Yerba Mate, Yohimbine & Yucca - Potent Fat or Unhealthy Money Burners? Tea Catechins Were Yesterday, Saponins Are the Future! GMO Rice "Safe for Human Consumption"?

Are you living in one of the hotspots of diabesity and laziness? Check out the map in the bottom right of my little collage and find out what the CDC data from 2008 can tell you about the regional differences in the US. Which are the top (=healthy & active; violet) and which the flop (=diabetic and sedentary; blue) counties in the US?
58%, that's not just the SuppVersity Figure of the Week it is also statistical testimony to the superiority of lifestyle interventions over drugs. Why? Well it is the rate by which even the CDC admits the diabetes risk of the average US citizen would drop, if he or she lost 5-7% of body weight (I know, I would likewise prefer a body fat number) and increased their "exercise" level to 150min of brisk walking (or more intense exercise) per week.

I know this is nothing new to you, but we all know one of these people who are subservient to "authorities" and like to get their (often oversimplyfied) advice right from the feds. So I suggest you just email the introduction to this article along with the picture on the right to this person... in 99% of the cases it won't help, but who knows, maybe he or she asks you if you can help!?

I am pretty sure that a diligent student of the SuppVersity as you are will have no problem whatsoever with getting him / her set up for a healthier and consequently longer life - right?

The SuppVersity short news for calender week 24 | read all previous installments

A-Z Supplement Review - "Y" as in Yerba Mate, Yohimbine & Yucca (Godfrey. 2013) -- If you have been following the SuppVersity Facebook News for more than just the past 3 weeks, you will have heard about the "A-Z Supplement Review" series, the British Journal of Sports Medicine has been running for years, now. Meanwhile they have arrived at "Y" (for thematic reasons they did not stick to the A-Z sequence with every article in the past, though); and in this issue S.J. Stear, RJ Godfrey and MW Laupheimer have compiled mini-reviews on the usefulness of yerba mate, yohimbine and yucca, respectively.
"In sport, yohimbine is perceived to reduce body fat and mobilise lipid, as well as to enhance endurance. Accordingly, it is often used in bodybuilding and other aesthetic sports, and in sports where there is a significant aerobic component. However, despite these claims, research findings actually refute any ergogenic benefit for sport (Ostojic. 2006; Herda. 2008) In addition, [...] adverse effects have been established."
I know, I know the highly questionable fat loss in the Ostjic study would speak a different language, but it has never been replicated in another trial. In fact, a previous study in 43 men using dosages of 41(!) mg/day did not observe any effects on body composition (Sax. 1991). And a more recent review by Climolai et al. states "There is no conclusive evidence for this drug to be of benefit in bodybuilding, exercise tolerance, physical performance, or desirable alterations of body mass." (Climolai. 2011)

Did you know that mate has about the same amount of caffeine than coffee? 150ml = 75mg; according to Stear for coffee that's what you get from ~250ml with most roasts... I have my doubts about that, and would rather believe that the content is about identical (usually the caffeine content of coffee is said to be 55-85mg/100ml). Still, being rich in chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid mate could probably serve as a replacement for regular coffee, for those who don't like the taste of coffee.
Don't despair, we do still have two other supplements in the review, so let's see... what about yerba maté? Being made of dried leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis tree this tea has been widely consumed in South America for centuries. Maté tee contains numerous active phytochemicals of which chlorogenic acid and the xantines caffeine and obromine are the most abundant ones. It does yet also contain alkaloids (caffeic acid, 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid), flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol and rutin), amino acids, minerals (phosphorus, iron and calcium) and vitamins (C, B1 and B2).

That certainly sounds promising, unfortunately the evidence on its ergogenic effects is not conclusive and while it has been shown to be hypocholesterolaemic, hepatoprotective, a central nervous system stimulant, diuretic, antioxidant, of benefit to the cardiovascular system, and associated with both the prevention and increased risk of some types of cancers (Heck. 2007), Stear is right that the high amount of active ingredients will also increase the risk of unwanted side effects - or as my friend Carl likes to say: "The good thins is that yerba maté works, the bad thing, on the other hand, is that it works [and thus has effects and side effects]" ;-)

A major problem about yucca, the last item on the list is probably that there is no such thing as a specific yucca plant. The term "yucca" refers to a whole series of 40–50 medicinally potent plant species that generally thrive in arid parts of southwestern USA and Mexico. As Laupheimer points out:
While yucca is actually one of the few supplements I have not yet covered on the SuppVersity, you may want to read up on the leptin sensitizing effects of yerba maté in a previous article (read more)
"The yucca extract is widely used as an animal feed additive to increase growth rate, improve feed conversion efficiency and to ease joint pains in horses and dogs. Yucca has also been shown to have antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, antimicrobial and hypocholesterolaemic properties. [...] Yucca saponins are precursors to cortisone. Yuccaols and resveratrol, which are mainly found in the yucca bark, are known to have a variety of actions, including inhibitors of the nuclear transcription factor κB (NFκB) and thus anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and free radical scavengers In addition, resveratrol has been shown to have an influence on muscle fibres, strength and possible ergogenic effects."
As usual there is yet insufficient evidence to formulate scientifically warranted dose recommendations and  evidence of ergogenic benefit in sports performance is missing.

