A brand new get-slim-quick fix is on the market, and it’s based on the humble raspberry.
Raspberry ketones are fragrant compounds that occur naturally in raspberries and a number of other fruits.
Raspberries are normally used to give a fruity smell to cosmetics and foodstuffs but, because you only get between 1 and 4 milligrams from every kilo of fresh fruit, a synthetic version is often used to get the same result. And now these ketones are being sold online, in supplement form, as a slimming aid.
The key lies in the fact that raspberry ketones appear to boost levels of a hormone called adiponectin, which regulates metabolism. Higher levels of this hormone are associated with fewer fat stores.
Millions of Americans have become convinced of their powers to “melt” away fat after they were recommended by Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Dr. Mehmet Oz says raspberry ketones are “the number-one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat”.
So do they really work? Ann Ashworth, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, urges caution, pointing out the only published research into the effects of raspberry ketones on weight loss is small studies on mice.
“Although this sounds very exciting, this evidence cannot be transferred to humans without further clinical trials,” she says.
“We need to know if it’s safe, if there are side-effects, or if it interacts with other medicines.”
Consultant nutritionist Helen Bond agrees: “People want a quick fix, especially at this time of the year, but when it comes to weight loss, no supplement can take the place of a healthy diet and exercise.”
“It is not very glamorous but it will save you quite a few pennies along the way and will help you keep the weight off in the long term.”
Raspberry ketones appear to boost levels of a hormone called adiponectin, which regulates metabolism
What Are Raspberry Ketones?
Raspberry ketones are what actually gives a raspberry its smell. Raspberry ketones have been used as a chemical additive in perfumes and cosmetics for quite some time as a fragrance agent. Its official chemical name is 4(-4-Hydroxyphenyl)butan-2-one and more commonly known as Frambinone, Oxyphenylon, Rheosmin and Rasketone. It’s sweet fruity aroma make it an attractive to use in products. Raspberry ketones are really only found in trace amounts in raspberries (less than 0.1%), which makes the natural version of the ketone too costly to use in supplements which means any raspberry ketone that is actually used in a supplement would rarely come from the actual raspberry and more-than-likely come from a product synthesized in the lab.
Synthesized raspberry ketone is really cheap – costing only a few bucks per pound. Ironically, this does not drive the price of the supplement down eventhough a large bottle contains just pennies of actual, pure raspberry ketone. This should raise a red flag as it implies that the supplement companies are raking in a huge profit by creating a cheap clone of the raspberry ketone compound.
Do Raspberry Ketones Work? And Are Raspberry Ketones Safe?
According to the May 2012 issue of The Pharmacist’s Letter, raspberry ketones are purported to help weight loss by increasing lipid metabolism. However, this has been shown in lab animals…not humans! The Pharmacists Letter also goes on to state that safety is also a concern because the higher dosages of raspberry ketones have not even been tested in humans and reports are coming in of palpitations and reduced warfarin effects in patients who were taking raspberry ketone products. The Pharmacists Letter advises all pharmacists to advise patients to steer clear of raspberry ketone supplements.
Raspberry ketones have a chemical structure similar to synephrine (which is a weight-loss drug and used as an alternative to ephedrine – which has been taken off the market due to harmful side effects). According to Wikipedia: “Many diet products such as “Stacker 2″, “Xenadrine-EFX”, etc. contain a “stack” of synephrine along with caffeine, sometimes with an NSAID. Some reports have indicated that such diet pills cause numerous harmful effects. The Mayo Clinic published a report that suggested a link between Stacker 2 pills and increased risk of ischemic stroke, increased blood pressure, and myocardial infarction (heart attack). Synephrine can also cause arrhythmias. It is similar to ephedrine and can therefore show similar symptoms.”
Synephrine can also be found in supplements such as Bitter Orange. Bitter Orange can cause high blood pressure and increased heart rate. There has been no evidence to show that Bitter Orange is any safer than ephedrine.
Due to the nature of this supplement, it does not require FDA approval nor scientific backing to support the fat-loss claims. And as stated above, all of the studies had a serious shortcoming: They involved rodents or cells in test tubes, not people! To me this is a definite deal-breaker! Many weight-loss supplements look great in the lab, but don’t actually work in the real-world – mainly due to poor nutrition and lack of exercise!
The Dr. Oz television segment featured before-and-after pictures of women who said they lost significant weight while taking raspberry ketone supplements. But Dr. Oz noted that the women had also dieted and worked out. The Dr. Oz website says that raspberry ketones work best “when paired with regular exercise and a well-balanced diet.”
