Can carb blockers and fat blockers help you lose weight? Do they really work? Chances are, you have heard about these weight loss supplements and their promise of guilt-free carbohydrate and fat consumption. But do these weight-loss products deliver on their promises?
According to some medical professionals, fat and carbohydrate blockers can be beneficial to your weight loss routine — but not to the degree you might think. They are dietary supplements, not prescription drugs, and their effectiveness is different.
Weight Loss Supplements
Carb blockers and fat blockers are not the same as acarbose, for example. Acarbose is the generic name for a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes. Marketed under the brand name Precose, acarbose slows starch absorption for blood sugar control.
Carbohydrate blocking and fat blocking pills are marketed as weight loss supplements. As dietary supplements, they do not go through the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process. As a result, their safety and effectiveness is not regulated in the same way medications are regulated.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) is a trade group for the dietary supplements industry. It represents the manufacturers and ingredient suppliers for supplement products. The manufacturers are responsible for marketing safe products, and the CRN says studies show carb blockers and fat blockers to be safe and promising for overweight and obese people.
The Role of Carb Blockers
Carbohydrate blockers, also known as starch blockers, contain an ingredient derived from white kidney beans. Known as phaselous vulgaris, the extract works to block alpha-amylase, a starch-digesting enzyme found in a person’s pancreatic juice and saliva. Carb blockers keep your body from absorbing carbohydrates, allowing them to pass through your small intestines undigested or partially digested. The result is fewer carb calories and, hopefully, weight loss.
The Role of Fat Blockers
Fat blockers, also called fat binders, have received as much press as carb blockers. Considered weight loss pills, they claim to block your body’s absorption of dietary fat. Fat binders may contain a drug called a lipase inhibitor or a natural ingredient called chitosan, commonly found in shellfish. Many of the popular fat blockers in today’s market contain an ingredient known as opuntia ficus-indica, an extract taken from the prickly pear cactus. These products claim they can bind nearly 30 percent of a person’s fat consumption.
Essentially, fat blockers are designed to “bind” dietary fat to keep your digestive system from metabolizing it. Medical experts believe that some fat blockers do contain ingredients that can interfere with the body’s fat absorption. But studies have not revealed any substantial weight loss from taking these products.
Benefits And Side Effects
Fat binders and carb blockers do work, to some degree, to keep your body from digesting and metabolizing dietary fat and starches. They also help you eliminate the undigested or partially digested nutrients through bowel movements. But taking these pills as part of your weight loss routine is not a license to eat excessively. You still need to watch your food intake for successful weight loss and weight management.
Dieters should be aware that fat blockers and starch blockers can have unpleasant, unwanted side effects. By preventing the body from breaking down nutrients, including fats and starches, these pills can cause a variety of gastrointestinal problems. Carb and fat blockers commonly cause painful gas, bloating, and diarrhea. In addition, these pills can block the absorption of vital nutrients that normally travel with the fat and starches.
On the other hand, some carb blockers today include fiber among their ingredients. Fiber is good for the body — it fills you up, curbs your hunger, and satisfies your appetite. Diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, generally provide enough fiber for most diets. Fiber tablets and powders are available to supplement the natural fiber. Research shows that people who get up to 20 grams of fiber — whether from their diet or from dietary supplements like carb and fat blockers — are generally more successful in controlling their weight.
A Magic Weight Loss Bullet?
Overall, carbohydrate blockers and fat binders are no magic bullets. There is nothing magic about these pills. But that does not mean they cannot be helpful for your weight loss routine. Part of their effectiveness comes from their psychological benefits. Taking dietary supplements gives you a sense of control, a sense that you are doing something good for your body. In this regard, carb blockers and fat binders may be just the thing to help you stick to your program. After all, it is ultimately the healthy diet, the exercise, and the “stick-to-it-iveness” that will help you lose the weight.