Bottom line: From the three "Y"s in the latest installment of the Supplement Review, maté is probably the one with the best scientific support for it's ergogenic effects. If nothing else, the high caffeine content alone would classify the South American tea as a performance booster. The most promising agent may in fact be the yucca extracts, but it is certainly premature to recommend taking respective supplements.

And what about yohimbine? It's if anything useful during a fast on a very hard diet + exercise regimen to further the release of fatty acids from the "stubborn fat areas", where alpha- instead of beta receptors are the main mediators of FFA release. If you want still want to try it, make sure you use the clean HCL version - with the extracts you have no idea what it is you are actually getting.

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Catechins are so yesterday, tea saponins are the future (Yu. 2013) - You will be aware that we have long ascribed the beneficial health effects of green, black, white and other teas to the catechins (e.g. EGCG, ECG, etc.) they contain. A recent study from the University of Wollongong in China does now suggest that we may have been missing an important part of the natural (not proprietary ;-) anti-obesity blend in the Camellia sinensis (that's the scientific name of the "tea plant") brews we have been making for centuries.

Figure 1: The restored leptin sensitivity is probably the reason why the rodents did not overeat and thus returned to and maintained a relatively normal body weight (Yu. 2013)
Tea saponins! This is a term by which the researchers refer to a whole class of triterpenes that are present in different concentrations in various types of tea. These molecules are natural antagonist of the NF-kB signaling and have anti-inflammatory potential.

No wonder Yu et al. suspected that they could be used to treat diet induced obesity. To validate this hypothesis they fed a group of mice a high fat diet for 40days. At the end of that period all rats were obese, inflamed, insulin and leptin resistant. Another 21 days and thus 21x 10mg servings of 96% pure tea saponins from Aladdin Chemistry Co. Ltd, China, later 50% of the mice were not exactly lean, but had achieved a new, lower maintenance weight (see figure 1).

Based on the data they have, the scientists concluded that these benefits were brought about by the rostoatin of brain leptin sensitivity that went hand in hand in with increases in insulin sensitivity... hold on insulin sensitivity? Yeah that's right and you are not mistaken, both, leptin and insulin were in the news today, before. In the face book news, to be precise: "There is no such thing as 'leptin resistance'" (read more)

Wrong! Fat does not ameliorate, but potentiate the insulin response to carbs (learn more)
Bottom line: If we take the decreased inflammation, the ameliorated weight gain, the increased expression of POMC neurons low levels of which which have previously implicated in human weight gain (learn more), and the other beneficial effects Yan et al. observed in the study hand  and combine that with the previously mentioned hypothesis by Nazarians-Armavil, Menchella and Belsha.

The message is thus quite clear: Tea saponins are a potent insulin resensitizer. Once they have done their job, and your body is able to "hear" the most important signal in the metabolic concert again, the rest will fall into place.

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GMO rice safe for rat consumption Chinese scientists say (Yuan. 2013) - While I am not sure whether there are any hidden ties of the Genetically Modified Organisms Breeding Major Projects of P.R. China grant to the usually suspects from the West, it appears unlikely that Monsanto & Co were involved in the latest study from the Laboratory of Food Safety at the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering of the China Agricultural University in Beijing.

Figure 2: The short-term safety is accompanied by an unexpected weight gain in the male rodents that starts at weight 6, and does (lucky for the sponsors) not reach significance before the study was terminated (Yuan. 2013)
Now, it still goes without saying that the Chinese government will have a vested interest in developing a GMO variant of their bread-and-butter food item that produces the gram-positive spore-Bt toxin they would otherwise have to apply to the crop to protect it on it's own. It is therefore good news (for the Chinese) that none of the dozen parameters the scientists monitored (microflora composition, intestinal permeability, epithelial structure, fecal enzymes, bacterial activity, intestinal immunity + all the standard measures you can think of) did not show any effect of the chronic ingestion of the BT/GMO rice.

