Weight loss and cutting back on food intake can go hand in hand. Unfortunately, cutting back on food intake can sometimes send hunger cues raging the opposite message making food choices a battle in the mind.
A natural solution for weight loss can seem to be suppressing appetite to help cut back food intake and take the edge off hunger cues. Many diet pills either over the counter or from a prescription claim to do just that: suppress appetite in order to successfully follow a lower calorie diet.
While the idea of taking a pill- whether natural or not- is enticing to help make weight loss successful, read on to learn why appetite suppressants may not be the answer for weight loss.
Do Natural Appetite Suppressants Work?
Natural appetite suppressants can be sold in various forms including pills or as a weight loss tea. They are derived from various plants and can claim to help take the edge off feeling hunger naturally.
The thought of using such appetite suppressant supplements may sound safe and effective way to lose weight. However, experts warn natural appetite suppressants do not have research backing up most of their weight loss claims.
Common natural appetite suppressants available over the counter often include the following:
• Green tea extract
• Caralluma fimbriata
• Griffonia simplicifolia
• Garcinia cambogia
• Bitter orange
While supplements may claim to help boost weight loss, there is minimal to no evidence to suggest natural appetite suppressants significantly help weight loss.
For example, a 2015 review concluded green tea has only been shown to affect weight loss in small, non-significant amounts. Similar studies with other natural appetite suppressants have also failed to show significant weight loss benefits.
Something else to keep in mind is some natural appetite suppressants, like fenugreek, have only been studied in mice.
What Is the Best Appetite Suppressant?
While natural appetite suppressants have not been shown to significantly affect weight loss, are there any appetite suppressants that really work? Prescription appetite suppressants exist but are only advised to take under the guidance of a doctor.
Cleveland Clinic suggests these prescription suppressants are most appropriate for those with a body mass index (BMI) over 30. A BMI over 27 with diabetes and/or high blood pressure may also justify weight loss medication.
Prescription appetite suppressants can include the following:
• Diethylpropion (Tenuate dospan®)
• Liraglutide (Saxenda®)
• Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave®)
• Phendimetrazine (Prelu-2®)
These appetite suppressants can help people lose three to nine percent of body weight in 12 months when combined with other efforts to lose weight, like following a healthy diet and exercise program.
While any of these may work to suppress appetite, determining which prescription is the best appetite suppressant will depend on individual health considerations. It will also be decided by your personal healthcare team.
Risk of Appetite Suppressants
Even if natural supplements may not have research behind weight loss claims, it may be tempting to think there is no harm in taking them. This especially serves true if they market as containing "natural" ingredients. However, even natural supplements can have potential risks.
Contrary to what may seem intuitive, dietary supplement firms do not need US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval prior to marketing their products.
For example, Ephedra, a once-popular appetite suppressant available over the counter, is now banned by the FDA due to safety concerns. In fact, the FDA advises consumers to beware as weight loss products are notorious for containing hidden ingredients that may be potentially harmful. If a supplement is making claims that sound too good to be true, do not fall for it.
Regardless, if wanting to try a natural appetite suppressant, make sure to consult your healthcare team first. Natural supplements could interact with prescription medications and other supplements or may be contraindicated for certain medical conditions.
Side effects from appetite suppressants can vary but can include the following:
• Liver damage
• Gastrointestinal distress
• Dry mouth
• Changes in blood pressure
Keep in mind appetite suppressants are meant to only be used short-term: 12 weeks or less. Therefore, they are not meant to be the sole way to sustainably support weight loss.
4 Ways to Curb Hunger Without Appetite Suppressants
The good news is there are ways to help curb hunger without taking a natural or prescription appetite suppressant. Implementing the following tips can help support long-term healthy eating habits to support healthy weight management.
1. Eat More Fiber
Weight loss and suppressing appetite do not just mean cutting back on all foods. Eating more high-fiber foods can naturally curb hunger and make you feel full long after eating.
In addition, increasing fiber not only benefits curbing hunger. Fiber can also benefit digestion, blood sugar regulation, and heart health.
High-fiber foods to eat more of include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts/seeds, and whole grains.
2. Load Up On Lean Protein
There is a reason many weight loss plans focus on higher protein foods. Protein has the highest satiety of all macronutrients; it takes the longest to break down in the digestive tract. This is why loading up on lean proteins can help curb hunger long after eating.
Additional research suggests eating 25-30 grams of protein at meals as part of a healthy, balanced diet can offer the benefit of encouraging muscle growth.
Lean proteins can include lean beef, pork, poultry, seafood, eggs, low-fat dairy, tofu/tempeh, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
3. Focus On Staying Hydrated
The body may be sending signals to the brain to drink more fluids, but the brain can interpret them as false signals to eat. In fact, inadequate hydration has been shown to be significantly associated with obesity. Therefore, drinking more water can be a way to help curb hunger that is mistaken for simply needing more fluids.
Fluid needs vary depending on several factors like age and gender. However, the 8 cups of water per day rule of thumb can be a good goal to start with.
Stick with primarily water as much as possible and add flavor with fruit slices as desired. Also, add a pop of carbonation with sparkling water or opt for hot or cold unsweetened tea.
4. Practice Mindful Eating
Appetite suppressants may not help with weight loss because they do not address reasons for eating beyond hunger. People eat for many reasons besides hunger including social cues, habits, and dealing with emotions.
Journaling about feelings before eating is one aspect of mindful eating that can help curb hunger. Are you turning to food because you are feeling stressed, bored, depressed, etc.? What can you do instead to deal with these feelings instead of eating?
Appetite Suppressant Recap
Turning to a natural or prescription supplement to help take the edge off of hunger can seem appealing to get desired weight loss goals. However, appetite suppressants alone will not produce desired weight loss results, especially long-term. There is very little evidence to suggest natural appetite suppressants work as may be claimed on the packaging.
Prescription appetite suppressants may help dieters stick to a low-calorie diet for weight loss. However, they are prescribed by a doctor and recommended for only certain populations. Even then, they are not a magic bullet for weight loss.
Appetite suppressants have potential risks and side effects and are not always "safe" even if naturally derived from a plant. Always check with a doctor before taking a weight loss supplement to avoid harmful side effects or interactions.
Curbing and reducing hunger can be done without taking an appetite suppressant. Eating foods that are good sources of fiber and protein can help increase satiety. Staying hydrated can also deter hunger cues, though likewise know to eat if truly hungry. Mindful eating can help tune into why you are turning to food, even if not physically feeling hungry and experiencing food cravings.
Appetite suppressants: Weight loss pills, types, effectiveness. Cleveland Clinic. Published September 25, 2020. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/9463-appetite-suppressants.
Dennett C. Hunger vs. thirst: Are you eating when you should be drinking? The Seattle Times. Published March 2, 2017. https://www.seattletimes.com/life/wellness/hunger-vs-thirst-are-you-eating-when-you-should-be-drinking/
Vergnaud S. The best natural appetite suppressants for weight ... - goodrx. Published March 24, 2021. https://www.goodrx.com/well-being/diet-nutrition/best-natural-appetite-suppressants.