In summary, I would steer clear of raspberry ketones as recommended in The Pharmacists Letter. There have been no trials done on humans to support the claims and the only way they’ve been shown to work is when paired with diet and exercise. So, if you’re considering raspberry ketones, it is probably best to start with diet and exercise first and see where that gets you – odds are you’ll lose weight and save some cash by not purchasing the next “miracle” fat burner.
A new drink containing ketones could not only help you lose weight, but could also treat epilepsy, diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s.
It might also be an incredible energy booster. When a group of international rowing champions took it, one of them beat a world record.
It sounds far too good to be true, but the drink’s scientific credentials are impeccable.
It’s been developed by Kieran Clarke, professor of physiological biochemistry at Oxford University and head of its Cardiac Metabolism Research Group, at the behest of the U.S. Army.
Equally amazing is that the drink doesn’t involve a new drug. It contains something our bodies produce all the time.
This key ingredient is ketones – the tiny, but powerful sources of energy our bodies make naturally when we start using up our fat stores for energy because there are no carbs around.
We all have slightly raised ketone levels before breakfast because we haven’t eaten for a while. And if you fast for a few days or go on an Atkins-type high-fat diet, your body will start pumping out ketones. They are nature’s way of keeping you supplied with energy – especially your brain and muscles.
The clever trick Prof. Kieran Clarke has pulled off is to have found a way to make ketones in the lab. This means that instead of having to follow difficult diets (with unpleasant side-effects such as constipation and bad breath), you can just add ketones to a normal diet – in the form of the Drink, as it’s known.
It’s a radical new approach, which flies in the face of more than 30 years of advice that a low-fat diet with lots of carbohydrates is the best way to lose weight, treat diabetes and protect your heart. It also raises questions about the demonizing of diets such as Atkins, which are blamed for causing constipation and kidney failure.
IT TRICKS YOUR BODY INTO BURNING OFF FAT
So how do ketones help? They are the reason why high-fat diets such as Atkins seem to work so well. Without the energy from carbohydrates, your body starts releasing stored fat, which the liver turns into ketones for energy.
The pounds drop off faster than with a low-fat diet because you are actively burning up stored fat. But there are other benefits of these ketogenic diets, as they are called. Blood sugar levels come down because you are eating hardly any carbohydrates.
In a study published earlier this year, Prof. Kieran Clarke found that rats given the new ketone compound ate less and put on less weight than those getting the same amount of calories from a high-fat or a high-carbohydrate diet.
In the first trial Prof. Kieran Clarke has run on humans with diabetes, completed within the past few months, the effects were also impressive. In the week-long study, eight people with diabetes had three ketone drinks a day as well as their normal diet.
As with the rats, their weight dropped (an average of nearly 2% of their body weight), but so did their glucose levels, cholesterol and the amount of fat in the blood. The amount of exercise they did went up as they had more energy. However, the study was small and as yet unpublished.
To anyone with diabetes, the idea of ketones being good seems extraordinary. That’s because they are usually warned that high ketones can be very dangerous. In fact, the danger is limited to cases where the diabetes isn’t controlled and the patient has very high blood sugar levels as well.
That’s rare these days with effective drugs. Indeed, very high-fat diets, which produce ketones, are being tested as a treatment for diabetes.
A new drink containing ketones could not only help you lose weight, but could also treat epilepsy, diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s
HELPING CHILDREN WITH EPILEPSY
The Drink has its roots in ketogenic diets, which are designed to raise ketone production. One medical area where a very high-fat ketogenic diet is used as standard treatment is in childhood epilepsy.
A review by the Cochrane Collaboration found that in children who weren’t responding to drugs, it was as effective as medication would normally be.
This followed a major study conducted four years ago by Professor Helen Cross, a neurologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, which showed the diet was effective.
“About 30 per cent of epileptic children don’t respond to drugs and they can have a dreadful time – 100 fits a day is not uncommon,” says Susan Wood, a registered dietician who works for the charity Matthew’s Friends Clinics, which aims to make a high ketogenic diet available to all children who may benefit from it.
“We see a big drop in the number of seizures in nearly 40% of the children who go on the diet.”
It’s thought the diet helps suppress stimulation signals to the brain.
The problem is that ketogenic diets can be hard to follow. A typical high-fat diet for children with epilepsy, for instance, includes oil, butter, double cream, eggs, mayonnaise and cheese. Not to everyone’s taste.
Even more difficult on this sort of diet, you have almost no fruit or vegetables (most count as carbo-hydrates) – this can lead to mineral and vitamin shortages and a raised risk of heart disease from all the fat.
THE U.S. ARMY RIDES TO THE RESCUE
And this is where the U.S. Army comes in. Like other radical innovations, such as the internet, driverless cars and a battery-powered human “exoskeleton”, the ketone drink was the result of a commission from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is set up to research imaginative high-risk projects.
