Boosters for weight loss: part one

Whilst our programme of changing lifestyle to enhance our health has, as a side-effect, weight loss, there are a few evidence-based tweaks or tricks which can accelerate that weight loss. They are listed below with a brief description. I hope you will find ways of incorporating at least a few of them into your daily routine.

Accountability (being scared skinny)
Having someone to report to helps keep motivation levels high. Belonging to a group and/or engaging a coach is demonstrated in random-control trials to produce better results than going it alone.

Self monitoring
This seems to be a cornerstone for behavioural change. There are many devices and apps which can assist you in this respect, but in terms of simple metrics a tape measure and bathroom scales stand the test, as do how are your clothes fitting? and how do you feel? However, research show folks who weigh themselves frequently were more successful at losing weight and maintaining that weight loss than those who didn’t weigh themselves or did so infrequently. The research has not yet established any link between frequent weighing and disordered eating or depression about body image.

This is really quite exciting as it is a low-cost, effective intervention with promising results! Sufficiently so to convince me to implement it on a daily base into my daily habits, even though I find the stuff vile!
There is quite a lot of science here, so I will try to make it simple without losing the understanding of what this enzyme can do for us. AMPK is a relatively recently discovered enzyme which can flip the ‘switch’ in your body to start burning fat rather than storing it. The obvious ways it starts to work are if we don’t eat or we exercise. AMPK activation leads to an increase in the power plant of cells, the mitochondria, which burn fat and create energy.
A number of foods/substances stimulate the production of AMPK :
Berberine (barberries)
The nightshade vegetables
Fibre (particularly water soluble fibre)
Vinegar: AMPK can be activated by a number of foods (as above), but why worry when studies have demonstrated the power of vinegar in doing so? It has been shown to be especially effective in eliminating visceral fat, the worst kind (belly fat). The dose is a tablespoon twice a day diluted in water. Any vinegar will do, but for its many other benefits apple cider vinegar is a good option.
Yacon Syrup! (Take a little with caution.)
Yacon syrup is derived from the root of the yacon plant, has a caramel taste, is about half as sweet as honey but only one third the calories. It contains fructans which we can’t digest but our good gut bacteria love it. Admittedly a small, but robust study demonstrated the participants who took the yacon, as opposed to the control group placebo, lost 33 pounds whilst the placebo group gained 3.5 pounds. Their waist size, fasting insulin, LDL levels all went down also, whereas there was no change in the placebo group. Likewise with reports of constipation.
The cautionary note is that overdosing, which may not be very much, can cause flatulence and diarrhoea. Anyone with digestive issues should proceed with caution!
An effective dose maybe 1 to 2 teaspoons before meals. Start small, see your tolerance and work your way up. It has the same effect as eating more of any soluble fibre than you usually do. You can use yacon as a sweetener, but you cannot cook with it as high temperatures alter its structure.
Also, as with the vinegar, it only works as long as you keep using it; unless you support the changes by adopting new lifestyle habits you will be back to where you started in no time.

Appetite suppression
Chia seeds
People in studies ate less following eating chia seeds, 25% less (two teaspoons in yogurt: just 35 calories). They are packed full of fibre and protein and are a rich source of minerals and antioxidants.
Flax seeds
In studies flax seed had a more profound effect on weight loss than chia seeds. A tablespoon of ground flax seed appears to be an appropriate dose. Flax seeds are rich in fibre and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Flax supplements do not appear to have the same effect and you must ensure you are well hydrated if eating them, or digestive issues could ensue.
In a three-month study, overweight women were randomized to eat a calorie restricted diet with or without a teaspoon of added cumin a day (two doses of half a teaspoon). Over the study period, the cumin eaters lost over four pounds more and an extra inch off their waists, plus lowering their triglycerides and cholesterol.
Black cumin (Nigella seeds)
Systematic reviews and meta-analysis of random-controlled trials have found that daily consumption of black cumin significantly improves cholesterol profile, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar control. Some of these results are quite extraordinary: menopausal women who ate one quarter of a teaspoon a day reduced their LDL cholesterol by 27% within two months — equivalent to taking a statin! As with so many things, it went back up when participants stopped taking it.
In recent systematic reviews and meta-analysis of weight loss trials it was found a quarter teaspoon of nigella reduced BMI within a couple of months.
Saffron has long been used for treating depression; a noted side-effect is diminished appetite. Put to the test in a trial, saffron led to significant weight loss in comparison to the placebo: 5lbs and an inch off the waist in eight weeks. The dose equivalent to drinking tea made from a large pinch of saffron strands!
Saffron is linked to ‘mood boosting’. In a study looking at snacking it was found taking saffron extract did cut snack intake in half compared to a placebo. Even less saffron was used than in previous study.
Saffron is expensive; the maximum dose we are talking about here would cost 70 pence!