Known primarily for their anti-inflammatory properties, the group of enzymes extracted from pineapples is called bromelain. Some people take bromelain to ease indigestion or reduce swelling associated with injury, sinusitis or arthritis. You may see pineapple pills or bromelain touted as weight-loss supplements, but little evidence exists to support their use as diet aids. Always ask your physician before taking any new supplements.
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Bromelain is extracted from the juice and stem of pineapples, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. First discovered by scientists about 100 years ago, bromelain is a collection of enzymes found specifically in pineapples. The enzymes digest protein and are a traditional therapy for indigestion, among other health issues. Bromelain supplements are considered more therapeutic than whole pineapple because the extracts are more concentrated than they are in the whole fruit. Look for bromelain supplements in capsule or tablet form.
Manufacturers of pineapple pills, which are also sold as bromelain, bromealin or bromelin, claim that the supplement aids weight loss. One maker advertises that the pills help people lose weight by reducing appetite, increasing energy, boosting metabolism and targeting fat cells in the abdominal area. According to the American Cancer Society, advocates of bromelain for weight loss believe it to be a fat-burner that eliminates the need for diet or exercise.
Claims that bromelain helps people lose weight go back at least as far as 1995, notes physician Stephen Barrett on the website Quackwatch.org. Barrett reports that no evidence exists to show that pineapples or their extracted enzymes have fat-burning properties. While some evidence suggests that bromelain aids digestion, its usefulness is connected with easing heartburn or diarrhea rather than promoting elimination, blocking fat, speeding metabolism or similar characteristics associated with weight-loss supplements. According to the American Cancer Society, no evidence currently supports the use of bromelain to aid weight loss.
Although bromelain is generally considered safe, it may negatively interact with some drugs, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. People taking a blood thinner should not take bromelain. The supplement may amplify the prescription medicine’s anticoagulant characteristics, causing bleeding or bruising. Bromelain may also dangerously increase the impact of sedatives and antibiotics.
Diet and exercise remain a more reliable weight-loss solution than over-the-counter diet pills. Of the natural supplements currently available, conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, may be safe and effective, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. In initial trials, CLA appears to promote lean muscle mass and reduce fat, nonetheless more testing is needed before it can be called a diet aid. Other herbs or supplements may play a part in promoting weight loss, but should be taken only after exploring the risks of side effects with your doctor. These natural products include green tea capsules, to boost metabolism and burn fat; cayenne pepper or capsaicin capsules, for fat burning; psyllium, to promote a feeling of fullness; calcium and vitamin D, especially for older women trying to lose weight; and zinc, to increase lean muscle mass.