Friday, May 15, 2015

True or False? Raspberry Ketones - A Supplemental Non-Starters That Sheds Measurable Amounts of Body Fat in Only Three Weeks Even if Subjects Don't Diet or Exercise?

Is it true that you can lose fat without dieting or additional exercise if you supplement with raspberry ketones?
You will probably have read one or several abusive articles on "Dr. Oz' Wonder Supplement". Now, the results of a recent honor thesis the original claim that raspberry ketones provide a safe alternative to stimulant-based drugs and could have potential benefits in the treatment of obesity.

The corresponding study involved 12 healthy athletic men aged 20 to 22 years old. Young men whose activity levels ranged from moderately active (participated in physical activity equivalent to walking 1.5 to 3 miles per day along with typical day-to-day physical activity) to vigorously active (participated in jogging, running, circuit training, competitive sports and heavy labor or housework).
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The participants were asked to sign a waiver agreeing to standardize their lives as much as possible including maintaining a uniform, diet and workout routine and restrict other weight loss supplement use during the 3 week testing period to exclude that sudden lifestyle or diet changes would thwart the results of the randomized controlled trial, in the course of which the subjects were randomly assiged to one of the following three groups:
  • placebo  - the placebo group was given capsules containing powdered sugar
  • low treatment group - the low treatment group took 125 mg capsules w/ raspberry ketones
  • high treatment group - the high treatment group took 250 mg capsules w/ raspberry ketones
The participants were instructed to take their pill (placebo or treatment) each morning upon waking with an 8 oz glass of water. The participants were informed to take any other supplement (multivitamin) or medication at least 1 hour post ingestion of the experimental supplement.
Effect of raspberry ketone liver and visceral adipose tissue weight (B) in mice fed a high-fat diet for 10 wks (Morimoto. 2005).
What do previous studies say? Considering all the hype, it's very surprising that the evidence in favor of potential fat burning effects of raspberry ketones comes from observations in fat cells in the petri dish where the addition of RK stimulates both lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation (Park. 2010), their ability to protect rodents from NAFLD (Wang. 2012) and a rodent study which suggest that RK can ameliorate, but not fully prevent the obesogenic effects of a high fat diet (Morimoto. 2005).

Addendum: Good question from my friend Carl Lanore who asked about the name "raspberry ketones" and whether that means that "regular ketones" would have similar effects. Without going too much into chemical details, it can be said that the structure of "raspberry ketones" has nothing to do with the ketone bodies you probably think about (beta-hydroxybutyrate). In fact, their molecular structure is more like the one of capsaicin and synephrine (Morimoto. 2005) - a structural similarity that may also explain their effects on the mammalian fatty acid metabolism.
Body composition was measured using BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis) at the start of the experiment and every 7 days after, for a total of 4 body composition measurements. The participants were instructed to not consume any food or water during the 2-hour time window before the BIA reading was taken. This fasting window was taken as a precaution to decrease the confounding effects of hydration on the BIA readings.
Figure 1: Change in Body Composition per Treatment Group (Pagani. 2015).
The statistical analysis of the results shows that there was significant difference (decrease) in overall
body fat percentage in the high treatment group (p = 0.007) as presented in Figure 1. Additionally, no significant difference was found in the low treatment group (p= 0.359), nor the control, or placebo, group (p = 0.405).
If all the training and dieting in the world won't let the thigh-fat (women) and abdominal blubber (men) melt, it's about time to buy some cheap yohimbine...true? | Find out!
What remains questionable, though, is how (a) reliable and (b) physiologically relevant the BIA-determined 0.575% decrease in body fat in the high, and the 0.375% decrease in the low dose treatment group actually is.

Alright, considering the fact that the study lasted only 3 weeks, the results are quite impressive, but in the absence of detailed assessments of potential dietary or lifestyle changes, I would have love to hear an explanation for the randomly unfair assignment of the "fattest" subjects (12% body fat) to the treatment and the leanest subjects (9.6%) to the placebo group - intended or not, it looks like a build-in bias to me; what about you? | Comment on Facebook!
  • Morimoto, Chie, et al. "Anti-obese action of raspberry ketone." Life sciences 77.2 (2005): 194-204.
  • Pagani, Angelo, and John Thistlethwaite. The Effects of Raspberry Ketone Supplementation on Body Composition. Diss. Ohio Dominican University, 2015.
  • Park, Kyoung Sik. "Raspberry ketone increases both lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes." Planta medica 76.15 (2010): 1654.
  • Wang, Lili, Xianjun Meng, and Fengqing Zhang. "Raspberry ketone protects rats fed high-fat diets against nonalcoholic steatohepatitis." Journal of medicinal food 15.5 (2012): 495-503.