What Evidence Supports Fat Burning Raspberry Ketone Claims?
Recent interest in claims that a raspberry ketone supplement has potent fat burning properties has doubters asking "Where’s the research?" and believers saying "here are the results!" which begs the question—should dieters wait for conclusive scientific evidence that a fat burning supplement actually does work before trying it out?
A recent episode of a popular TV health program touts the benefit of weight loss via a fat burning raspberry ketone supplement that is recommended by a celebrity dietician.
The result of the program’s topic is that it has led to two camps of thought. One camp takes the position that the supporting scientific research is limited to a single study involving rodents and therefore is likely not applicable toward human weight loss. The other camp takes the position that since it is recommended by a popular celebrity doctor and its effects are demonstrated by individuals who have taken the supplement and lost weight that the raspberry ketone supplement must work.
So, who’s right? In this case both are.
Interest in raspberry ketone supplements originate from a 1995 study published in the journal Life Sciences where Japanese researchers reported their findings that mice on a high fat diet supplemented with a raspberry ketone supplement were protected from obesity.
Raspberry ketones are aromatic compounds of the red raspberry that are commonly used as flavor and scent additives. What stimulated anti-obesity related research with raspberry ketones is due to their similarity to the capsaicin found in chili pepper plants, which is also believed to possess anti-obesity and lipid metabolizing properties.
The researchers of the study determined that raspberry ketones provided protection from obesity in mice by significantly increasing norepinephrine-induced lipolysis associated with the translocation of hormone-sensitive lipase from the cytosol to lipid droplets in white fat cells. In other words, raspberry ketones induce cells to burn stored fat.
On the Dr. Oz show, weight loss expert and dietician Lisa Lynn illustrates the benefits of raspberry ketones by showing before and after images of patients of hers that have lost significant amounts of weight that they attribute to adding raspberry ketone supplements to their diet and weight loss plans. However, even if the images are true, they are a far cry from rigorous research that can quantitatively support or discount the fat burning effects of raspberry ketones on the body.
The point to all of this is that the argument can be made that in some cases, knowing the exact scientific truth of whether a supplement does or does not burn fat may be irrelevant.
One of the primary tenets of medicine is to first do no harm. And as many doctors will attest, part of the art of medicine is knowing how to meet the needs of particular patients who may benefit from non-science backed guidance—as long as it causes no harm. According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) raspberry ketones qualify as a substance under GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for human consumption. Furthermore, there are several studies that show value in health with the placebo effect—which may be the real reason in the before and after success stories.
Aside from a counter argument that dieters who buy these products in hopes of losing weight are being duped by the supplement industry, as long as the buyer is sufficiently mentally capable of understanding that the caveat buyer beware applies, then where’s the harm? Can we not see more redeeming character in someone who at least attempts to lose weight over someone who does not try?
It is just as easy to dismiss something as hokum as it is to believe that something is true—it’s human nature. And if there’s one thing we know about dieting and weight loss that is true is that what works for one person, may not work for another. Claims of the fat burning properties of burning raspberry ketones may not have sufficient supporting scientific evidence, but what they do have is the drive of people who want to improve their health.
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Reference: Morimoto C, Satoh Y, Hara M, Inoue S, Tsujita T, & Okuda H. (2005). Anti-obese action of raspberry ketone. Life Sciences. 77(2), 194-204.