidence to support the use of EGCG, the active ingredient in green tea. The patient can drink the 4 cups suggested or use a capsule to get the exact amount. Use caution if you have high blood pressure. 7-Keto DHEA has been proven to prevent the decrease in metabolism that happens when people start to restrict their calories. Good evidence shows that hydroxycitric acid decreases appetite and aids weight loss. Conjugated linoleic acid shows fantastic results for encouraging loss of fat and maintaining muscle.”
NATASHA TURNER, naturopath, Toronto
“You would not be able to tolerate a drug that would speed up your metabolism enough for you to lose significant weight. If you try to burn energy without using energy, it’s just going to heat up your body. You’d have profuse sweating and feel very uncomfortable. Your pulse would race. Your skin would turn red. While some substances, like green tea, may have a small effect on metabolism, they are not going to help burn off significant amounts of calories. ‘All-natural’ doesn't mean anything. Some of the most powerful poisons we know are all-natural.”
ARYA SHARMA, chair of obesity research and management, University of Alberta, Edmonton
“There is no clear evidence that any dietary supplement helps people lose weight. The supplement with the best evidence was ephedra, which is no longer available [due to evidence linking it to side effects from dizziness to strokes], and even then, research showed it only helped people lose an extra pound a month. The evidence for these natural products is really rather flimsy. At best, they may have a placebo effect.”
DAVID SCHARDT, senior nutritionist, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, DC
“Acupuncture works well. We see extra weight as a spleen dampness problem when your digestive system is sluggish and not able to extract the nutrients it needs. Making your digestive system work more efficiently means you don’t need as many calories. There are also emotional issues. Your belly is your dan tien (energy field), where your strength comes from. So in times of your life where you’re less able to cope and need more strength, you might need to be heavier to get through it.”
KALEB MONTGOMERY, Chinese medicine practitioner, Toronto