If you’re on a diet and want to try a weight loss supplement but are concerned about the unknown side effects of herbal products, you might be tempted to try a simple pill like pure gelatin. Gelatin has been touted for its weight-loss effects for years, but there’s scant research to support these claims. However, since gelatin is relatively safe and has some nutritional benefits, it may be worth taking a look.
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Gelatin is a tasteless, odorless substance extracted by boiling the bone, tendons, ligaments and skin of animals, usually pigs and cows, although fish by-products are sometimes used. It was first consumed as a food by the French, although it wasn’t produced commercially until the 1890s when Charles Knox founded Knox Gelatin. It contains several amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, as well as collagen, a compound your body needs for healthy skin, nail, joints and cartilage. Gelatin is usually found in powdered form for cooking, but is also available in supplement capsules.
Proponents of using gelatin for weight loss claim that its amino acid lysine helps promote muscle growth and its arginine boosts energy metabolism. They also claim that by using gelatin as a fat substitute, you can reduce the energy content of food without any negative effects on taste. Gelatin pills typically contain no sugar, starch or carbohydrates, making gelatin a way to enjoy a dessert or snack and still stay on a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet.
Two contrasting studies provide mixed results as to whether gelatin has any clinically-proven weight loss effects. Researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands published a study in April 2009 in the journal “Clinical Nutrition” that showed a breakfast containing gelatin as a protein source led subjects to reduce their food intake at lunch by 20 percent compared to other proteins. However, another study at the same university, published in September 2010 in “Physiology and Behavior,” looked at people who had already lost six percent of their body weight and found that using gelatin as a protein source had no special effect on weight loss maintenance.
Some people may have religious or moral grounds for avoiding cow or pig gelatin products. In these cases, a fish-based gelatin could be substituted. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers indicate on the labels of their gelatin supplements the source of the gelatin they use. Although gelatin does contain amino acids, it’s an incomplete protein, and you should never use it as the sole protein source in your diet. Gelatin is generally safe, although it can cause bloating, heartburn or belching and even an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.