A hefty problem
Obesity rates are rising worldwide, along with other obesity-related conditions like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and certain cancers. Losing weight can help extend life expectancy and lower the risk for many of these diseases, but weight-loss therapies aren't always successful and many people end up gaining the weight back again unless they make permanent lifestyle changes.
The skinny on ALA
Based on the promising results of animal studies, Korean researchers decided to put ALA to the test in obese people. During the 20-week trial, 360 men and women were assigned to receive 1,200 mg or 1,800 mg of ALA or placebo. Participants reduced their daily calorie (energy) intake by 600 calories, and followed a diet composed of 55 to 60% carbs, 20 to 25% fat, and 15 to 20% protein.
Over the course of the study, people in both ALA groups dropped a significant amount of weight. By 20 weeks, the average weight loss in the higher ALA group was significantly greater than that in the placebo group, and waist circumference decreased significantly in the higher ALA group compared with placebo.
People with diabetes who were taking 1,800 mg of ALA also noticed a significant drop in their hemoglobin A1c levels, an indicator of long-term blood sugar control.
No severe side effects related to ALA were noted, but some participants reported itching or hives.
Simple steps for big results
While the results of the new study are very promising, more research is needed to determine the optimal amount of ALA and to compare it with prescription weight-loss medications. For now, following these tips can help you reach your ideal weight.
- Keep a food diary. Track what you eat and identify your "eating cues," those times and situations where you may tend to overeat or reach for a snack when you don't really need it. Awareness is key to setting new, healthier eating patterns.
- Make exercise a way of life. If you do nothing else, getting more activity will help you lose weight. Remember, if you're eating more than you're burning off, you'll continue to gain weight. Exercise is a great way to boost metabolism, so even when you're relaxing at the end of the day, you're burning more calories than before you started working out.
- Chart your weight. Over the years, notice when you have gains and losses, and use these clues to help you re-pattern your future.
- Join a support group. This can help keep you on-track to reach your weight loss goals.
(Am J Med 2011;doi:10.1016/j.am.med.2010.08.005)