Unscrupulous marketers claim that three supplements suppress appetite. Should

you try them? No. What doesn't work—and what does...

  • Never take ephedra (ma huang). This stimulant does suppress appetite—but at the price of increased heart rate, nervousness and agitation. In moderate-to-large doses, ephedra has killed people. The FDA banned ephedra from dietary supplements in the US in 2004yet it still is marketed illegally.
  • Skip garcinia cambogia. This fruit from India contains a compound called hydroxycitrate. In animal studies, rats given hydroxycitrate ate less and lost weight—but there is no evidence that garcinia has the same effect on humans. Short-term studies (12 weeks) have not revealed safety problems, but no long-term studies have been done.
  • Don't waste money on hoodia. A plant found in Africa, hoodia is said to fool your brain into thinking that you're full. It is not a stimulant, so it's probably safe-but no published long-term studies on humans show that it's effective.
  • Do drink plenty of water. People often mistake thirst for hunger and eat when they should be hydrating
  • Opt for hot tea or coffee. In my experience, hot beverages curb hunger better than cold drinks do. Also, caffeine is a stimulant with a mild appetite-suppressing effect. To avoid insomnia, limit caffeinated beverages to a few per day.
  • Eat "volume" foods that fill you up—such as high-fiber, low-calorie carrots, broccoli, salad greens, apples and brown rice.
  • Eat more often. Go no more than three hours without a regular meal or a healthful snack, such as nut butter on whole-grain crackers. Otherwise, you end up so ravenous that when you do eat, you're more likely to consume too many calories and make poor food choices.
  • Curb sugar cravings. Supplement with 100 micrograms twice daily of the mineral chromium-it may lessen sugar cravings by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Or consider the herb gymnema sylvestre, which may temporarily block sweet taste receptors on the tongue and also help stabilize blood sugar. Speak to a health-care professional who is knowledgeable about botanical medicine to determine the proper dosage. If you take medication to control blood sugar, do not use either supplement without your doctor's approval.

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