Everyday my clients and patients ask me about supplements which claim to make them faster, leaner and stronger. Unfortunately, the supplement industry is not well regulated, so some supplements are advertised as “miracle drugs” with unrealistic claims about their efficacy. You have every reason to be skeptical.
Over the years there has been controversy regarding green coffee bean extract (gce) to help in weight loss. Can gce pills really burn fat fast – with no exercise or diet at all? Or is this all a scam? Let’s dive into the medical research for the truth!
What is Green Coffee Bean Extract (gce)?
Coffee beans are naturally green, but it is only after they are roasted that they become brown. Coffee beans are filled with antioxidants, caffeine and chlorogenic acid.
It is believed that the chlorogenic acid is the active ingredient in gce that leads to weight loss. When coffee beans are roasted they lose large amounts of the chlorogenic acid.
Although drinking coffee will give you a caffeine boost, it will not provide the high doses of chlorogenic acid that were in the unroasted bean.
gce is marketed as a weight loss supplement that also decreases blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, and increases antioxidant activity.
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What Does the Research Tell Us?
In the medical field we make patient care decisions based off of clinical experience and medical research. At times there may be conflicting or controversial findings in similar research trials.
For this reason, review articles are published to discuss these results, and recommendations are shared based on the overall impression of the findings.
In 2011, a systematic review was published that assessed the efficacy of gce as a weight loss supplement. The authors showed that there was some evidence showing that the intake of gce can promote mild weight loss in human trials (Onakpoya et al., 2011).
Recently, in 2016 another systematic review article was published (Stohns et al., 2016) regarding mice and human trials showing gce could increase energy metabolism to burn calories and also decrease blood lipid levels, (Onakpoya et al., 2011; Cho et al., 2010; Ho et al., 2012; Ma et al., 2015). Two other studies showed that gce can also inhibit pancreatic lipase (an enzyme that breaks up fats), thus leading to decreased fat absorption (Narita et al., 2012; Thom E, 2007).
However, despite the promising results, the authors of both systematic reviews agree that the studies are of poor methodological quality, and limited in their population sample. Some were biased because they were funded by sponsors trying to sell gce as a weight loss supplement.
The authors are in consensus agreement that more rigorous randomized control trials with larger populations must be done over a longer duration to better assess the efficacy and safety of gce as a weight loss supplement. To date, there are no studies assessing the long‐term effects of gce or chlorogenic acid. Studies regarding weight loss in lean individuals are currently nonexistent.
In summary, while gce has shown to inhibit weight gain in animal models, the cause of this is unclear, and may be explained by another mechanism rather than gce. Furthermore, while some human trials may have shown increased weight loss, these studies are poor controlled, have low sample size, and many are bias due to industry funding sponsorship. More testing needs to be done to better assess the benefits of gce on weight loss.
So what’s the bottom line? It’s not clear at all that gce boosts weight loss, and it’s certainly not a miracle drug.
How Do You Take gce?
The studies mentioned earlier showed that gce can lead to weight loss, and that is typically with a dose of 60 to 185 mg a day. Another study showed that gce can be taken in a dose as high as 480 mg daily for up to 12 weeks.
Green coffee extract contains high concentrations of caffeine in addition to the chlorogenic acid. Common side effects include nervousness, anxiety, heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, sweating, increased urination and insomnia. Others may feel upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and even headache.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, try a lower dosage as much as 30mg a day and slowly increase your dosage over the next few days to see how you tolerate the side effects.
Should You Take gce?
As a medical professional and personal trainer, I believe that my role is to present facts, clarify misinformation, and present to my patients and clients their options. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what they want to do.
In this article I disclosed to you the research regarding the facts of gce, I clarified misinformation, and now you have the option to take it or not to take it. Before I present my own personal opinion on gce, you should be aware of how easy it is for supplement companies to get away with making outrageous claims.
The Federal Trade Commission (ftc) and the Food and Drug Administration have unique roles in the regulation of drugs and supplements. The ftc oversees companies to ensure they don’t make misleading statements that deceive consumers, and the fda ensures that product labels and ingredients are accurate.
However, dietary supplements do not need approval from the fda to hit the market. Instead, supplement companies are allowed to do their own research and testing. Thus, the fda may not get wind of false claims or side effects from a supplement until reports are made months or even years later.
Through this loophole, a supplement companies made outlandish claims about their gce supplement to make millions in a few short months before their false claims were even reported.
So what does that mean for you as the customer? You need to do your research. You need to be own you advocate. Review medical research reports, read consumer reports, and make an informed decision.
Personally, I agree with the authors in the medical review journals that more research needs to be done regarding the efficacy of gce as a weight loss supplement. There are limited human trials, the trials are poorly controlled, and there is added bias due to industry sponsorship.
While gce may have some benefits, I am skeptical you can achieve significant weight loss without any diet or exercise at all.
In my opinion, there are more effective ways to lose weight through a combination of diet and exercise. By reducing your daily calorie intake to less than 500-800 calories of your current caloric intake you will make significant leaps in your weight loss goal.
Eating whole wheat pasta, increasing your fiber intake and cutting out fat and simple sugars will give you longer lasting energy and make you feel fuller. In addition, undergoing 60 minutes of moderate-high intensity exercise will increase your metabolism.
There is no “magic pill” that can erase the effects of binge drinking 2,000 calories of alcohol on a Friday night. There is no supplement that can trim off the fat when you weigh 120lbs and eat an excess of a 5,000 calories a day. You need to work hard to lose weight and get fit!
The Final Word on gce and Weight Loss
The studies on the efficacy of gce in weight loss are limited and require further studies as well as long-term trials. However, the best way for weight loss remains diet and exercise.
There is decades of evidence showing that decreasing your caloric intake and increasing your exercise frequency and intensity will contribute to weight loss, build muscle, and lead to numerous cardiovascular benefits.
If you choose to use gce or any other supplement, please read over the research and make the decision based on the facts. As with any health matters, if you have any questions before beginning a new diet, exercise regimen or supplement, please consult a medical professional.
Rajiv M Mallipudi, md is an internal medicine resident physician, personal trainer, athlete and author. During medical school he and his classmates co-founded and co-led medfit, which is a health and wellness organization that provided personal training and nutrition counseling to the medical student body. As a competitive bodybuilder and powerlifter he has broken multiple state and national records. He has over a decade of personal training experience of clients at all levels and finds the profession so rewarding because of his ability to help others achieve their fitness goals. He serves as a contributing writer for Vixen Daily.
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