In my last column we had a look at some of the substances now on the market as fat-fighters: chitosan, bromelain, caffeine, Fucus vesiculosis, aromatherapy diet pens, Urtica urens and St. John’s wort. Today we’ll consider a few more options in our hunt for what might work and what probably doesn’t.

Essential oils of cypress, juniper and rosemary

Each of these is said to have a diuretic effect when a couple of drops is added to the bath. They will not aid in actual weight loss, but if your weight gain is due to water retention they may be of some use. Not to be used during pregnancy.

Dandelion greens

Another diuretic, the greens of the dandelion plant are taken internally to encourage the elimination of excess water. Because the plant contains lots of potassium, which must be replaced with the use of any diuretic, this substance is healthier than many with similar effects. In the same way as the previous oils, this will not cause weight loss, just water loss. Available in tea form and as an ingredient in some weight-loss supplements.

Kola vera

This is the kola nut, which is a stimulant to the central nervous system. It has a very high percentage of caffeine. It is used to speed up the metabolism for increased weight loss, but interestingly, it is also used with anorexics to stimulate the appetite. There is no scientific evidence that I am aware of to support its use in weight loss, though it apparently does make one feel energetic or jittery. It should not be used over a long period of time. It often appears in mixtures also containing guarana, which has similar properties.

Chromium picolinate

This mineral is supposed to prevent low-blood sugar, which can cause some people to gorge themselves on sweet snack foods and carbohydrates. There is not much evidence that this substance helps in weight loss.

Special diets

Most restricted diets, such as the high-protein diet, the grapefruit diet and the cabbage soup diet, will bring about temporary weight loss, but some of this is likely to be simple water loss. When any diet excludes a wide variety of whole foods or prescribes mainly one food as the miracle diet substance, eventually your health is going to suffer.

The only intelligent way I know of to lose weight through diet is to eliminate “empty” foods and those that deliver too much fat or refined carbohydrate along with their proteins, vitamins and minerals. Try eating a diet based on whole, fresh fruits and vegetables, with healthy proteins from foods such as fish and nuts, and eliminate alcohol, refined flour products, refined sugar products, pork products, high-fat dairy products and processed foods.

Remember that weight responds in most cases to a pretty simple equation: If you overeat or eat the wrong foods and don’t get enough exercise, you’ll gain weight. If you are overweight, it is not just your appearance that should be of concern, but the implication of obesity in ill health, including problems related to the heart and circulation, along with kidney ailments.

On the other hand, if you weigh too little, you may match the cultural ideal, but you could be weaker and less healthy than you should be, especially if you’re not getting a balanced diet. Remember that strength training using weight-resistance equipment can contribute to a healthy metabolism, counteracting age-related slowing in the metabolic rate.

Another oft-forgotten weight-loss tip is to drink much more water than you imagine you need. Try for nearly 2 liters per day, and an extra liter for each hour of exercise is advisable as well.