What is yet hidden in the supplemental material that came with the study is the weight development of the rodents. In the course of the hilariously short study (I suspect the researchers wanted to make sure they would not observe anything similar to the tumors that brought their French colleagues right into the headlines of the mainstream media outlets; cf. gofl-ball sized tumors due to GMO corn), there was an unexpected and though not yet statistically significant difference in the weight development of the male rodents in the GMO rice group, who began gaining weight at an increased rate 12 weeks into the study.

Bottom line: If you conduct a rodents study and don't chose a study duration that would allow for long-term effects to surface (it should be obvious that this does not apply to a 90-day study period), you can hardly argue that the product you are testing is "safe" for human consumption - well unless we are talking about short-term consumption.

Aside from being able to assess the effects the GMO rice has on cancer rates (remember cancer takes time to grow) and all-cause mortality, even the sudden disconnect in body weight development in the male animals after 6 weeks would - at least in my humble opinion - warrant further studies, before you can unleash the genetically modified beast on your people, but I guess the Chinese official think "wtf. we have enough workers for our economy to flourish and if they die early, we don't have to pay their pensions"...

That's it for this week,...

... and the one thing that's still left to do is to wish all of you an active and happy weekend. Ah..., right. For those of you who still have some time to kill before whatever activity will start, here are a couple of SuppVersity Facebook News, you may want to read before finally starting into the "active part" of the weekend:
  • Many of the underlying causes of "self-inflicted hypthyrodism" will also hamper your performance in the gym and elsewhere. Now, what's particularly nasty, is the fact that for many gymrats performance or "looking" good naked, respectively the strive for any or both of the two are the (over-)motivational roots of the misery (read more)
    A new whey (all puns intended) to treat cystic fibrosis (CF) - Researchers from the Macdonald Campus of McGill University in Canada have found that pressurized whey protein hydrolysate could be a cheap and effective way to ameliorate cystic fibrosis | read more
  • Are only phospholipid pound "omega 3s" good omega 3s? Paper puts another emphasis on the superiority of phospholipid bound DHA & EPA (as in food) over triglyceride bound DHA & EPA (as in fish oil caps), when it comes to the touted health benefits of high(er) omega 3 intakes | read more
  • "No extra-shoes necessary" that's the message a recent study that investigated whether people who overpronate would need special (expensive) running equipment | read more
  • Oldie but goldie: If reverse T3 is protein sparing at all, it has no direct effect and works only by blocking the receptor | read more
Alright, now you are good to go. So log out and come back in ~12h for more Facebook news and ~24h for the Sunday's SuppVersity article, of which I believe it will revolve around fasting - alternate day fasting and macronutrient composition... hah, now I got you hooked, right?

  • Cimolai N, Cimolai T. Yohimbine use for physical enhancement and its potential toxicity. J Diet Suppl. 2011 Dec;8(4):346-54.
  • Godfrey RJ, Laupheimer MW, Stear SJ, Burke LM, Castell LM. A-Z of nutritional supplements: dietary supplements, sports nutrition foods and ergogenic aids for health and performance: Part 45. Br J Sports Med. 2013 Jul;47(10):659-60.
  • Heck CI, de Mejia EG. Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): a comprehensive review on chemistry, health implications, and technological considerations. J Food Sci. 2007 Nov;72(9):R138-51. Review. 
  • Herda TJ, Ryan ED, Stout JR, Cramer JT. Effects of a supplement designed to increase ATP levels on muscle strength, power output, and endurance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Jan 29;5:3.
  • Ostojic SM. Yohimbine: the effects on body composition and exercise performance in soccer players. Res Sports Med 2006;14:289–99.
  • Nazarians-Armavil A, Menchella JA, Belsham DD. Cellular insulin resistance disrupts leptin-mediated control of neuronal signaling and transcription. Mol Endocrinol. 2013 Jun;27(6):990-1003. 
  • Sax L. Yohimbine does not affect fat distribution in men. Int J Obes. 1991 Sep;15(9):561-5.
  • Yu Y, Wu Y, Szabo A, Wu Z, Wang H, Li D, Huang XF. Teasaponin reduces inflammation and central leptin resistance in diet-induced obese male mice. Endocrinology. 2013 Jun 10. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Yuan Y, Xu W, He X, Liu H, Cao S, Qi X, Huang K, Luo Y. Effects of genetically modified T2A-1 rice on the GI health of rats after 90-day supplement. Sci Rep. 2013 Jun 11;3:1962.
Disclaimer:The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. It is by no means intended as professional medical advice. Do not use any of the agents or freely available dietary supplements mentioned on this website without further consultation with your medical practitioner.