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A Review of White Bean Extract for Weight Loss


Posted on October 14th, 2011 by Matt Schoeneberger

These are the questions you should ask yourself when you want to know if a supplement is worth taking:

Is it safe?

Does it work?

Do its effects justify its cost?

(Modified for brevity from SPEED)

I’ll first give you the answers to these 3 questions in regard to white bean extract (Phaseolus vulgaris extract), and then I’ll tell you how I came to these conclusions.

Is it safe?

Yes, it seems so. The only negative I can think of is that there could be an increase in GI discomfort – especially the breakage of wind. Depending on the severity, this would be enough to turn me away, but you’ll have to see for yourself.

Does it work?

Yes. I have to admit, white bean extract does what it’s supposed to. It inhibits the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple carbohydrates which stops them from being absorbed. It, in turn, can affect weight loss and blood sugar control.

Does its effect justify its cost?

No.

“But, Matt, you just said it works! How can this be?”

Just because something works doesn’t mean it’s worth the money. The small effect this product has, especially for those who follow an eating plan that can be even remotely considered healthy, is small. Save your $20/month ($240/year), or maybe spend that money on higher quality foods.

How I came to these conclusions…

I was pointed to a scientific review of white bean extract by Felix in the comments section of a previous post. The paper is funded by Pharmachem Laboratories, who make a white bean extract supplement called Phase 2. This does not invalidate the paper’s conclusions, necessarily. After all, who else would bother doing R & D on a white bean extract except the people who make it? But, we also must keep this in mind as we see certain findings highlighted and others ignored.

The first study reviewed under the section “Weight loss – compared to placebo” is not in a peer-reviewed journal, but instead is pulled from phase2info.com and appears to be from research performed by Leiner Health Products. (Rothacker) It mentions that 88 participants enrolled while 60 completed the study and were included in analysis. It gives no reason why 28 people dropped-out. Too much tooting, maybe? (the breakdown of carbohydrates late in the digestive process can cause gas so yes, I made a fart joke – sue me) Who knows? The results were lackluster anyway. This is not a piece of evidence worth exploring.

The next paper reviewed (Celleno) used a supplement containing Phase 2 and chromium picolinate. Results were impressive at an average 6.45 lbs in 30 days vs .77 lbs in supplement vs placebo groups, respectively. The one stipulation was that the supplement was taken “before a meal rich in carbohydrates.” More on this later.

Next up, Wu et. al. 60 days of 3,000 mg of Phase 2 with no dietary control. The researchers recorded weight losses of 4.2 lbs and about .9 lbs in the supplement and placebo groups, respectively. Remember, this is with no diet change what-so-ever. If you think this is a good thing because you’ll just be able to sit on your ass, eat whatever you want and lose 4 lbs in 2 months, stop reading. Seriously, get off this website and definitely don’t buy our book (you’ll just ask for a refund when you realize long-term fat loss will actually take some effort on your part). It’s just not for you. It’s okay, hard work isn’t for everybody and at least now you know. Go find some huckster who will sell you grass clippings and promise you eternal thinness.

The last study from authors Udani and Singh reported non-significant changes of 6 and 4.7 lbs in the supplement and placebo groups, respectively. Why this non-significance? Well, most likely because there was a dietary intervention which included providing breakfasts and lunches for greater adherence. Interestingly, these researchers found that when subject were broken down into sections based on carbohydrate (CHO) consumption, the losses in supplement and placebo groups were 8.7 and 1.7 lbs in the section with the highest CHO intake. This is the study that leads to my answer to the question “Does its effects justify its cost?” and here’s why. When coupled with a rock-solid weight loss strategy which included dietary control, visits with a personal trainer and behavioral psychologist, the advantages disappear.

Hmmmm… exercise, psychology, diet… I feel an acronym SPEEDing into my brain :) Interestingly, this study was not included in the handy-dandy table inside the review. Remember when I said some information gets highlighted and some ignored?

When you compare the whole of the two groups, the supplement group lost an average of 1.3 lbs more over 4 weeks. So you’re paying about $20 for every 1.5 lbs of added fat loss. That’s an expensive pound and a half! Instead, you could eat a little less food and save your money, not to mention spend your time solidifying long-lasting healthy habits rather than spending it finding new ways to cover up your new-found trouser geese (that one is for Matt Carney).

