Is Dr. Oz Right About Raspberry Ketones?
Picture this: You’re watching television, flipping channels. Suddenly, you see a doctor raving about a hot “new” supplement. It’s an all-natural weight-loss aid, guaranteed to melt the pounds away – and fast.
Sounds like a typical late-night infomercial, right?
Except this is a daytime medical talk show, hosted by respected celebrity doctor, Mehmet Oz, MD.
Curious yet? If you’re like lots of people, you might be intrigued enough to head right out to your local health-food store and give this “miracle” supplement a try.
Not so fast.
Raspberry ketone may be the hot weight-loss supplement of the moment. But – Dr. Oz’s glowing recommendations aside – there’s very little evidence that it works at all, let alone within weeks.
Little Fruit, Big Claims…
When it comes to health, raspberry itself is nothing new. This humble fruit and its leaves have been used for centuries for its nutritional and medicinal properties, including as a remedy for diarrhea, fever, diabetes, painful periods, heavy periods, morning sickness associated with pregnancy, preventing miscarriage, and easing labor and delivery.
Traditionally, raspberry didn’t have a role in the treatment of obesity, however. In fact, raspberry ketones – the compounds in these berries attributed to weight loss – give raspberries their sweet fragrance and have traditionally been used in foods, cosmetics, and other products as a fragrance or flavoring agent.
So where did all this weight-loss buzz come from?
Well, raspberry ketone is a type of metabolite compound, which means that it appears to have some role in metabolism, or the biochemical process by which our body’s cells burns calories to convert food into energy. Metabolism is believed to be a key factor in how we gain and lose weight.
In short, the faster your metabolism, the easier it may be for you to shed pounds and keep them off. So it makes sense that, if raspberry ketone helps rev up metabolism, it could help spur weight loss, right?
Dr. Oz certainly seems to think so. By airing an episode of his show devoted in part to this supplement’s alleged weight loss powers, he’s joined a growing group of fans who swear that the product can “trick” your body into thinking it’s thin by triggering the release of the protein hormone adiponectin.
See, adiponectin is produced by fat cells and helps regulate the metabolism of lipids (fats) and glucose (blood sugar). Adiponectin is naturally expressed in higher levels in people who are slender. And some evidence suggests adiponectin may help block the actions of leptin, another hormone that’s been shown to play a role in obesity.
Plus, raspberry ketone has a similar chemical structure to that of synephrine and of capsaicin, two compounds that appear to have anti-obesity actions. Proponents say that raspberry ketone can help the body burn fat as an energy source, without the need for exercise, leading to impressive weight loss in just a few weeks.
Oh, and as an added bonus? Raspberry ketone is even said to be a remedy for hair loss!
There’s just one small problem. There’s very little – and I mean very little – research to support any such claims.
Of Mice and Men…
Much of the excitement about raspberry ketone and weight loss seems to stem from two studies of mice that were fed high-fat diets along with high doses of raspberry ketones.
In these studies, researchers found that the mice fed the supplement failed to gain as much weight as other mice on the same diet. They also had higher levels of adiponectin.Raspberry ketone also appeared to promote the breakdown of fat inside cells, increasing weight loss in mice and protecting them against an obesity-related disease called fatty liver.1,2
But it’s a long way from mice to men (and women). To make the jump from two animal studies to lofty claims about rapid weight loss in humans – well, it’s just plain wrong, not to mention irresponsible.
In fact, there have be no studies of the effectiveness (or safety) of raspberry ketone for weight loss in people. To say that we don’t know enough about this supplement to recommend it as a diet tool is an understatement.
Oh, and about that amazing hair growth?
Well, just one preliminary study suggests that raspberry ketone might increase skin insulin-like growth factor-1, a substance involved in promoting hair growth. The 2008 study found that a solution of 0.01% raspberry ketones appeared to spur hair growth in 50 percent of people with alopecia (hair loss) who applied it topically on a regular basis.
While that’s encouraging, we’ll need much more research before we can say that raspberry ketone is an effective treatment for hair loss.3
No Miracle Berry…
Because you’d have to eat massive quantities of the fruit itself to get appreciable amounts of ketones, most raspberry ketone supplements are synthesized in a lab.
Yet we just don’t know if such supplements are safe to take. Because raspberry ketones are chemically related to synephrine, a stimulant, it’s possible that raspberry ketone might cause feelings of jitteriness, increase blood pressure, or rapid heartbeat.
Plus, according to some laboratory research, red raspberry might act like the hormone estrogen.
People with any type of hormone-sensitive condition – including breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids – should avoid both red raspberry and raspberry ketone, just to err on the side of caution. So should people who take the drug warfarin (Coumadin), which may interact with raspberry ketones.
Until we have much more evidence of its effectiveness to say otherwise, this supplement just doesn’t live up to its hype – no matter what Dr. Oz says.
Bottom line: There’s a good chance that you won’t lose weight from taking raspberry ketone, but you will lose money.
Remember, keep an open mind to new ideas, but ALWAYS do your own homework…and combine that with common sense to figure out what’s best for YOU.
1 Morimoto C, Satoh Y, Hara M, et al. Anti-obese action of raspberry ketone. Life Sci. 2005 May 27;77(2):194-204.
2 Wang L, Meng X, Zhang F. Raspberry ketone protects rats fed high-fat diets against nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. J Med Food. 2012 May;15(5):495-503.
3 Harada N, Okajima K, Narimatsu N, et al. Effect of topical application of raspberry ketone on dermal production of insulin-like growth factor-I in mice and on hair growth and skin elasticity in humans. Growth Horm IGF Res 2008; 18:335-44.
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