Posted on April 17th, 2012 by Matt Schoeneberger
Dr. Oz puts out a lot of information in a week’s time, so much so that you have to wonder if there really is that much to talk about. If you took every supplement he recommended you’d have a cabinet full of pill bottles and powders and you’d be broke in a hurry. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes a good, science-backed supplement gets lumped in with all the nonsense and gets lost in the shuffle. In other words, a supplement that could actually help you get healthier gets the same air time as all the other garbage supplements. How are you supposed to know which ones are worth the money and which ones are not? Well, that’s where we come in.
Before you read about the supplements below, keep in mind that we’re going to be discussing the scientific evidence for these supplements, if there is any. This can sometimes include some technical jargon that might get a bit confusing. Don’t worry, we’ll have a general recommendation for each supplement that will help you if you get lost in the science.
One more thing before we get into the fun stuff. 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)
We’ll answer these questions after the scientific research is discussed for each supplement.
Caraway Seeds – First, understand that Dr. Oz promotes these as an anti-bloating aide. While being less bloated is a nice thing, it doesn’t mean you’re any slimmer than you were a week ago. While I could find no research on the effectiveness of caraway seeds as an anti-gas/anti-bloating agent, the seeds may have some antioxidative qualities (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814604005412) . This research was done on the oil from caraway seeds, but I imagine the seeds themselves would have the same qualities. Should you eat them after a meal to stop gas and bloating? It can’t hurt, I guess. You might do better to find out what food is causing the gas and bloating and eliminate that instead.
Is it safe? Yes.
Does it work? No research available.
Do its effects justify its cost? Maybe.
Raspberry Ketone – we’ve reviewed this supplement previously here.
7-Keto – This one has some research to discuss, so excuse the length of this section. First, for those who are uninterested in understanding the science behind this product, let me just say that I think 7-Keto may help your fat loss efforts, but only minimally so. If you have extra cash you’re looking to burn on a dietary supplement, go ahead and spend it on 7-Keto. If you’d rather save your money and just trust hard work and consistency to do their job, then do that.
The first study, to my knowledge, to look at 7-keto (or 7-oxo-DHEA) is Kalman et al from 2000. This study compared 7-Keto to placebo in subjects eating 1800 calories/day and exercising 3 times/week for 60 minutes. Over 8 weeks, the 7-Keto group lost 2.88kg (6.3 lbs) while the placebo group lost 0.97kg (2.1 lbs). Subjects in the 7-Keto group also experienced a significant rise in triiodothyronine (T3), the most active form of thyroid hormone, without a rise in TSH or T4. The researchers concluded the extra fat loss associated with the 7-Keto group was due to the effects of the supplement and not because the placebo group were a bunch of non-compliant slouches.
Next up, the first of three studies by Zenk et al from 2002. This study compared the use of 7-Keto Naturalean to placebo. The former is a product which contains 7-Keto as well as a few other ingredients the researchers believed to be synergistic to 7-Keto. After 8 weeks, the 7-Keto Naturalean group lost about 2.15 kg compared to a loss of 0.72kg for the placebo group. Levels of all thyroid hormones did not differ between groups, which is in opposition to the findings of Kalman et al. There was also no difference in metabolic rate between groups measured by indirect calorimetry.
The 2nd of 3 from Zenk et al came in 2005, where they compared a weight loss product which contained, among other ingredients, 7-Keto. The researchers found a significant increase in resting metabolic rate (RMR) of 7.2% and a significant difference in hip circumference measurement change in the supplement group when compared to placebo. There is some head-scratching material in this study, however. It’s strange to get a difference in hip circumference when weight, lean tissue and fat tissue levels all changed similarly in both supplement and placebo groups. This is explained by a higher proportion of females in the study population than males, about 70% female. It should be noted that while this formulation elicited a change in RMR, a previous product which included 7-Keto but differing other ingredients did not. The product in this study included a few central nervous system stimulants, including yerba mate and guarana (caffeine). These ingredients may be largely responsible for the increase in metabolic rate.
The 3rd Zenk paper is from 2007 and investigated the effects of both 7-Keto and a formulation containing 7-Keto as compared to placebo. RMR was greater in the formula and 7-Keto groups as compared to placebo, but no differences were found between the formula and 7-Keto (there was a trend for the formula to be higher). No significant changes were found between any group for weight, fat, or lean tissue. It should be noted the formula included green tea extract which may help raise RMR through sympathetic nervous stimulation.
All-in-all, it seems that 7-Keto may help attenuate the drop in RMR seen with weight loss diets, but it seems this effect can be had by good old caffeine or green tea extracts. Combining the two (7-Keto and caffeine) may work synergistically to a greater effect but cost per real world effect is a concern. After all, as stated in this previous post, a bottle of simple caffeine anhydrous can be bought for about $10/100 grams (about 500 servings). I would put 7-Keto on my list of supplements that may help a little bit, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it. Then again, I don’t have a show on which I need to keep overweight people frothing at the mouth for the next magic bullet.
Is it safe? Yes
Does it work? Yes, but better in combination with other ingredients.
Do its effects justify its cost? Probably not.
