Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:47 AM ET
There are always plenty of questions surrounding achieving weight loss, whether it’s about taking supplements or eating protein or drinking water. But how’s a person supposed to know what is fact or what is fiction? TODAY nutrition expert Joy Bauer answers your questions, including two bonus online-only answers.
Michelle, from Mora, Minn.: I've heard a lot of hype about raspberry ketones enhancing weight loss. Do they actually help you lose weight?
Joy Bauer: I can’t completely rule it out – but there’s no clinical research to back up a weight loss claim.
Raspberry ketones are one of the compounds in red raspberries that give the fruit its aroma, and they are chemically similar to a stimulant called synephrine. A couple of laboratory studies in test tubes and mice have found that high doses of the compounds MAY aid in weight loss or help prevent weight gain, presumably by increasing the breakdown of fat. But the key word is “may” – because at this time, there are NO studies in humans providing evidence that these compounds are effective. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that while raspberries only contain trace amounts of these naturally occurring “raspberry ketones”, the supplement versions contain highly concentrated amounts. These huge amounts have yet to be studied in humans and could cause worrisome side effects.
Bottom line: don’t be a guinea pig for an untested supplement with no proven benefits.
Alyssa, from Oshkosh, Wis.: I heard apple cider vinegar helps curb your appetite. If so, how much do you need and what time during the day should I consume it?
Joy Bauer: Although it’s not 100 percent confirmed, the acetic acid in vinegar (ALL types of vinegar, including white, balsamic, red wine, champagne, as well as apple cider vinegar) may actually have some fat-fighting capabilities. Here’s what we know:
Consuming between 2 teaspoons and 2 tablespoons of vinegar with a meal can decrease the rise in blood sugar that typically occurs after eating (that’s good news for diabetics). Some studies have also found that vinegar may increase satiety or fullness…which means you could wind up eating less and, therefore, losing weight.
Of course, drinking straight vinegar isn’t very appetizing and could irritate your esophagus, so I suggest having a vegetable salad (or something as simple as a sliced tomato or cucumber) topped with one to two tablespoons vinegar and a few dashes of olive oil before lunch and/or dinner. We already know for sure that the low-cal, high-volume vegetables will help fill you up before the main meal, and who knows, the vinegar may help too! And remember that any variety of vinegar will work – the apple cider type doesn’t offer any special advantage.
Allison, from Columbia, Mo.: Are the claims that “green coffee bean extract” can increase weight loss true? I am thinking about trying the powder and just want to make sure it isn't another diet fad that doesn't really work.
Joy Bauer: It’s too soon to tell. Green coffee bean extract is derived from raw coffee beans, and it’s rich in an active compound called chlorogenic acid. (The roasting process destroys most of the chlorogenic acid so coffee made from roasted beans only has a small amount.) Scientists hypothesize that green coffee extract may help people lose weight by inhibiting glucose (sugar) absorption and altering fat metabolism. A handful of studies have found that overweight people taking green coffee extract from a supplement or enriched green coffee beverage do lose some weight, but the effect is modest and the studies to-date are small and short (plus, some are poor-quality). In addition, the supplement hasn’t been studied long enough to determine if there are concerning side effects.
My vote is to hold off on the purchase. We need longer, more rigorous trials to see if the slimming benefits hold up, and if they do, the effect certainly won’t be enough to displace diet and exercise if you have a significant amount of weight to shed.
Robyn, from Niagara Falls, Ontario: I heard that drinking a cup of ice water 10 minutes before a meal helps you to feel full so you will eat less later, but all it does is make me pee. What am I doing wrong?
Joy Bauer: Drinking water before meals can give you a weight loss advantage because it helps to fill you up with liquid volume, so you wind up eating less food during your meal. A 2010 study published in the journal Obesity found that dieters who drank two glasses (16 ounces) of H2O before meals consumed fewer calories at meals than those who didn’t, and lost 44 percent more weight over the course of 12 weeks. And it doesn’t necessarily matter if the water is hot, cold or luke warm.
Maybe there’s a chance the extra water IS working for you – but you don’t realize it because you don’t have a reference point. And even if it’s not helping, I’d still stick with your routine, because water is such a terrific hydrator…and most people don’t drink enough!
Tina, from Port Orange, Fla.: Is it true that eating a low calorie diet and then increasing your calories on a given day will shock your metabolism, therefore boosting it?
Joy Bauer: Sadly, no. Temporarily increasing your calorie intake for one day – the technical term scientists give this is “overfeeding” – may give your metabolism a slight boost, in part because it takes a little more energy to process and digest the extra food, but it won’t be enough to offset the additional calories you’re getting from the extra food. In other words, if you eat 500 extra calories and your body burns off a few of those extra calories, you’ll still be net positive relative to days when you eat less. Instead, stick with a consistent, low-calorie diet (I recommend 1,200 to 1,600 a day for most women who are trying to lose weight) – and if you want to give your metabolism a truly effective boost, tack on an extra 10 to 15 minutes to your usual cardio routine.
Yvonne, from Layton, Utah: Eat your protein first at every meal and carbohydrates last. Does it really make a difference?
Joy Bauer: It could. This advice probably stems from the fact that protein tends to be more filling than calorie-dense carbohydrates like pasta, rice, potatoes and bread. If you gobble up your chicken, turkey or fish first, you may be too full to finish off all of the starchy sides on your plate, and you’ll save yourself some calories. But there are a few problems with this theory: First, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and green beans, are carbohydrates too, but unlike starches (higher calorie carbs like potatoes, rice and pasta), they are low in calories and incredibly filling, so you definitely don’t want to hold those until the end of the meal. Second, if you’re the type of eater who always polishes their plate clean regardless of your internal fullness cue, eating your protein first isn’t going to make a difference. You’ll eat the same amount of food regardless of the order.
My advice is to limit your portions of starchy carbs (rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, beans, corn, peas) to no more than 2 servings per meal (that’s 1 cup or 2 slices in the case of bread). This way, you can eat normally, without manipulating your eating pattern, and you’ll automatically keep calories in check.
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