Update 7/21/20. Which appetite suppressants work? Which are safest? These are two of the most common questions I am asked. In this review, I'll look at the different types of appetite suppressants -yes there are different types. I'll show you the evidence for each, tell you which ones work, which ones don't work and which appear to be safest to use. Are there really any natural hunger solutions? I think yes – and the answer is simpler than you think. As always, the focus is on research and proof. Let's see which appetite suppressant is best for you.
What Is An Appetite Suppressant?
The name appetite suppressant refers to foods, supplements, or drugs which reduce appetite and/or hunger. Remember, appetite and hunger are different:
- Appetite: the desire to eat
- Hunger: the need for food. We need food to live.
See the difference. Hunger is what we experience when we need food. Appetite is the desire to eat and can be triggered by many things such as depression, peer pressure, happiness, and boredom for example.
The idea behind appetite suppression supplements is if appetite or hunger is reduced, we will eat fewer calories than normal and thus, lose weight.
Appetite suppressants fall into 6 different categories based on the way they are supposed to work:
- Fiber supplements
- Blood sugar supplements
- Supplements which raise/lower hunger hormones
- Spices / Spicy foods
There is some overlap between these different categories. In other words, some might act as fiber as well as activate anti-hunger hormones. Let's look at each of these categories separately.
There are 2 major ways fiber appetite suppressants work:
- Fiber has no calories. So we can't gain weight from it.
- Fiber fills us up, making us less likely to overeat
When it comes to appetite suppressants, I often see supplements containing 3 types of fiber:
- Konjac root (also called glucomannan)
Let's look at the research on each.
Konjac fiber – also called konjac root extract and glucomannan – is popular in appetite control supplements. Konjac is a fiber that expands in size when it comes in contact with liquids. Because it's able to increase its size in the stomach, some companies have subtly marketed their products to be substituted for weight loss surgery.
How can some researchers find konjac appetite suppressants work, while others find it doesn't? One explanation is the possibility that studies may not be well- conducted. It's also possible some studies don't use enough of the fiber. Studies showing konjac fiber works have used about 3000 mg (3 g) per day.
Konjac fiber is the key ingredient in the popular Lipozene supplement you may have seen actress Holly Robinson Peete talking about on TV. Lipozene has been around MANY years. Here's one of the Lipozene TV Commercials:
Lipozene is not the only appetite suppressant to contain glucomannan fiber. These other supplements also contain the fiber too:
Konjac fiber can be purchased by itself to be added to yogurt or smoothies. Here is one such product:
Psyllium is a soluble fiber. Like konjac fiber, we can't absorb psyllium and so it provides us with no calories. Psyllium also combines with water to increase in size. This slows digestion helping us feel full.
- 10% less food to be eaten
- 4.7 pounds lost
when people consumed just 14 grams of fiber daily for 4 months. That's not much. 14 grams is about 1 tablespoon.
In another investigation, psyllium + glucomannan (4 grams total) helped people feel fuller between meals and also reduced bad (LDL) cholesterol too.
Another fiber showing up in hunger suppressing supplements is polydextrose. It may also be called PDX on food and supplement labels. One investigation summary noted polydextrose fiber can reduce the desire to eat and overeat.
Polydextrose is starting to get the attention of supplement companies that make appetite suppressants. For example, polydextrose is the key ingredient in Plexus Slim Hunger Control (review).
Here's a video of Plexus Hunger Control I created:
For reducing appetite, researchers have used anywhere from 6 grams a day to 25 grams a day. If you have never used polydextrose before, I suggest starting with less than 25 grams, such as only 1 or 2 grams, and see if that works.
Also consider the fiber you get from fruits, veggies, and beans as that counts too. Remember, too much dietary fiber before you have adjusted to it can give you “the runs,” as my mom used to call it.
Fiber: The Microbiome Connection
It's possible fiber also helps curb appetite by changing the types of bacteria living inside us. These bacteria make up the microbiome. The bacteria inside us eat the fiber we consume and give off substances that benefit us. Eating different foods alters the types of bacteria inside us. Eating more fiber encourages healthy bacteria to flourish.
This is why fiber is called prebiotics. Prebiotics are the food of probiotic bacteria.
So How Does This Work?
When we eat fiber – any fiber – the healthy bacteria inside us increase the production of short-chain fatty acids such as asacetate, propionate, and butyrate. These short-chain fatty acids do many things such as increase production of the hunger-quenching hormone, leptin.
Short-chain fatty acids bind to fat cells which then release the hormone leptin. As leptin levels go up, it sends a signal to the brain saying we are no longer hungry.
