Learn More About Fat Blockers

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What is it?

The category of products that are considered ‘fat blockers actually include several categories such as ‘thermogenics’, ‘appetite suppressants’ as well as ingredients that can modify blood lipids.

Who needs it?

Fat Blockers are typically used by individuals who are interested in lowering body fat levels. This could be the elite athlete looking for even the slightest edge or the hockey mom who is looking to lose a few extra pounds in conjunction with her diet and exercise plan. Typically, these products should always be used in combination with exercise (at least 3-4 times per week) and a diet that emphasizes unprocessed carbohydrate, lean protein, and unsaturated fats.

What does the science show?

  • Chitosan

    Chitosan, a deacetylated chitin, is a dietary supplement reported to decrease body weight. It is widely available over the counter worldwide. One report summarized 15 scientific studies that included a total of 1219 test subjects. Analyses indicated that chitosan preparations result in a significantly greater weight loss, decrease in total cholesterol, and a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared with placebo. There were no clear differences between intervention and control groups in terms of frequency of adverse events or in fecal fat excretion.

    Thus, the authors suggested that there is some evidence that chitosan is more effective than placebo in the short-term treatment of overweight and obesity.1 Another clinical trial sought to examine the safety and efficacy of a chitosan dietary supplement on body composition under free-living conditions. In a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled dietary intervention protocol, subjects were assigned to a treatment group (TRT), a placebo group (PLA) and a control group (CTL).

    A total of 150 overweight adults enrolled; 134 (89.3%) completed the study; 111 (82.8%) were women who were similarly distributed in the three groups; The TRT group took six 500 mg chitosan capsules per day and both TRT and PLA groups wore pedometers during their waking hours and recorded daily step totals. The CTL group followed weight loss programs of their choice, and took the same baseline and ending tests. What did they find? Compared to CTL, the TRT group lost more weight (-2.8 lbs vs. +0.8 lbs) and fat mass (-2.6 lbs vs. +0.1 lbs). Compared to PLA, the TRT group lost more weight (-2.8 lbs. vs. -0.6 lbs), % fat (-0.8% vs. +0.4%), fat mass (-2.6 lbs vs. +0.6 lbs) and had a greater body composition improvement index (BCI) (+2.4 lbs vs. -1.9 lbs).

    At least according to the existing data, it would seem reasonable that chitosan can improve body composition under free-living conditions with minimal loss of fat-free or lean body mass.2

  • Hoodia

    Perhaps best known as an appetite suppressant, Hoodia is rather ubiquitous in the fat loss category. “Studies conducted at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR, South Africa) identified extracts from Hoodia species, in particular Hoodia pilifera and Hoodia gordonii, as possessing appetite suppressing properties.

    Two pregnane glycosides were isolated by fractionation of the dried stems of H. gordonii. Their structures were determined as 3beta-[beta-D-thevetopyranosyl-(1-->4)-beta-D- cymaropyranosyl-(1-->4)-beta-D-cymaropyranosyloxy]-12beta-tigloyloxy-14bet a-hydroxypregn-5-en-20-one (1) and 3beta-[beta-D-cymaropyranosyl-(1-->4)-beta-D-6-thevetopyranosyl-(1-->4)-be ta-D-cymaropyranosyl-(1-->4)-beta-D-cymaropyranosyloxy]-12beta-tigloyloxy- 14beta-hydroxypregn-5-en-20-one (2) on the basis of spectroscopic studies and conversion to known compounds.

    Don’t worry, nobody can pronounce these compounds! Nonetheless, they discovered that compounds 1 and 2 were also isolated from H. pilifera. Compound 1 was tested for its appetite suppressant properties in rats and the results showed that all doses resulted in a decrease of food consumption over an eight day period and a body mass decrease when compared to the control sample receiving only the vehicle.

    In a comparative study against a fenfluramine control sample, compound 1 resulted in a reduction in food intake over the study period, with a concomitant overall decrease in body weight while fenfluramine resulted in a small decrease in food intake, but an increase in body weight (though less than control group) over the same period of time.3

  • Guggulsterones

    Oleogum resin (known as guggul) from the guggul tree, Commiphora mukul, found in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, has been used to treat various diseases including hyper-cholesterolemia, atherosclerosis, rheumatism, and obesity over several thousands of years. Guggulsterone isolated from guggul has been identified as the bioactive constituent responsible for guggul's therapeutic effects.4

    In fact, guggulsterone (GS) isomers may exert antiobesity effects by inhibiting differentiation of pre-adipocytes, and by inducing apoptosis (or programmed cell death) and promoting lipolysis of mature adipocytes (fat cells). The cis-GS isomer was more potent than the trans-GS isomer in inducing apoptosis and lipolysis in mature adipocytes.5 And guggulsterones can be good for your health too.

