“Fat binders” are all the rage in the diet and weight loss supplement world.
As opposed to “fat burners” that boost metabolism, these are made up of ingredients — mostly natural plant extracts — that claim to have the ability to “bind up” fat from the food you eat during digestion, and have it eliminated as waste instead of being stored in the body.
Sounds great – but how does it work?
Here’s how it is supposed to work. The fat binder forms a “goo” around any fat that enters your stomach. Some say this prevents fat absorption because this gel prevents cells from “recognizing” the fats, others hold that the binder makes the fat too large to pass through the cells and be absorbed for caloric value.
Either way, this glop, instead of being digested, is going to simply sit in your stomach until things take their natural course and it is passed out of the body. In this way, in addition to preventing fat from being absorbed, fat binders can make you feel fuller – so you should eat less.
So what’s the scoop? Do they or don’t they work?
Fat binders do indeed chemically bind to fat – that’s a fact. The FDA has approved some fat binders, but thus far, trials of these products indicate they only aid in weight loss in individuals whose consumption of fats are extremely high.
So no one is saying that fat binders do not bind to fat, they do. The problem is they do not, and cannot lock onto every molecule of fat ingested. In fact, at best they can only bind up to maybe 20- 30 % of the fat in a given meal. Now if that is a particularly high-fat meal – then cutting out 20 –30% of the fat absorbed is a good thing, as is the added satiety. But you would probably be better off to cut out the high-fat food entirely.
Who Benefits Most From Fat Binders?
That’s really the question. It’s not if fat binders work, but who do they work best for? The answer to that is, those who are really struggling with not being able to eliminate or significantly reduce high-fat foods in their diets.
If “carbs” are your main enemy, then a fat binder probably won’t do you any good since it’s not going to have any effect on carbohydrates or proteins in the body. But if you can’t cut back or give up on red meats and full-fat dairy products, or these are the “comfort foods” you turn to when stress over-eating, a fat binder could help.
Also keep in mind that because of the way these products work, they have been known to cause gastric distress in some people, and over time, they could also inhibit the absorption of not only fat, but of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and essential fatty acids.
Fat binders can do some of what they claim, but they are not some kind of miracle diet pill.
Fat binder supplements such as Alli (the only FDA approved over-the-counter weight loss drug), and XLS-Medical, another popular product, could help some people achieve their weight loss goals. But, only when they are used as the name implies – as supplements — as in a supplement to reducing fat in your diet, adding healthier food choices, such as fruits and vegetables – and getting regular exercise!