Thyroid Disease? Supplements That May Help With Weight Loss

Lifestyle changes are still the golden key to achieving long-term weight loss

Thyroid, thyroid diet, diet supplements, weight loss supplements
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If you are hypothyroid, you may be finding it difficult to lose weight, or you may be gaining weight, even with treatment, changes to your diet, and increased exercise.

Shelves at drugstores and vitamin stores are filled with hundreds of different supplements, all claiming to help you lose weight. But do any of them work?

Here is a basic look at a few dietary supplements that, when combined with a healthy diet and exercise, may (or may not) help you succeed in your weight loss battle.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

CLA is an omega-6 fatty acid and has become known in recent years as a weight loss supplement. Some researchers believe that CLA has the ability to prevent your fat cells from getting larger by altering the specific enzymes that aid in fat storage. 

So far, studies are contradictory on whether CLA can reduce weight in people who are overweight or obese. 

CLA is available as a supplement, but some experts suggest that CLA is better derived from the food you eat itself, rather than from pill or capsule form. With that, the best food sources of CLA include butter, beef, veal, button mushrooms, sour cream, lamb, cottage cheese and safflower/sunflower oils.

Overall, CLA appears to potentially help a subset of people who take it, and its greatest value may be as a natural component of a healthy diet.

Green Tea

Green tea offers several potential health advantages. It helps improve daytime alertness and may help increase energy, allowing you to engage in more exercise and physical activity (which is good for weight loss).

Moreover, green tea extract may increase your metabolic rate (your rate of energy expenditure) enough to assist somewhat with weight loss and fat burning; although, research suggests that this weight loss is likely pretty small and not necessarily sustainable.

Interestingly, one 2017 study found that a combination of green tea, capsaicin, and ginger in supplement form, when taken for eight weeks by 25 overweight women, led to a significant decrease in weight and body mass index, as compared to a control group of 25 overweight women who received a placebo pill.

In the end, though, it's hard to say whether one specific component of this supplement, or the combination, led to the weight loss. Moreover, keep in mind that while the study had a control group and was double-blind (meaning neither the participants nor the investigators knew who took the supplement versus the placebo), the study was still small and short in duration.

The take-home message is that additional studies are needed to tease out green tea's precise role (if any) in weight loss.

Hoodia Gordonii

The supplement hoodia gordonii, or H. gordonii, was introduced to the U.S. market in early 2004, and was marketed as a natural appetite suppressant.

Hoodia is a plant that looks like a cactus, and grows in the hot, dry, desert areas of Africa. Some research shows that hoodia has appetite suppressant effects on a subset of people who take it. 

However, the research on this plant is very limited and according to one study, administration of H. gordonii to 49 overweight women over a period of 15 days had no effect on body weight. Moreover, numerous adverse effects were reported in the study, with the most common ones being: 

  • Disturbances of skin sensations
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

With the paucity of data to support the effectiveness of H. gordonii, and the number of adverse effects linked to it, experts generally advise against its use at this time. 

Caralluma Fimbriata

Caralluma fimbriata, or C. fimbriata, is a succulent in the cactus family. It has been used for centuries as a natural appetite suppressant in India, and has more recently become available in the U.S. market in supplement form, for weight loss.

Caralluma fimbriata is thought to block the activity of several enzymes, which in turn blocks the body's ability to store and form fat. This forces more fat reserves to be burned. Caralluma fimbriata is also thought to have an effect on the appetite control mechanism of the brain.

In one study, an extract of C. fimbriata, while tolerated well, did not lead to any significant weight loss over a twelve week period, when compared to the control group. On the flip side, a review study did suggest that C. fimbriate may reduce body weight through appetite suppression. 

All in all, the jury is still out on this plant extract, until more robust evidence is elucidated. 

Probiotics and Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics are the good bacteria, found in yogurt and fermented foods, that help maintain balance in your intestinal system and promote immune system health. In addition, a number of studies have found that regular consumption of various strains of good bacteria, including lactobacillus, can help significantly reduce body fat. 

If you can't get a significant amount of probiotic-rich foods in your diet (be sure to look for the "Live & Active Cultures" seal from the National Yogurt Association), you may consider a probiotic supplement. Your doctor can provide guidance on the best brands and strains of probiotic bacteria for you. 

A Word from Verywell

Lifestyle changes, including a healthy shift in your eating patterns and regular exercise, are the basis of losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight. But, incorporating a supplement into your diet is appealing, and may help a bit, although which one(s) is still not clear. 

Whether or not you have thyroid disease, be sure to work under the care of your doctor and/or nutritionist (who can provide you with specific guidance, including supplement use). 

View Article Sources
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  • Jurgens TM, Whelan AM, Killian L, Doucette S, Kirk S, Foy E. Green tea for weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Dec 12;12: CD008659.
  • Kobyliak N et al. Probiotics in prevention and treatment of obesity: a critical view. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2016;13:14. 
  • Mądry E, et al. Twelve weeks CLA supplementation decreases the hip circumference in overweight and obese women.  A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Acta Sci Pol Technol Aliment. 2016 Jan-Mar;15(1):107-113. doi: 10.17306/J.AFS.2016.1.11.
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