Some have proposed the rise in body weight since the industrial revolution may be tied to reduced fiber intake and reduced production of leptin. While this is speculation, the take-home message is to eat more fiber.
FBCX is another substance found in some weight loss supplements. FBCX stands for fat binding complex. Here, the FBCX wraps around fat, making it harder to absorb. We then poop out the fat without absorbing its calories. Basically FBCX works the same way as some weight loss drugs. FBCX – is a fat blocker and not an appetite suppressant.
Summary Of Fiber Appetite Suppressant Effects
Based on the evidence, fiber appears to suppress appetite by:
- making us feel full longer
- providing no calories
- increasing short-chain fatty acids which increase leptin and other anti-hunger hormones
Blood Sugar Appetite Suppressants
The idea with these types of supplements is hunger is increased when blood sugar levels are not stabilized. Too low or too high blood sugar increases appetite and weight gain. If blood sugar can be balanced, then appetite will be reduced and you can lose weight.
Blood sugar appetite suppression supplements may include ingredients such as:
Sometimes companies will also make reference to how ingredients like these can reduce insulin resistance, one of the hallmark signs of diabetes.
While it's possible substances like these might help stabilize blood sugar, I think curbing appetite is more complex than this. It's possible -and probable -hunger suppressing supplements may contain multiple ingredients in an attempt to work in several ways. In other words, they won't just work by helping regulate blood sugar.
Because of side effects, people with blood sugar problems – like diabetics – should be cautions of ingredients touted to reduce blood sugar. Blood sugar which is too low may require medical attention.
Sometimes, a doctor might prescribe an appetite suppressant called phentermine (fen-ter-mean). One of the things phentermine – a drug similar to amphetamines – does, stimulates the satiety center in the brain, making use lose the urge to eat. As a stimulant, they also wake us up, making it more likely do more physical activity.
I think these effects are at the heart of stimulant-based appetite suppressants. The idea is to replicate the effects of the drug.
While caffeine is the most popular substance found in this category of supplements, it's a coin toss if it reduces appetite or not. Some studies say yes, while others say no.
Sometimes companies add other ingredients to caffeine to try to boost its effects. These can include:
It's my opinion appetite suppressants based on stimulant ingredients don't work. I have not seen convincing proof they reduce appetite – or more importantly – help you lose weight. I also believe combining multiple stimulants together, increases the chances of side effects.
Side Effects of Stimulants
- elevated heart rate
- cause heart arrhythmias
- elevated blood pressure
- higher blood sugar levels
- cause liver problems/liver failure
- worsening of some mental disorders
- cause insomnia
Some side effects have occurred in healthy people. Since some who want to suppress appetite may have health issues, I believe the risk outweighs any benefits.
What About Hoodia?
Hoodia gordonni continues to be popular as both an appetite suppressor and weight loss aid. Despite this, I've never been convinced it worked. Original reports from people living in African deserts noted the leaves of this cactus plant could curb appetite.
While this sounds great, remember there is a big difference between living in the desert and your neighborhood where you can get food any time of the day or night.
More importantly, the hoodia gordonii research has not been impressive. Drug companies abandoned trying to make hoodia weight loss products years ago. This may be because of side effects. One hoodia study noted higher blood pressure, heart rates and liver enzymes in overweight women.
Hoodia gordonii continues to be popular on the internet but I suggest avoiding them. For more insights see these reviews:
The idea here is depression, stress and anxiety lead to overeating. If you feel better about yourself and have less stress, you won't overeat as much and lose weight naturally.
Some appetite suppressants in this category also have a reputation for reducing cortisol levels. The hormone, cortisol is associated with increased fat accumulation.
Supplements in this category may contain ingredients such as:
Each of these ingredients has various degrees of evidence hinting they can either reduce stress or curb hunger. Of these, saffron is fast becoming a popular anti-depressant/weight loss supplement. Ingredients like 5 HTP and passion flower have been around longer.
Looking at comments left at the Relacore and Relora reviews, people have said they felt better after taking these supplements. But whether or not supplements like these can suppress cravings enough to lead to weight loss deserves further study.
Hunger Hormone Appetite Suppressants
We know various hormones contribute to appetite and hunger. In theory, if we could alter these hormones, then our appetites would subside and we might lose weight. Two popular hormones often targeted by supplements are:
Here's the basic way they influence appetite:
- Leptin is a hormone made inside fat cells. Higher leptin levels = lower appetite.
- Ghrelin is a hormone made in the stomach. Higher ghrelin levels = lower appetite.
