Top Supplements That Help Torch Stubborn Belly Fat
According to the CDC, 41% of American adults are living with obesity and more than two thirds of the population are overweight, making obesity a serious public health crisis. Lifestyle factors such as sleep, stress, diet, gut health, and exercise all have an impact on weight loss and, specifically, dangerous belly fat. Why is belly fat so concerning, compared to fat stored in other parts of the body?
"The issue is health, not cosmetics," says Dr. Garth Davis, a bariatric surgeon at Houston Methodist. "The presence of visceral fat is a good predictor of the development of chronic metabolic disease, whether it's hypertension, heart disease or diabetes… The heavier you are, the fuller the standard areas to store fat become, meaning that the fat ends up being deposited around your abdominal organs and your heart. In surgery with these patients, it's a very short distance from the skin to the belly, but then the belly is just filled with fat — fat in the liver, fat lining the intestines, fat everywhere."
When it comes to fat-burning supplements, experts warn that it's a case of "buyer beware"—these supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so not only is there no way of knowing if they work, but they might have serious side effects. "Because the FDA doesn't regulate them, we don't really know their effectiveness," says Melissa Matteo, RD. "Patients aren't always forthcoming about what supplements they're taking. But ingredients in fat burners can interact with medications and cause serious problems, so it's important to make sure your doctor is aware."
With that said, certain ingredients have shown promise with encouraging fat loss—but please never take any supplement without discussing it with a healthcare professional. Here are five supplements that could help torch stubborn belly fat. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Studies show that green tea extract combined with exercise can help burn fat, especially fat stores in the abdominal region. Researchers from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences discovered that mice on a high-fat diet that ingested green tea extract and exercised experienced significant health improvements, including a reduction in both insulin resistance and fasting blood glucose level.
"What is significant about this research is that we report for the first time that voluntary exercise in combination with green tea extract reduced symptoms of metabolic syndrome and diet-induced obesity in high-fat-fed mice more significantly than either treatment alone," says lead researcher Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science. "The changes in body weight and body fat may result from increased fat metabolism and decreased fat synthesis. Green tea seems to modulate genes related to energy metabolism."
Studies show that caffeine can help with fat loss by increasing metabolism and slowing weight gain. Research from Harvard University in 2020 showed that people who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee per day experienced a four percent decrease in body fat, while a 2019 study published in Scientific Reports showed that even one cup a day led to brown adipose tissue response which caused weight loss. Another study shows that taking caffeine half an hour before a workout increases fat burning.
"The recommendation to exercise on an empty stomach in the morning to increase fat oxidation is commonplace," says Francisco José Amaro-Gahete, of the University of Granada's Department of Physiology. "However, this recommendation may be lacking a scientific basis, as it is unknown whether this increase is due to exercising in the morning or due to going without food for a longer period of time. The results of our study showed that acute caffeine ingestion 30 minutes before performing an aerobic exercise test increased maximum fat oxidation during exercise regardless of the time of day."
Protein is essential for the maintenance and support of every cell in the human body, and supplies us with essential amino acids. Protein plays a role in several crucial health processes including bone health, muscle growth and repair, immune health, blood cell formation, and much more. "Proteins are involved in just about every body function from controlling blood sugar levels to healing wounds and fighting off bacteria," says Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CN. "Certain proteins also play an important, even critical, role in aging. In fact, some studies suggest that low protein intake, irrespective of the source, may be associated with a small increase in risk of all-cause mortality among older adults."
"Several studies show that protein helps people with weight loss even without changing anything else in their diet (like cutting calories)," says Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN. "It supports lean muscle mass while reducing body fat, and it helps people feel fuller for longer so that they are less likely to snack. One study found that eating a high protein diet (thirty-five percent total calories) divided into six meals a day decreased body fat and abdominal body fat. Protein may also help with weight loss maintenance. Higher protein diets may be easier to maintain than other changes in macronutrients (like very low-carb diets) and therefore help people continue to eat well and maintain weight loss."
Getting enough fiber is useful for fat burning—studies show that fiber in your diet can make a significant impact on weight loss. Fiber also offers a host of other health benefits, including managing blood sugar, keeping hunger at bay, supporting digestive health, lowering cholesterol, and normalizing bowel movements.
"In addition to weight control, higher fiber diets can also help to prevent type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. So what's the optimum amount of fiber? "For women, it's at least 25 grams and for men, it's 38 grams. Yet 19 out of 20 Americans are not just a little deficient in fiber but eat extremely low amounts," says Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, author of Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome.
Capsaicin is the spicy active compound which gives chili peppers their fiery taste. Studies into capsaicin have shown promising evidence about its role in helping with fat-burning and weight loss—for example, anti-obesity drug Metabocin is designed to release capsaicin throughout the day, and has been shown to encourage improved metabolic health and weight loss in animal studies.
"We observed marked improvements in blood sugar and cholesterol levels, insulin response, and symptoms of fatty liver disease," says Dr. Baskaran Thyagarajan. "It proved safe and was well tolerated by the mice. Developing Metabocin as a potent anti-obesity treatment shows promise as part of a robust strategy for helping people struggling with obesity."