Friday, April 03, 2009

Neelanjana Singh
Like most civilisations whose roots lie in very hoary and splendid traditions, India has been blessed with a great and noble heritage in many realms of human endeavour. This is particularly true of our ancient systems of healthcare such as the ayurveda and the unani. 

Lately, there has been a surge in the popularity of such alternative systems of health management. Not surprisingly, ayurvedic offshoots of weight and health management have acquired an aura of their own. This is also borne out by the fact that I am constantly besieged by many queries on ayurvedic formulations related to the control of weight gain. 

Given such interest in natural remedies for weight control, I have thought it prudent to comment on some of the ingredients in the more popular remedies. Though many of these ingredients are quite harmless, the general belief that anything ayurvedic or natural is free from side effects needs to be categorically denied. Many of the world’s most toxic poisons are found in nature! 

•Honey-hot water-lemon: The most popularly touted formulation — that can be deemed ayurvedic or natural — for losing weight is the lemon juice-honey-hot water combo drink. From the point of view of science there is some merit to this formulation. The lime as well as the hot water act by suppressing appetite. This is caused by the increase in the levels of the chemical cholecystokinin in our bodies that causes appetite to decrease by creating a sense of fullness. 

•Green tea: Pushing my point about caution further, there is scientific data to support the fact that drinking a couple of cups of green tea could rev up your metabolism leading to control in weight gain. Further research, however, is required before we make a strong recommendation. Moreover, green tea extracts taken for weight loss could cause vomiting, nausea and bloating in addition to loading one with heavy doses of caffeine. In fact, many weight-loss teas contain botanical laxatives (Senna, Triphala) and diuretics. 

Guggul: This is another popular ingredient in weight loss preparations that has been used traditionally. Guggul is a resin/gum and its active ingredient is a plant sterol that reduces fat in the human body. Scientists have studied guggul and preliminary data suggests that it may be associated with a small loss in weight or a reduction in tissue folds. But the studies have been small and it is not yet clear whether guggul offers any benefits over diet and exercise in the treatment of obesity.

•Guar gum: This gum is supposed to block the absorption of dietary fat andincrease the feeling of fullness. It is considered safe but can cause the usual diarrhoea, gas, flatulence. Guar gum should always be consumed with adequate water to avoid any risk of intestinal obstruction. 

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