Do They Have Any Proof?
While claims of stimulating /blocking these hormones may sound impressive, I have not seen any good proof leptin or ghrelin supplements promote weight loss in people. That's the real test.
Some research shows overweight people may have leptin resistance. Leptin resistance occurs when people make leptin but doesn't work like it should be. This is similar to insulin resistance, diabetics deal with. Because of the unknowns, I'd avoid these supplements.
What About HCG Supplements?
Related to this are products touted to raise HCG -chorionic gonadotrophin. This is a pregnancy hormone. Since the 1950s, people have said HCG diet products both reduce appetite and help weight loss. I have looked the evidence for both injectable HCG protocols and homeopathic HCG supplements.
In both cases, I can't locate any convincing proof. That's not to say some people don't swear by these products. But, if we just look at the clinical research, that evidence shows it HCG weight loss products don't work.
I think appetite suppressants which clam to work by blocking/raising hormones are a simple answer to a complex question. If you are interested in products like this, first ask the company to provide you with “human studies proving their supplement helps people lose weight.”
Spices / Spicy Foods
Spices are great. They pack a lot of antioxidants, can reduce inflammation and a bunch of other things too numerous to list here -including suppressing appetite. Spices which have gotten the most attention in this area are:
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper (red pepper)
Researchers in Canada noted the addition of red pepper (cayenne pepper) to0 breakfast or appetizers reduced the desire to eat and calories consumed at a meal.
Other research has noted 1 gram of red pepper used before meals, reduced calorie intake. These investigators also hinted the benefits of red pepper may eventually wear off as people get used to it.
Other investigations suggest the benefits of spices may go beyond blunting cravings. Scientists have shown capsaicin, the ingredient in peppers which make them “hot” seems to:
- reduce blood sugar
- improve insulin function
- might also improve weight loss
Much of this research is based on animal studies so we'd need human proof to confirm this.
It's worth mentioning black pepper is often added to supplements to improve absorption. If you check your supplements, you may see piperine or Bioperine as ingredients. These words refer to black pepper.
What's The Safest Appetite Suppressant?
I believe the safest is the “best appetite suppressant.” I believe the best and safest are fiber supplements. Here's why:
- logically they make the most sense
- fiber works in multiple ways such as:
- filling us up
- providing no calories
- promoting short-chain fatty acids from the microbiome
- fiber avoids nasty side effects
- fiber supplements are often less expensive -this saves you money
So what kind of fiber are we talking about?
I'll always put an emphasis on eating more fruits, veggies, and beans. Generally, you can't go wrong with this. As for supplements, I think the best would be:
Both of these fibers have clinical studies to support their use and have been around a long time. They are safe for most people. While both psyllium can konjac can be purchased as both capsules and as a powder, I prefer the fiber powder best. This is because you can mix the fiber with smoothies or yogurt. You can even bake with it too.
I think Dr. Oz agrees with me. Notice the first thing he mentions at 4 minutes into this video
Who Should Avoid Appetite Suppressants
The following should use caution/speak to their doctor before using appetite curbing supplements:
- Pregnant women and nursing moms
- People with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia
- Those with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
- People who have cancer
- Those with sarcopenia, cachexia or other muscle-wasting diseases
- Anyone who also takes prescription weight loss medications
- People who have had weight loss surgery
- Those who have bowel obstructions
Appetite Suppressant Side Effects
The side effects you might experience with hunger suppressing supplements would be different depending on which type of supplement you took. I feel those containing stimulants carry the highest risk of side effects while fiber-based supplements have the lowest risk. No matter what supplements you experiment with, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Start with less than is recommended for the first week. This is to see what your side effects might be
- Talk to your doctor if you are breastfeeding or pregnant
- Stop taking supplements at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- Speak to your doctor if you take any medicine or have any health problems
When purchasing appetite suppressants from individuals who represent a company (they go by different names such as brand representatives, distributors, health coach, ambassadors, etc.), remember the person selling the product may not have a medical or nutrition background.
While it's good to have weight loss support, it would be a red flag if the health coach tried to sell you another supplement to compensate for the side effects are experiencing. The safest thing to do when experiencing side effects is to stop the supplement and see if the side effect goes away. If it doesn't, go to your doctor.
Reliable Appetite Suppressants
I hope this appetite suppressant review helped you sort fact from fiction as you try to decide which is best for you. While results may vary, the best course of action when trying to find hunger curbing supplements is to forget all the fancy words and claims and look for human weight loss proof. This is what most people are really looking for. Remember, suppressing appetite and weight loss does not always mean the same thing.