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Health Research
Agnus Alexander | agnusalexander122

Green Coffee Bean Extract: Weight-Loss Miracle or Waste of Time?

Jan 2nd 2014 at 10:13 PM

And Will It Be Available Both Full-Strength and Decaf?

Whether the extract of green (meaning unroasted) coffee beans is a possible breakthrough weapon in the fight against obesity or just another risky and momentary example of scientific jumping the gun remains to be seen, but right now the notion is generating plenty of interest and ink based on one extremely promising but extremely limited study.

The basics: Sixteen overweight young adults were given a 1,050 milligram dose of green coffee bean extract for six weeks, then a two-week break, then a daily 700 milligram dose for six weeks, then another break, and then a placebo. For some of them, the order was different. The results bowled the researchers over.

Without altering their calorie intake, over the full 22 weeks, the volunteers lost an average of 17.5 pounds, reducing their total body weight by 10.5 percent and their average body fat by 16 percent. And as the amount of extract they consumed increased, so did the amount of fat and weight they shed. Six of the initially overweight 16 test subjects, almost 40 percent of the group, actually wound up with BMIs in the “healthy” category.

To put this feat in perspective, if green coffee bean extract were a pharmaceutical drug, merely trimming 5 percent of the body weight from 35 percent of the subjects would qualify it for FDA approval as a bona fide weight loss medication. Of course, it would probably be available only by prescription, and be only slightly less pricey than designer jewelry.

Fortunately, green coffee bean extract is neither, being in fact a common dietary supplement available for a modest (as of now) $20 per month or so, at most health food or natural food stores, which sell it as a naturopathic antioxidant. Given that it’s already on the market and no ill effects have been reported, the extract would also seem fairly safe. Safe, cheap, and effective: it’s the weight-loss triple crown.

This is all great news to the hopeful dieter, and if you’re interested in giving it a try, Source Naturals is already marketing it in tablet form. Of course, but there are a handful of caveats involved.

Sixteen people is too small a sample to be meaningful. How representative can one vanload of test subjects be? Consider that the flip side of the safety element, noted above, is that if the extract were such a wondrous weight-reducer, wouldn’t that have been noticed and raved about before now? A 60-person test is in the planning stages; until and unless it replicates this study, let skepticism be your guide.

We don’t know how it works. It may reduce our gut’s ability to absorb sugars and/or fats, or boost our metabolism by lowering our insulin levels. Or it may work through the process of malabsorption, in which food simply passes through us unutilized, the result being not only weight loss but also malnutrition and a serious deficiency in vital minerals and vitamins. There are well over 200 chemicals in coffee beans, not all of them our friends, and we don’t know the effects of most of them when consumed in these concentrations over time.

The trial was conducted in India. There may be something about the Indian diet or gene pool or lifestyle that makes people there receptive to the extract’s chemical effect in ways that don’t apply universally.

The trial was paid for by a company in Texas which manufactures green coffee bean extract. That doesn’t automatically impeach the study’s findings, but it does raise some unsettling questions. For example: “Why didn’t they do the research right at home, using Texans?”

There are a number of reasons to suspect that green coffee bean extract isn’t the weight-loss wonder substance that the study results imply. But there are even more reasons to hope that it might be. Cross your fingers and stay tuned.

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