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Fat Burners—What Are They and Can They Help Us Lose Weight?

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If there was ever a product that gives us a strong visual from just hearing its name, fat burners are definitely it. The name alone implies fat just melting away from our bodies, quickly and easily. But what exactly is a fat burner, and is it something that we would actually want to take to help us lose weight?

In a nutshell, fat burners are supplements that typically contain herbal ingredients of some kind that you are supposed to either give our metabolism a boost, and/or give us more energy, and/or make us less hungry. Common ingredients in fat burners are chitosan, ephedra, and pyruvate. Another popular form of fat burner is known as the ECA stack, a supplement trio made up of ephedra, caffeine, and aspirin.

Let’s look a bit closer at some of these ingredients to see if they might actually help with weight loss. According to an article on about.com on fat burners, chitosan is made from the external skeletons of marine animals like crabs, and it apparently binds to fat-soluble vitamins, preventing the body from absorbing them. A small number of studies have reported favorably about chitosan, but these have not been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. If you love to drink coffee in the morning you already know this—the caffeine gets us going and makes us more alert and higher in energy. In some ways, it can work like ephedra on the body—it can increase our body temperature and it may cause our system to work harder and burn more calories. This may very well be true, but as someone who recently went through a 10-year weight problem while drinking vast quantities of my beloved Starbucks on a daily basis, I can personally attest that caffeine, at least on its own, didn’t affect my weight at all.

Ephedra is a potent herb that comes from Mongolia or China. You’ve probably already heard of it and its adverse side effects—ephedra comes with a laundry list of problems including high blood pressure, insomnia, heart problems, and seizures. What makes this especially troubling is that many of these problems occurred in young, healthy people who were taking the product.

Pyruvate is a substance that may help improve endurance while increasing fat loss.

Unfortunately, like some of the other diet products out there on the market today, you can find tons of information on the Internet about fat burners, and plenty of comments, both positive and negative, from people who have taken them. But finding a good long-term study of fat burners, conducted by a group of scientists with no interest in the product, has been nigh unto impossible to find, at least so far. So it’s hard to say one way or another if fat burners truly work. It’s also hard to say if the fat burner products are standardized or if they even contain what the label says you are. To me, these questions alone would be enough for me to find another route to weight loss.

But what about you? Have you tried fat burners? If so, which one/s did you take? Did you get any results? Have you had any of the side effects that are often associated with some of the fat burner products? I look forward to hearing from you!




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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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