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Psyllium for Weight Loss

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Updated December 31, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

One popular natural remedy for weight loss is psyllium, a plant that produces seeds rich in fiber. Known as mucilage, the fiber in psyllium has been found to have a laxative effect. Due to its ability to stimulate the digestive system, psyllium is often used as a detox diet agent as well as a weight loss aid.

Does Psyllium Work for Weight Loss?

Studies show that psyllium may help relieve constipation, keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check, improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes. However, to date, there is very little scientific support for the use of psyllium as a weight loss aid.

In a 2010 report from the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, scientists note that adding psyllium to the diet may lead to weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes. Another 2010 study (published in the Journal of Nutrition) suggests that psyllium-enriched meals may help enhance fullness (and, in turn, discourage overeating). Additionally, preliminary research in animals indicates that psyllium may affect levels of leptin (a hormone that plays a key role in fat metabolism).

Is Psyllium Safe for Weight Loss?

Although psyllium is generally considered safe, it may trigger certain side effects (such as gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, and nausea). In order to protect against adverse effects, make sure to drink at least eight ounces of fluids for every seven grams of ground psyllium seeds you consume.

Should You Use Psyllium for Weight Loss?

Due to the lack of supporting research, psyllium cannot currently be recommended as a weight loss aid. However, fiber sources like psyllium (as well as flaxseed, oatmeal, and whole grains) should help promote weight loss when incorporated into a healthy diet and combined with a regular exercise routine. It should be noted that the current fiber recommendation for adults is 20 to 35 grams per day.

Besides weight loss, psyllium is used for digestive concerns, such as constipation and diverticulitis. It is also used as a detox aid.

If you're considering the use of psyllium (or any other weight loss supplement), make sure to consult your physician before beginning treatment.

Sources:

Giacosa A, Rondanelli M. "The right fiber for the right disease: an update on the psyllium seed husk and the metabolic syndrome." J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010 Sep;44 Suppl 1:S58-60.

Karhunen LJ, Juvonen KR, Flander SM, Liukkonen KH, Lähteenmäki L, Siloaho M, Laaksonen DE, Herzig KH, Uusitupa MI, Poutanen KS. "A psyllium fiber-enriched meal strongly attenuates postprandial gastrointestinal peptide release in healthy young adults." J Nutr. 2010 Apr;140(4):737-44.

National Institutes of Health. "Blond psyllium: MedlinePlus Supplements". January 2011.

Saper RB, Eisenberg DM, Phillips RS. "Common dietary supplements for weight loss." Am Fam Physician. 2004 Nov 1;70(9):1731-8.

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