    Guggulsterones were administered orally in patients in a daily divided dose of 75 mg for a period of 8 weeks together with supportive measures like high protein diet. Total serum lipid, total serum cholesterol, triglycerides, phospholipids, HDL, LDL, and VLDL were analyzed at 4 and 8 weeks of therapy. Significant reduction was observed in the values of total serum lipid and total serum cholesterol.6

  • Bitter Orange (with Synephrine) combined with Caffeine

    Bitter Orange, aka citrus aurantium, contains m-synephrine (phenylephrine) and octopamine and has been added to various weight loss supplements because of its appetite suppressing effect as well as its thermogenic properties. When you combine bitter orange, green tea and guarana, you can increase calorie burning tremendously. 7 Bitter orange plus caffeine is a potent combination that has been to even enhance exercise endurance by 29%.8 This was a combination of bitter orange added to coffee. This new category is often referred to as ‘functional’ or ‘fortified’ coffee!

  • Yohimbine

    Yohimbine, an alkaloid, is the primary active ingredient of yohimbe. One study determined the effects of yohimbine supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in professional soccer players. The athletes (20 top-level male soccer players) were allocated to two randomly assigned trials. Subjects in the yohimbine group orally ingested tablets that contains yohimbine at a dose of 20 milligrams per day in two equal doses for 21 days.

    Subjects in the placebo group ingested an equal number of identical-looking pills that contained cellulose. Percentage of body fat significantly decreased in the yohimbine group after the supplementation protocol. Also, fat mass was significantly lower in the yohimbine versus placebo trial at postsupplementation assessment. This is one reason you see yohimbine in many weight loss and thermogenic products.

  • Evodiamine

    Evodiamine is an alkaloidal compound with antiobesity effects that have been thought to be due to uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) thermogenesis similar to the effects of capsaicin. For instance, mice that were fed a high-fat diet with evodiamine for 2 months, the increases in body weight, adiposity, and the serum levels of leptin and insulin were reduced thus suggesting that evodiamine may prevent diet-induced obesity.

    Scientists concluded that evodiamine has a potential to prevent the development of diet-induced obesity.9 Interestingly, evodiamine, a major alkaloidal component of Evodiae Fructus (Goshuyu in Japan), may also inhibit the proliferation of several tumor cell lines.10 So it may have an anti-cancer effect!

Is it safe?

Many of these supplements are safe if used as directed. The key is dosage. For instance, if you consumed 1 milligram of caffeine, nothing would happen. Heck, that wouldn’t even wake up a fruit fly. If you consumed 300 mg of caffeine before exercise, you’d burn a lot more calories and fat. But if you consumed 30,000 mg of caffeine, it would kill you. So moderation is key.

The best way to use any of the supplements in the general ‘fat blocking category’ would be first to use low doses and titrate the dose upward until you reach an optimal effect. However, it would be suggested that you NOT exceed the total daily dose mentioned in the Directions.

By Jose Antonio, Ph.D., © 2008.


1. Jull AB, Ni Mhurchu C, Bennett DA, Dunshea-Mooij CA, Rodgers A. Chitosan for overweight or obesity. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008(3):CD003892.
2. Kaats GR, Michalek JE, Preuss HG. Evaluating efficacy of a chitosan product using a double-blinded, placebo-controlled protocol. J Am Coll Nutr. Oct 2006;25(5):389-394.
3. van Heerden FR, Marthinus Horak R, Maharaj VJ, Vleggaar R, Senabe JV, Gunning PJ. An appetite suppressant from Hoodia species. Phytochemistry. Oct 2007;68(20):2545-2553.
4. Deng R. Therapeutic effects of guggul and its constituent guggulsterone: cardiovascular benefits. Cardiovasc Drug Rev. Winter 2007;25(4):375-390.
5. Yang JY, Della-Fera MA, Baile CA. Guggulsterone inhibits adipocyte differentiation and induces apoptosis in 3T3-L1 cells. Obesity (Silver Spring). Jan 2008;16(1):16-22.
6. Beg M, Singhal KC, Afzaal S. A study of effect of guggulsterone on hyperlipidemia of secondary glomerulopathy. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. Jul 1996;40(3):237-240.
7. Sale C, Harris RC, Delves S, Corbett J. Metabolic and physiological effects of ingesting extracts of bitter orange, green tea and guarana at rest and during treadmill walking in overweight males. Int J Obes (Lond). Jan 17 2006.
8. Hoffman JR, Kang J, Ratamess NA, Jennings PF, Mangine GT, Faigenbaum AD. Effect of nutritionally enriched coffee consumption on aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. May 2007;21(2):456-459.
9. Wang T, Wang Y, Kontani Y, et al. Evodiamine improves diet-induced obesity in a uncoupling protein-1-independent manner: involvement of antiadipogenic mechanism and extracellularly regulated kinase/mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling. Endocrinology. Jan 2008;149(1):358-366.
10. Fei XF, Wang BX, Li TJ, et al. Evodiamine, a constituent of Evodiae Fructus, induces anti-proliferating effects in tumor cells. Cancer Sci. Jan 2003;94(1):92-98.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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