Fat-Burning Firestorm Ephedra-Free Fat Burners
George L. Redmon
Unless you’ve been keeping company with Rip Van Winkle, you’ve probably seen many negative reports concerning ephedra over the past year or so. Despite its long history of safe use, the herb has been increasingly subject to reports of adverse reactions. Touted for its ability to reduce lipogenesis (the formation of fat) and induce thermogenesis (heat that breaks down fat cells), as well as treat asthma and upper-respiratory complications, ephedra has been linked to reported cases of stroke and heart attacks. Researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have speculated that ephedra, coupled with other stimulative products, is behind those reactions. Even without 100 percent certainty, many supplement manufacturers stopped using ephedra in their products, even before the FDA ban went into effect. That initiated interest in alternative products that can induce fat burning without raising blood pressure or triggering other risk factors. So here’s a review of the best-known natural fat burners that can be used safely and effectively.
Discovered by Dr. Gary Evans, professor of chemistry at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, chromium picolinate is the trace mineral chromium bound to picolinic acid, a natural chelator the body uses to transport nutrients into cells. In the case of chromium picolinate, the target is insulin, which is critical for the proper metabolism of fat, carbohydrates and protein. Without chromium, insulin can’t do its job properly.
Chromium’s role and its interaction with insulin was substantiated in early research by Walter Metz, former chief of biological chemistry at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He discovered the link between chromium and its reaction with receptor sites on cell membranes. Experiments validated chromium’s ability to reduce harmful cholesterol and triglycerides in diabetic and chromium-deficient animals.
Evidence continues to mount regarding chromium picolinate’s bioavailability to cells and its ability to accelerate fat loss while helping to preserve or even increase lean muscle. A 1990 study conducted by Deborah Hasten, an exercise physiologist at Louisiana State University, showed a meaningful increase in lean body mass in a beginning weight-training program over a 12-week period. A double-blind study conducted with off-season football players who got 1.6 milligrams of chromium picolinate over a six-week weight-training program revealed that chromium picolinate more than doubled the development of lean body mass. Researchers in that study concluded that the net benefit of using chromium picolinate was 2-to-1 over exercise alone.
Chromium is probably one of the most widely used mineral supplements in fighting the battle of the bulge. When chromium is present, the body is better able to metabolize fats, curb appetite, maintain energy levels and increase the transportation of amino acids into muscle cells. The FDA recommends taking 50 to 200 micrograms per day of chromium.
Note: Some researchers claim that chromium picolinate is poorly absorbed by the body and that chromium polynicotinate, an alternate form, may be more effective.
Conjugated linoleic acid, a free fatty acid, is unsaturated and vital to the body’s ability to retain muscle tone and reduce bodyfat—a good fat. Naturally found in dairy products, meat and sunflower and safflower oils, it’s an important natural compound that’s causing quite a stir because of its fat-burning properties. To get an adequate daily supply, you’d have to eat three pounds of hamburger, 25 slices of American cheese or a half gallon of ice cream. In a study at the University of Wisconsin, test subjects got CLA at a rate of 0.6 percent of their dietary intake. Bodyfat percentages declined by 46 percent, while lean muscle increased by 9 percent. The dosage recommended by the researchers is one to two grams daily.
While researchers have yet to find out exactly how CLA assists the body, they do know that it modulates the metabolism of fat, discourages fat storage with the help of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase and scavenges fat cells.