Overweight is a condition when one’s body weight exceeds the ideal body weight due to the accumulation of fats in the body. Measurement of one’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to determine whether one is in a healthy weight range. BMI measures one’s body fat based on the height and weight of the individual. Individuals who have a BMI of between 25 to 30kg/m2 will be considered overweight. 1The main reason for this excessive body weight is due to the imbalance between calorie intake and energy expenditure. A high BMI reading is considered a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders (example: osteoarthritis) and some cancers (colon, breast).
Excessive body weight can be managed by practicing healthy eating habits such as reducing intake of food which are rich in fat and sugar, increasing consumption of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and engaging in physical activities.1 There are products sold on the market with claims to help in reducing body weight. Some of these products are formulated with ingredients which have been used traditionally for weight loss. Common ingredients include Garcinia cambogia, Cassia angustifolia (Senna), Hoodia gordonii and Phaseolus vulgaris. These ingredients work through different mechanisms in the body to aid in weight loss.
Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit which can be found in Malaysia, India and Africa. This fruit contains an active component known as hydroxycitric acid (HCA) which helps in metabolizing fats in the body and also helps cut back the appetite. HCA blocks the action of citrate lyase; an enzyme present in the body that catalyzes fatty acid formation.
Some common side effects associated with the intake of Garcinia cambogia is nausea, diarrhea, stomach discomfort, dizziness and headache.
Cassia angustifolia (Senna)
Senna is commonly used as a laxative and is usually present in weight loss products. The most common part of the plant used are its leaves and fruits. Senna contains sennosides, which exert its laxative effect by stimulating the peristaltic movement of the bowel.
Common side effects of Senna include diarrhea, stomach discomfort/feeling of bloatness, nausea, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Consumers are advised not to use Senna when abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting are present. Frequent or prolonged use of this preparation may result in dependence towards the product and bring about electrolyte imbalances. Consumers are also advised to consult a healthcare practitioner for use beyond 7 days.
Hoodia gordonii is a cactus like type of plant indigenous to the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. It contains a type of steroidal glycoside known as p57, which acts in the brain to block hunger signals and thus reduces the appetite and desire to eat.
Individuals with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, anorexia/bulimia or eating disorders are advised to consult a doctor before taking any products containing Hoodia gordonii. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are also advised not to take Hoodia gordonii without prior consultation with their medical practioner.
Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean from the Fabaceae family can be easily found throughout the world. This common bean has been traditionally used to reduce body weight and to overcome obesity. Phaseolin, the active component found in Phaseolus vulgaris helps in reducing body weight by blocking the action of the enzyme, alpha-amylase. This enzyme plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism.10
Intake of Phaseolus vulgaris can cause side effects such as diarrhea and or a bloated stomach.
Advice for consumers
Consumers are advised to consult a pharmacist or doctor before consuming any weight loss product. Consumption of weight loss products without proper medical supervision can be detrimental to health as it can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, dry mouth and throat, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headache and difficulty in sleeping.
It is important to ensure that the medications or health products that you are taking are registered with the Ministry of Health Malaysia. A registered product can be easily identified by its registration number (MAL) and the hologram sticker affixed to the product. It is important for one to only consume a registered product as products that are not registered with the Ministry of Health might be adulterated with banned ingredients. As the efficacy and safety of these weight loss products have not been established, it is advisable not to consume these products for long term. Individuals who wish to reduce their body weight should opt for other measures like engaging in physical activities and practicing healthy eating habits. One should always consult your healthcare professional on available options to reduce body weight the safe way.
- World Health Organization Media Centre Fact Sheets on Obesity and Overweight [updated January 2015]. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/
- Globinmed. Global Information Hub On Integrated Medicine [homepage on the internet]. No date [cited 26/3/2015]. Retrieved from http://www.globinmed.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=81106:garcinia&catid=26:medicinal-herbs-a-plants-professional
- Natural Medicines Professional Monograph on Garcinia [homepage on the internet]. No date [cited 26/3/2015]. Retrieved from https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=818
- WebMD [homepage on the internet]. No date [cited 26/3/2015]. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/garcinia-cambogia-weight-loss#1
- Medline Plus [last reviewed on 11/6/2014] Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/652.html
- Drugs.com [homepage on the internet]. No date [cited 26/3/2015]. Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/senna.html
- Drug Registration Guidance Document (DRGD) First Edition- Revised January 2015. Specific labeling requirements for Senna, page 450.
- WebMD [homepage on the internet]. No date [cited 26/3/2015]. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/hoodia-lots-of-hoopla-little-science
|Last Reviewed||:||16 May 2016|
|Writer/Translator||:||Chan Su Lyn|
|Accreditor||:||Datin Shantini Thevanderan|