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Glossary of Weight Loss Terms

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Found in some over-the-counter weight loss products, this extract from a West African plant seed contains a contaminant linked to a rare and potentially deadly blood disorder. It has not been proven to effectively promote weight loss.

Adjustable Gastric Banding. A surgical procedure in which a band made of special material is placed around the stomach near its upper end, creating a small pouch and a narrow passage into the larger remainder of the stomach. It can be tightened or loosened over time to change the size of the passage.

Aerobic Exercise. Any activity involving large muscles, done for an extended period of time. Aerobic exercise can be done for weight loss, but it also provides cardiovascular benefits. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, biking, jogging, swimming, aerobic classes, and cross-country skiing.

Aloe. Herbal product derived from the aloe plant, it is often added to herbal weight loss products. However, it has not been shown to effectively promote permanent weight loss.

Different parts of the aloe plant may be used. Aloe gel may lower blood sugar and keep other drugs from being properly absorbed. Aloe leaf lining has more side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, lowering of potassium in the blood, and laxative effects that could be dangerous to individuals in poor health.

Anerobic Exercise. This is higher intensity exercise of shorter duration. Examples include weight lifting and body weight exercises like pushups, pullups, situps, squats, etc. Anerobic exercise promotes lean muscle tissue. Muscle burns more calories, creating a higher metabolic rate and assists with weight loss.

Appetite Suppressants. Weight loss drugs that act upon the brain, "tricking" it into believing that it is not hungry or that it's full.

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis. A body composition test that works by sending a small electrical signal through the body, enabling the amount of fat, muscle, and other lean tissue to be measured.

Body Composition Test. A test used to determine a person's current percentage of body fat.

Body Mass Index (BMI). A popular method used to gauge whether or not a person is overweight or obese. BMI is calculated by dividing a person's weight (in kilograms) by his or her height (in meters, squared).

Calorie. A unit of measure for the amount of energy released when the body breaks down food.

Carbohydrate. Any of a large group of sugars, starches, cellulose, and gums that the body uses by converting into glucose, a simple sugar, for fuel.

Cascara. A common ingredient used in weight loss products. One of the few herbs approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug. It is a strong stimulant laxative.

Catecholamine. A chemical in the brain that affects mood and appetite.

Chitosan (KITE-o-san). A dietary supplement made from chitin, a starch found in the skeleton of shrimp, crab, and other shellfish. It has not been shown to contribute to permanent weight loss.

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