An Indian cactus typically eaten as a vegetable. Caralluma fimbriata also has a reputation as a hunger/appetite suppressant and is used as “famine food” in rural India. This is why extracts are used in a number of weight loss supplements. Caralluma fimbriata also contains a range of pregnane glycosides which allegedly interfere with the body’s ability to accumulate body fat (the proposed mechanism is similar to Garcinia cambogia).
A proprietary Caralluma extract is currently being marketed under the name Slimaluma®, although a controlled study on this ingredient indicates the weight/fat loss benefits are relatively modest.
Diosgenin is a plant steroid found in certain medicinal herbs, such as wild yam and fenugreek. It’s a plant steroid that bears some resemblance to human sex steroids, and can serve as a precursor for their synthesis, but the necessary conversion steps take place only in the laboratory – not the human body. Although diosgenin has potential medical uses (such as reducing serum cholesterol), it does not have any known hormonal effects when consumed in supplemental form.
Botanical name: Dioscorea villosa. Wild yam has been included in both bodybuilding and women’s supplements for the same reason: its diosgenin content. Diosgenin is used in the manufacture of synthetic human sex steroids, and Dioscorea is a particularly rich source of it. The necessary steps to convert diosgenin, however, occur only in the laboratory—not in the body. Diosgenin has no known hormonal activity in-vivo.
Wild yam extract itself has weak phytoestrogenic activity in-vitro, however, which lends some (tentative) support to its use for alleviating symptoms of PMS and menopause. Nonetheless, there are no confirming studies, and anecdotal evidence is questionable, at best, due to the presence of other herbals and/or added progesterone in wild yam creams.
Also known as “prickly pear”. A domesticated cactus used for food as well as medicinal purposes. Opuntia is traditionally used as a hangover cure, and has antioxidant, hepatoprotective and gastroprotective effects. Opuntia pads (nopales) contain fiber/mucilages that improve glycemic control and blood lipids. “In-house” studies by Bio Serae, manufacturers of a commercial extract, Neopuntia, indicate it may be useful for reducing dietary fat absorption and improving the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. These results need to be confirmed by independent studies, however.
A delivery form of caffeine used in a number of fat loss supplements. Dicaffeine malate is alleged to be easier on the stomach than caffeine, as well as more effective – due to the role that malate plays in energy production (it’s a Citric Acid Cycle intermediate). There is no proof of either claim, however.