“Miracle” weight loss supplement?

The other day I was in the middle of a training session with one of my favorite clients when she asked me if I had watched the Dr. Oz show on Monday. Since I am not an avid TV watcher or a big Dr. Oz fan, I replied that I had not. Personally, I feel his show can be somewhat educational, but most of the time I feel it turns into an advertisement for weight-loss gadgets, snacks, and supplements (topic for another blog). Anyway, my client proceeded to tell me about a new “miracle” weight-loss supplement Dr. Oz was promoting. Wow! Another miracle weight-loss supplement — awesome, please tell me about it.

My client asked me if I have ever heard of raspberry ketones. Actually, in my 20 years in the health and fitness industry, believe it or not, I have not. She then continued to tell me how these ketones can shrink your fat cells and make your body think it is thin. Ok — sounds interesting — and completely outlandish. Finally, she told me how the supplement is a concentrated source of raspberry ketones that is equivalent to over 90 pounds of raspberries. Also, very interesting.
My next question was, how do these “raspberry ketones” work? How could they shrink your fat cells? As my client was huffing and puffing through her workout — she was working pretty impressively hard — she looked at me a little confused, “I don’t know Kate. I just know they are supposed to shrink your fat cells.” Quite honestly, this is a typical answer when you ask most people how their drugs or supplements actually work. I know most people don’t really care how a supplement or pill works — although they should. Most just want to know if it can help them. More on this later… First let’s talk about how raspberry ketones supposedly “shrink” your fat cells.
Later that day, my curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to watch the Dr. Oz show (thanks to the internet) that touted this “miracle” weight-loss supplement. Seriously, I could be saving myself hours and hours of hard work and healthy eating habits. Maybe all I have to do is take raspberry ketones.

So here is the scoop.

On the Doctor Oz TV show, Dr. Oz, along with weight-loss expert Lisa Lynn, explain how raspberry ketones (the “miracle” weight-loss supplement) shrink your fat cells and make your body think it is thin. With the help of liquid nitrogen (representing the ketones) and two balloons (representing fat cells), Dr. Oz shows how the balloons shrink in the liquid nitrogen and expand once removed from the liquid nitrogen.

Lisa Lynn said, “The raspberry ketones slice up the fat in your cells making you burn fat faster.”
Huh? What?
Finally, Dr. Oz explains how raspberry ketones increase levels of adiponectin, which is a hormone in your body that helps with lowering blood glucose levels and increases fatty acid catabolism (breakdown). Dr Oz. stated, “People who have more adiponectin are thinner and burn more fat. Therefore, adding raspberry ketones can make your body think it is thin.”
Really?!? I am thinking, wow — amazing.
Or perhaps not.

Now, if you think I stopped there with my raspberry ketone research, you are mistaken. Let’s continue to see if we can make some sense out of what is really going on.

First, what are raspberry ketones?

Raspberry ketones are a natural phenolic that is the primary aroma compound of red raspberries. They are used in perfumes and cosmetics, and they’re also a food additive. As a food additive (not a supplement), raspberry ketones are considered G.R.A.S. (generally regarded as safe) by the FDA. Supplements do not have to be approved by the FDA. Raspberry ketones are one of the most expensive food additives used in the food industry, so most supplements, if not all, are usually prepared industrially by a number of chemical processes. Therefore, I would assume at $20 per bottle, you are getting a synthetic version of the real raspberry ketones.

Do they really work?

I found that raspberry ketones in fact do increase the hormone adiponectin. Remember, adiponectin is known to modulate a number of metabolic processes, including fatty acid metabolism and glucose regulation. In a 2010 study performed by the The Korean Nutrition and Functional Food Research team, they did find a link between taking red raspberry ketones, increased levels of adiponectin, and an increase in norepinephrine-induced lipolysis in fat. They reported that raspberry ketones work like two other weight-loss supplements — capsaicin and synephrine (both stimulants).
Raspberry ketones appear to increase the body’s release of norepinephrine, and this causes a rise in the body’s temperature. Norepinephrine, along with epinephrine and cortisol, are identified as our “fight or flight” hormones, or our stress hormones. Norepinephrine is released from our sympathetic neurons and tell our body to increase the heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure. Basically, by ingesting raspberry ketones, we are putting our bodies under mild stress. Yes, increased stress can help us burn fat and increase metabolism short term. But long term, it will contribute to weight gain, muscle tissue, organ, and bone breakdown, oxidative damage, aging, and disease. There always seems to be a price for getting more immediate results.

