A dieter's new best friend?

A dieter’s new best friend?

Plant-based supplement could help older adults maintain weight loss

 By Czerne M. Reid

Stephen Anton/Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Losing weight sometimes seems like a losing battle; most people who drop pounds by restricting calories eventually regain the lost weight. That’s because hormonal changes associated with weight loss prod people to eat more as the body tries to defend itself against the perceived “hardship.”

Researchers at UF’s Institute on Aging are studying whether a plant-based supplement can aid long-term weight loss by controlling hunger and food intake. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is funding the project.

After diet-induced weight loss, hormonal changes and the release of certain proteins signal the brain to increase food intake. In addition, the metabolism slows, making it harder to keep lost weight at bay. Dietary supplements that allow people to feel satisfied after eating fewer calories have the potential to counteract those changes, researchers say.

“It’s a biological challenge that people are up against, that simply following a calorie-restricted diet and exercise regimen doesn’t seem to overcome,” said lead researcher Stephen Anton, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the College of Medicine department of aging and geriatric research and a member of the UF Institute on Aging.

Research shows people can lose weight by eating fewer calories. But maintaining weight loss requires a 20 percent to 40 percent reduction in calorie intake, and most people have difficulty sticking with such a regimen. About 95 percent of people regain lost weight within five years.

The product being studied at UF is called hydroxycitric acid, and is from a plant called Garcinia cambogia. It is thought to affect how hormonal signals are sent to the brain. The researchers will study how safe the compound is, and how effective it is at reducing the amount of food people eat, increasing feelings of satisfaction after meals, boosting weight loss and reducing damage known as oxidative stress.