“Back in 2003 they were looking for an energy source that would improve soldiers’ mental and physical performance under battlefield conditions,” says Prof. Kieran Clarke.
“Troops weren’t taking enough rations into action because they filled their rucksacks with extra ammunition instead. As their blood glucose dropped, they became confused and sometimes ended up shooting their own side.”
Prof. Kieran Clarke had been working on ketones as a high energy source for more than a decade when she approached DARPA, who funded the research that allowed her to discover a way to make ketones in the lab.
“No one had done it before,” she says.
“We called it DeltaG, which is the biochemical name for energy, but also has a military ring to it – Delta Force and all.” She tried the new compound on rats and found it boosted physical and mental performance.
But that wasn’t all. The rats became much healthier. They lost body fat, had lower levels of triglycerides (fatty acids) in their blood and lower blood sugar levels. There were no signs of harmful side-effects.
U.S. defence chiefs are reportedly delighted with the Drink, but it’s expected to be a while before it’s taken up on a large scale by the Army.
So how does a drink that adds ketones help you lose weight if you’re not burning fat to produce those ketones in the first place? It is because ketones make you less hungry – they damp down hunger centres in the brain. This means you eat less and so you have the same weight loss as on a high-fat diet.
Meanwhile, because you’re eating less, your blood sugar levels come down (which is good for diabetics).
LOSE WEIGHT AND HAVE MORE ENERGY
Eighteen months ago, Prof. Kieran Clarke tried her ketones on rowers.
DeltaG ketones come in a thick, clear liquid that is very bitter, so in the trials on rats and humans, it has a little water added along with orange-coloured flavouring plus some sweeteners to make it more palatable – in this form it’s known as the Drink.
A group of top international rowers were given it shortly before they rowed on fixed machines in a lab.
After half an hour of hard rowing, those getting the Drink had rowed on average 50 m further in the same time than when they had a dummy drink. This was an improvement of 0.5%. It can be the difference between silver and gold.
Dr. Scott Drawer, head of research at UK Sport, who helped design the trial, said: “Ketones have been ignored as an energy source in sport. We need to look at them seriously.”
DON’T WORRY ABOUT SIDE-EFFECTS
The big idea of the Drink is that it is a way to get the benefits of weight loss and metabolic improvements that come with raised ketones without going through the pain of the diet.
But what about the dangers of high levels of ketones? Ketogenic diets are linked with constipation (through lack of roughage) and sometimes bad breath (the result of the way ketones happen to smell). Increased ketone levels may also lead to kidney failure, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease, according to NHS Direct.
Prof. Kieran Clarke believes fears about raising ketone levels are based on a misunderstanding.
“Our bodies have a parallel system designed to make use of ketones as an energy source, which is faster and more efficient than the way our bodies use glucose. Gram for gram, ketones give you 38 per cent more energy than glucose,” she says.
“The trouble is we rarely need to use ketones because we are surrounded by food. But that’s happened only in the past 50 years when everyone has had enough to eat. Before that many people would often be ketogenic.”
The ketone pathway developed as a way to provide animals and humans with energy in times of famine; it’s only if someone has uncontrolled diabetes that raising ketones is dangerous.
BUT IT’S NOT AN EXCUSE TO BE LAZY
But what do other experts think? Dr. Rhys Evans, reader in physiology, anatomy and genetics at Keble College, Oxford says: “Ketones are a superb source of energy, so it makes perfectly good sense to use them as extra fuel for the brain and muscles.”
“Kieran has pulled off a neat chemical trick creating a new version in the lab. In metabolic terms, this offers some new and exciting possibilities.”
Epilepsy researcher Prof. Helen Cross adds: “Getting the new ketones could be a boon.”
When it comes to epilepsy, neurologists are concerned about the health risks of a high-fat diet, while sticking to it can be difficult for children – a ketone drink could be more appealing.
So why haven’t we heard about this before? It’s because ketones are a natural product that can’t be turned into a top-selling treatment, so no drug company is interested.
“We have a problem raising the money just to produce enough of it to run trials cheaply,” says Prof. Kieran Clarke (which is why you won’t see it in shops for some time).
She adds: “DeltaG is not a licence to stay glued to the TV eating take-aways. It provides 10% of your total calories (each drink is around 200 calories), so if you are going to lose weight you are going to have to cut that much from your diet or you would put on weight.
“For best results, you should be eating a sensible, healthy diet, maybe some variation of the Mediterranean.”
And then there is the taste: “It tastes dreadful – just like the cold remedy Benylin – so you’d take it only if you had to,” says Prof. Kieran Clarke.
But losing weight without feeling hungry might prove pretty attractive!