Forskolin – There is one study that investigated the effects of forskolin on human body composition in men. The paper by Goddard et al from 2005 administered 250mg of forskolin (10%) twice daily for 12 weeks to 15 subjects and placebo to 15 subjects. The supplement group lost a mean 4.52kg of fat mass and gained 3.71kg of lean mass – get this – with no exercise or dietary changes. Well, at least none reported. In most studies like this one, the paper will specifically say that all subjects were encouraged to keep diet and activity levels the same throughout the study period. While dietary recall was performed, no mention of activity levels was given. There was also an increase in bone mass shown in the supplement group as compared to placebo and a significant difference in free testosterone in the supplement group over time.
I’ll be honest, I’m skeptical about this one. This seems a little too good to be true although there is some other research in rats showing proposed mechanisms of action for forskolin. I’d love to see more research performed in men with a little tighter control on diet and exercise.
There is one other study investigating the effects of forskolin supplementation in women. To make a long story short : no significant differences were seen in body weight, bone mineral area, bone mineral density, fat mass, lean mass, % body fat, or % body water. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Could the difference here be between the sexes? Without further research it’s hard to say.
Is it safe? Yes.
Does it work? Maybe. More research is needed.
Do its effects justify its cost? Maybe in men.
Saffron – One study from 2010 investigated saffron’s ability to reduce snacking in slightly overweight women who were frequent snackers (spell check is telling me snackers is not a real word. It should be). While there was a statistically significant reduction in snacking events after 8 weeks (12.1 to 5.8 vs 12.5 to 8.9 events per 2 weeks in the saffron vs placebo groups, respectively), the reduction in snacking did not result in significant weight loss (only about 1 kg or 2 lbs.) Saffron might help reduce your appetite and so may be helpful paired with a diet and exercise program, but much more research is necessary before I’d give it the green light. Depending on cost, it may be worth experimenting yourself to see if you find it helpful.
Is it safe? Yes
Does it work? Maybe. It needs to be studied with a diet and exercise program.
Do its effects justify its cost? Probably not.
Supplements are called supplements for a reason. The term assumes you have the rest of your healthy lifestyle plan in place. There are just a few supplements that have stood the test of rigorous scientific scrutiny and come out on the other side. We’ve reviewed the evidence for a ton of supplements to figure out which ones we feel are safe, effective and justify the cost and we’ve listed them in the Diet chapter of our book, SPEED. Interestingly, while reviewing the evidence for the above supplements, a substantial amount of research popped up for green tea extract. Will GTE end up on the SPEED Approved Supplements list in the 2nd edition? Who knows?
Godard, M. P., Johnson, B. a, & Richmond, S. R. (2005). Body composition and hormonal adaptations associated with forskolin consumption in overweight and obese men. Obesity research, 13(8), 1335-43. doi:10.1038/oby.2005.162
Gout, B., Bourges, C., & Paineau-Dubreuil, S. (2010). Satiereal, a Crocus sativus L extract, reduces snacking and increases satiety in a randomized placebo-controlled study of mildly overweight, healthy women. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.), 30(5), 305-13. Elsevier Inc. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2010.04.008
Hasan, I., Ansari, A. H., Sherwani, A. M. K., & Zulkifle, M. (2011). The incredible health benefits of saffron : A Review. Bmc Complementary And Alternative Medicine, 4(7), 2156-2158.
Henderson, S., Magu, B., Rasmussen, C., Lancaster, S., Kerksick, C., Smith, P., Melton, C., et al. (2005). Effects of coleus forskohlii supplementation on body composition and hematological profiles in mildly overweight women. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2(2), 54-62. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-2-2-54
Kalman, D. S., Colker, C. M., Swain, M. A., & Torina, G. C. (2000). A Randomized , Double-Blind , Study of 3-Acetyl-7-Oxo-Dehydroepiandrosterone in Healthy Overweight Adults. Current, 61(7).
Kavitha, C., Rajamani, K., & Vadivel, E. (2010). Coleus forskohlii : A comprehensive review on morphology , phytochemistry and pharmacological aspects. Journal Of Medicinal Plants, 4(4), 278-285.
Wu, J.-jung, Wang, K.-lee, Mao, I.-fang, Chen, M.-lien, Hsia, S.-min, & Wang, P. S. (2010). Effects of Oral Nonylphenol on Testosterone Production in Rat Leydig Cells. Blood, 2(1), 47-52. doi:10.4247/AM.2010.ABA001
Zenk, J. L., Frestedt, J. L., & Kuskowski, M. a. (2007). HUM5007, a novel combination of thermogenic compounds, and 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone: each increases the resting metabolic rate of overweight adults. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 18(9), 629-34. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2006.11.008
Zenk, J. L., Helmer, T. R., Kassen, L. J., & Kuskowski, M. A. (2002). The Effect of 7-Keto Naturalean on Weight Loss : A Randomized , Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Current Therapeutic Research, 63(4), 263-272.
Zenk, J. L., Leikam, S. a, Kassen, L. J., & Kuskowski, M. a. (2005). Effect of lean system 7 on metabolic rate and body composition. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 21(2), 179-85. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2004.05.025