Remember up there somewhere when I said “more on this later”? Well, here is the more. The positive studies either don’t control diet at all (read: people eat junk) or they control diet by adding carbohydrates either in total or in the meal just after supplement administration. Why wouldn’t you just not eat so many damn carbohydrates and control your eating a little more? Are you really going to plan on taking this supplement for the rest of your life? Let’s look at how this might work:

You eat 2,200 calories/day, with 50% of your calories as CHO. You take white bean extract and that inhibits absorption of some of the CHO and you begin to control blood sugar and lose weight. (keep in mind you could just eat less CHO or less food in total and get the same benefit) Also keep in mind that at your current weight, this level of intake would be a maintenance diet without the supplement’s effects. You continue to lose weight and reach your goal.

At this point, you decide that taking a pill for the rest of your life is not an option, you continue eating the 2,200 calories with 50% coming from CHO and guess what happens without the supplement’s help? That’s right, the weight creeps back because you never learned how to actually eat less food or better quality food.

I’m not against using supplements to make things easier or to gain an edge, so don’t take this as the ramblings of some purist nut job hell-bent on destroying every supplement’s reputation. I simply don’t see the real benefit to white bean extract as long as you’re making an effort to control your eating.

 

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23 Responses to “A Review of White Bean Extract for Weight Loss”

  1. Chris says:

    These types of things continue to sell, and sell well, regardless of whether or not there is research to back up the results, because it seems easier than control. Unfortunately we seem to be a nation headed for the idea that everything can be taken care of with a pill. Sad

  2. Barb Sage says:

    I have looked all over town and no one sells white bean extract. Where can it be purchased?

    • Matt Schoeneberger says:

      Barb,

      Regrettably, I can’t help you there. I would imagine any supplement shop would carry it, especially due to its recent popularity.

      Matt

  3. Sanjeev says:

    I had not even heard of this stuff before, but thanks for the post.

    It shows a questioning that’s too rare in this field

    Why oh why wasn’t this type of manipulation totally discredited in the 90s with the phaseolamin inhibitors and their lack of effect on obesity, along with their decidedly potent, pronounced effect on explosive flatulence?

  4. Sanjeev says:

    In the past these used to be made from kidney beans. This looks to be the same type of thing (phaseolamin inhibitor) just made with from a different raw material

    But hey, it’s NATURAL, so it must be good stuff, right? hah

  5. Matt Schoeneberger says:

    Sanjeev,

    It’s really the same thing. White Bean Extract aka white kidney bean extract. It’s probably the same junk you saw in the 90s just peddled to a new audience – people who don’t remember the first go round. Maybe we’ll see it again in 20 years, I just hope it goes away soon.

    -Matt

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for saving me a ton of money. Your honest review was extremely appreciated.
    Liz

  7. Jean says:

    does the kettelbell workouts really work. am 53 and am getting bored with the “firm” from years ago. need something for the days i don’t spin

    • Matt Schoeneberger says:

      Hi Jean,

      I don’t know specifically which kettlebell workouts you are referring to, but I’m sure the workout would be good for most people’s needs as long as it gets you moving. Just keep in mind that a kettlebell is just a weight implement – nothing magical about it – but they can be used just like dumbbells or any other weight to help your workouts. Here’s a post I wrote a while back on kettlebells http://doingspeed.com/exercise/kettlebells-a-unicorn-in-the-weight-loss-industry/

      Good luck!

      -Matt

  8. bethany says:

    Why is DR. Oz recommending this product? Is he getting a kickback. He is a respected M.D.. I don’t get it.

    • Matt Schoeneberger says:

      Bethany, Dr. Oz recommends a lot of products and many of them have less-than-stellar support in the scientific literature. You have to keep in mind, he’s not one man with an hour of TV to do whatever he wants. He’s just a face who is being used to sell advertising and promote products. There’s some good information sprinkled in as well, on purpose, because that’s the best way to convince an audience about the products.

  9. Sky P says:

    Dear Matt,

    I have recently come across your website and am enjoying the informative articles. Thank you!

    I would like to add my $0.02 regarding a possible value for white kidney bean extract which was not mentioned above: I generally maintain a ketogenic low-carb diet (<60g net per day typically) for its many benefits. However, there are times when for example my wife wants to order pizza for the family (of whom I am the only low-carber) and I find that white kidney bean extract allows me to occasionally indulge in something like pizza (or, one of my favorites—sushi) while minimizing the "damage". I agree that continual use for the purpose of weight loss is neither cost-effective nor sensible, but as a means for—every so often—indulging in starchy foods while otherwise maintaining dietary ketogenesis, I find white kidney bean extract has its place.

    I should mention that I'm in no way affiliated with any manufacturers, etc. I am a long-distance runner who maintains a ketogenic diet for the favorable adaptations it provides, and I keep a bottle of "carb blocker" (or some similar name—basically 500mg "phase 2" in gel caps) on hand for those occasional indulgences.

    Thank you again for an interesting and informative site.

    peace,
    Sky

    • Matt Schoeneberger says:

      Sky,

      That’s a good tip and a thoughtful use of the product. I’m wondering though, does one high-carb meal knock you out of ketosis that easily?

      -Matt

      • Sky P says:

        Dear Matt,

        Well of course it depends strongly on the quantity (and type!) of carbohydrates as well as the nature of exercise before or after the meal. A favorite indulgence of mine is to visit a local all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet which features a dozen varieties of sushi; if I am going to the restaurant after having just run a half-marathon or longer (as is our plan for after the Philly Half in two weeks!) I will typically skip the starch blocker since my muscles will readily soak up the carbs and I will be exhibiting ketosis with no or minimal interruption (as judged by urinary “ketostix”). On the other hand, if I have not done any exercise and wish to indulge in starchy food, I tend to use the starch blocker.

        I should mention that I usually follow “fast-5″ so I fast 19 hours per day and concentrate most of my calories in one large meal in the evening. If I eat a lot of carbs in the evening meal I am typically exhibiting ketosis by the end of my fast the following day; if I exercise prior or take starch blocker (and limit the carbohydrates to starch—a twist which some may overlook, since products like Phase 2 partially block the absorption of starch but not sugar) then I will typically exhibit ketosis the morning following the starchy meal, which I like since then presumably my daily fast will effect more fat burning.

        Finally, I should add that if I recall correctly (and it’s been a while since I read the studies, maybe you can correct me on this?) whereas a product like Phase 2 only (partially) blocks the starch in a meal, it does also effectively lower the glycemic index of sugar in the meal by slowing its absorption. This may be a handy feature since the Chinese buffet also has a selection of desserts ;-)

        • Matt Schoeneberger says:

          Sounds like you’ve got a good n=1 experiment going there with a sound understanding of all the variables. Kudos for that!

          It’s been a while since I’ve read the studies so I just searched my white bean folder and found one that successfully lowered the GI of white bread. Not sure how it would apply to sugary dessert foods – I’d have to brush-up on the mechanism of action more to be sure.

          Philly Half? Are you a fellow Pennsylvanian?

          • Sky P says:

            Close—I live in South Jersey and work in PA :-) as a mathematician, which probably accounts for my being so nerdy with regards to all of this stuff. Occupational hazard benefit :-)

            I will see if I can find the study of which I was thinking. I may simply be misremembering it…

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  11. The product sucks its a money scam like I should have figured it was going to be. I bought a month supply I’ve taken it for two weeks I exersice an Im eating right an I have not lost any weight it sucks. So take it from me DONT BUY IT IT A BIG WASTE OF MONEY.

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  14. Vidyut says:

    What is your opinion on using this to foolproof a keto diet? Particularly while beginning, it is difficult to get carbs under control (without blowing calories or going hungry). I am not speaking of a full carb meal, but to complement efforts to cut carbs. Probably not as a long term thing. But seriously, coming from a carb culture, living in a vegetarian family (though I am not – there is a general dislike for cooking meats in the kitchen, etc and any people, of course, are vegetarians), the options to cut carbs aren’t as wide as someone who can easily do chicken breasts and eggs. I tried this. Even going with “high protein” foods, getting under 100g takes major planning and getting under 50g…. frankly, I don’t know how a vegetarian could do it and remain sane unless they exist simply on protein shakes and such (the carb blocker with whole foods may then even be cheaper).

    Basically, I’m talking of the supplement as a tool, rather than a free pass magic pill to carb nirvana.

  15. Vidyut says:

    My main reason for asking is for your opinion on whether it would be effective for say…. getting someone from 150g of carbs to under 100. Or does it only work with a high carb diet and may not be effective when the carbs are already a small portion of the intake.

    This would make a difference because in my view, it isn’t the carbs themselves that make you fat, but them being used as fuel leading to fat intake being directly stored. A keto diet prevents this by taking out the carbs and burning the fat.

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