What does the research say?

The truth is, the research on raspberry ketones is very limited. The few studies I found only involved the use of mice or other rodents. No human studies have been performed as of yet — other than the current supplement study, on people like you, that is still underway right now. So, in humans, it may not work. It may just be another theoretical hypothesis as to how this supplement could work to help you lose fat — but in reality, it does very little and is a total waste of cash. And it could be worse, it may have side effects.

At the end of the day, even Dr. Oz admits that raspberry ketones need to be accompanied by a healthy diet and exercise program. Duh! Yet, he fails to inform his audience of all people who should not consume raspberry ketones. In an interview with Dr. Sarah Khan, she states “I would be hesitant in recommending this to people on antidepressants or anxiety medications, as the increase in norepinephrine may possibly make them become anxious or agitated. People who have heart issues or high blood pressure would also not be good candidates for raspberry ketones, because norepinephrine can have effects on blood pressure and heart rate. This may also have an effect on people who have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma conditions and may make their conditions worse.”

So, what is my opinion on raspberry ketones?
Hold on, I’m getting there…

First, no matter what Dr. Oz, the TV ads, or any celebrity tells you, there is NO miracle weight-loss pill. Even if a pill helps you lose fat, it may only be doing it at the expense of stressing out your body even more. Do we really need more stress and faster aging? We must remember, quicker weight loss does not equal better weight loss. Quicker usually comes with some sort of price down the road. All long-term weight-loss programs include a healthy diet and an exercise program that fits your needs. The less supplements and drugs you take to get there, the better.

Secondly, as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, we need to become more proactive in asking questions before taking any supplements or drugs that Dr. Oz recommends to us — or any doctor for that matter. I find that so many people are taking tons of supplements, and/or an equal number of prescription drugs, yet they have no idea WHAT half of them are doing, HOW they are working, or IF they are actually working. We need to ask more question people!

10 important questions you should be asking when you start taking a new drug or supplement:

1. Action: What does this drug/supplement do?
2. Mode of action: How does this drug/supplement work?
3. Adverse effects: Are there any side effects? If so, what are they?
4. Longevity and research: How long has this drug/supplement been in use?
5. Need: Do I really need it?
6. Alternatives: Is there anything I can adjust in my diet and exercise program that would be just as effective?
7. Length of time: How long should I take it?
8. Quitting: Is it addictive?
9. Mixing: Can it interact with my other drugs/supplements?
10. Other ingredients: Does this supplement have other additives? If so, what are they?

If the person who is selling or prescribing you this drug/supplement doesn’t know the above answers, then don’t buy it from them!

If you are taking a drug/supplement and you do not know the answers to the questions above, then you need to be proactive and find out!

We must remember, there are no shortcuts to getting healthy — none. There may be a few supplements, like raspberry ketones, or prescription medications that may assist in the weight-loss process, but long term, they are not going to be healthy for you. Remember, weight loss does not equal health. In fact, most people need to get healthy first before losing any weight.
Each of us needs to take charge of our own health. We need to do this by asking more questions, self-research, or getting help by an educated practitioner. No one can care for you more than you can care for yourself. This is your life. You decide how you want to live it!

Your Optimal Health Coach,
Kate

“Disclaimer: I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, nutritional and lifestyle coach, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease or physical problem. I do not provide diagnosis, care treatment or rehabilitation of individuals, nor apply medical, mental health or human development principles. I do not prescribe prescription drugs nor do I tell you to discontinue them. I provide physical and dietary suggestions to improve health and wellness and to nourish and support normal function and structure of the body. If you suspect any disease please consult your physician.”

References:

1. Morimoto C, Satoh Y, Hara M, Inoue S, Tsujita T, Okuda H (2005). “Anti-obese action of raspberry ketone”. Life Sci. 77 (2): 194–204.
2. Han LK, Sumiyoshi M, Zhang J, Liu MX, Zhang XF, Zheng YN, Okuda H, Kimura Y “Anti-obesity action of Salix matsudana leaves (Part 1). Anti-obesity action by polyphenols of Salix matsudana in high fat-diet treated rodent animals.” Pub Med 1188-94
3. Nutrition & Functional Food Research Team, Korea Food & Drug Administration, Seoul, Korea. “Raspberry ketone increases both lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes.” Planta Med. 2010 Oct;76(15):1654-8. Epub 2010 Apr 27.
3. Dr. Oz TV show www.doctoroz.com
4. Wikipedia: Raspberry Ketones