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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
January 2012

Integrative Therapies for Weight Loss

Many integrative therapies have been studied for their potential effects on weight loss. Among the foods, herbs, supplements and modalities that may aid in weight reduction are chitosan, konjac glucomannan, whey protein, psychotherapy and hydroxycitric acid.

Chitosan: Chitosan comes from chitin, which is part of the outer shell-like structure of insects, spiders, and crustaceans. Chitosan is sold in the United States and other countries as a form of dietary fiber that reduces fat absorption. However, scientific evidence suggests only a small effect of chitosan on fat absorption. While some studies suggest that chitosan is an effective weight loss therapy, others have found it is ineffective. More evidence is needed.

Konjac glucomannan: Glucomannan is a soluble and highly viscous dietary fiber. Although glucomannan is a term for a sugar derived from various sources, the most common meaning for glucomannan is for the soluble fiber derived from the root of Amorphophallus konjac (elephant yam or konjac plant). When consumed, it absorbs water in the digestive tract, reducing absorption of carbohydrates and cholesterol. It is this property that makes glucomannan a product of interest with respect to weight loss, blood sugar lowering, and cholesterol reduction. There is good evidence to support the use of glucomannan for cholesterol reduction, constipation, diabetes and weight loss.

Whey protein: Whey protein is one of the two major groups of proteins found in milk. It is a highly digestible source of protein. Whey protein has been found to reduce short-term food intake and may aid in reducing appetite. The role of whey protein in body weight control has also been studied. Whey protein may aid in weight loss, however, further research is necessary.

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is an interactive process between a person and a qualified mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, licensed counselor, or other trained practitioner). Its purpose is the exploration of thoughts, feelings, and behavior for the purpose problem solving or achieving higher levels of functioning. Several studies indicate that people who are overweight or obese may benefit from behavioral and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy in combination with diet and exercise.

Hydroxycitric acid: (-)-Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is a main component of the dried fruit rind of Garcinia cambogia, a native Southeast Asian plant commonly known as brindleberry or Malabar tamarind. HCA is present in high concentrations in Garcinia cambogia and is also found in the tropical plant Hibiscus sabdariffa. HCA is currently used in a number of over-the-counter weight loss products. HCA may also enhance exercise performance, but different studies have produced conflicting results. More high-quality clinical trials are needed.

For more information on integrative therapies studied for weight loss, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

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  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright 2013 Natural Standard Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited.