Richard Stockton College Athletic Training

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A periodic Newsletter that addresses the Nutritional aspects
of athletic competition.

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Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW, is Richard Stockton College's campus nutritionist. She obtained her BS in Food and Nutriton from the Univ. of Delaware and her Master's in Nutrition from Penn State Univ.

She provides individual, confidential nutritional counseling to students. Her service is free for RSC students. For appointments call extension 5740. Nancy Brinch can be contacted at
Weight Loss Supplements & Popular Diets ?

By Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW

Americans continually search for the easiest quick-fix weight-loss method. Supplement manufacturers and diet book authors know the American public is willing to spend millions of dollars to lose weight without exercising or depriving themselves of large quantities of their favorite foods. Do any of the recent supplements and popular diets work?

Weight-loss supplements

Ephedra was the popular ingredient in many weight-loss supplements until the FDA banned it in April 2003 because of dangerous side effects. This ban was upheld in federal district court. Manufacturers have replaced ephedra with bitter orange (citrus aurantium) that contains synephrine. Bitter orange is found in weight-loss supplements such as Xenedrine EFX, Metabolife Ultra and Stacker 2 in combination with other ingredients. No research has studied the effect of bitter orange alone on weight loss. Because synephrine is similar to ephedra the FDA is considering banning it.

Green tea extract is found in weight-loss supplements such as Xenedrine EFX, Metabolife Ephedra Free and Stacker 2. Green tea extract contains caffeine and EGCG (epigallocatechin.) Supplement manufacturers claim EGCG plus caffeine can cause weight loss by increasing metabolic rate. A recent research study using green tea extract showed that ECGC plus caffeine (but not caffeine alone) caused a slight (4%) increase in caloric expenditure (about 80 calories a day in male subjects.) At this time green tea extract appears to be safe, but few studies on this supplement have been conducted.

Caffeine is included in many weight-loss supplements. Ingredients such as kola nut, guarana and yerba mate are caffeine sources often used in these products. These stimulants in combination with other stimulant ingredients such as green tea extract can cause heart palpitations, nausea, dizziness, irritability, and muscle tension if taken in large quantities. Metabolife Ultra, Metabolife Ephedra Free, Xenedrine EFX and Stacker 2 contain one or more of these caffeine sources.

Chromium picolinate has been marketed as a weight-loss supplement. Research has shown that it is not effective for weight loss. The FTC ordered the manufacturers of chromium picolinate to stop making false weight-loss claims. Conjugated linoleic acid has been touted as a weight-loss aid, but harmful side effects occur frequently. Herbal diet teas often contain laxatives such as senna, Buckthorn, cascara, and aloe. These can cause gastrointestinal distress and may lead to constipation and dependency if overused.

The FTC has ordered the manufacturers of the following products to stop making false and misleading weight-loss claims: Carb Zapper, Chito Block 2000 Plus C, Chitosan 500 mg., Dreamshape, Extreme Carb Blocker, F Block Chitosan, Lean Image Carb Blocker, Metabo Fat Blocker, Starch Blocker 1000, Trim Spa Fat Blocker, Ultra Carbo Blocker, Zone Fat Blocker. The makers of these products falsely claim they block the absorption of starch, fat and calories thereby allowing weight loss without making any lifestyle changes.

Bottom line:
None of these supplements has been proven to cause permanent weight loss. Some have harmful side effects.

High carb?? Low Carb??
Much confusion surrounds the controversy regarding the best diet for weight loss. The Atkins and South Beach diets promote a low carb diet, defying recommendations to eat a low fat, high carb diet for weight loss. Research comparing both approaches showed that after 6 months people on the low carb diet lost more weight than people on a low fat, high carb diet. But at the end of one year there was no difference in weight loss between the two diet approaches. Both diets lower total serum cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol. However, the low fat, high carb diet causes an increase in serum triglycerides and a decrease in HDL ("good") cholesterol (factors that increase the risk for heart disease) while the low carb diet has a favorable effect on these risk factors.

Carbohydrate is necessary in the diet. It is the body's source of glucose. Glucose is the only source of fuel for the brain and the nervous system. It is also the primary fuel for athletic performance. 45% to 55% of daily calories should come from carbohydrate. Much of the popular information on carbohydrates does not distinguish between refined carbs and unrefined carbs. Refined carbs (such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, sugar, pretzels, cookies, chips, crackers, soda, etc.) are quickly broken down to glucose in the body. This causes a rapid rise in the blood glucose level that triggers a burst of insulin which causes a plunge in blood sugar levels. As a result you feel hungry and eat more food. Refined carbs cause the undesirable rise in serum triglycerides and drop in HDL cholesterol seen in a high carb diet.

Eating unrefined carbs like whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and low fat dairy products causes a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels which prevents the drop in blood sugar that occurs after eating refined carbs. Eating unrefined carbs creates a feeling of fullness that limits food consumption. Rather than focusing on cutting carbs in general, focus on eating unrefined carbs and limit intake of refined carbs. Include sources of plant fats in the diet (i.e. nuts, peanut butter, olive oil) along with unrefined carbs to feel satisfied longer. Protein increases satiety. Eat low fat protein foods like chicken, fish, lean meat, eggs, cottage cheese, skim milk and low fat yogurt along with unrefined carbs and plant fats to increase satiety and minimize carb cravings.

Bottom line:
Not all carbs are the same. We need to eat the more slowly digested unrefined carbs and minimize consumption of the rapidly digested refined carbs. Calories do count! Portion size matters! Weight loss requires consuming fewer calories than our bodies burn. By choosing foods that satisfy physical hunger like unrefined carbs, low fat protein and plant fats we can decrease caloric intake and lose weight gradually - the permanent way.
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