I get a lot of questions about OTC weight loss products, especially Green coffee bean extract (GCE) recently since it has been widely promoted. Green coffee beans are unroasted and contain higher concentrations of chlorogenic acid (CGA) than a cup of coffee. This ingredient is supposed to promote fat metabolism and lessen the amount of glucose or sugar that is absorbed. This is important since glucose that is unused by your cells for energy end up turning into fat. Studies have shown that doses of 350 mg taken 3 times daily led to patients losing 5 to 10% of body weight over a 6-week period. Keep in mind, these studies were conducted in Japan, India, and other countries whose residents have different diets than the average American. If you are going to use this product, make sure it is produced in the USA, contains at least 45% CGA, and is low in caffeine. Researchers have not established a standard dosage and long term effects are unknown. Patients with heart disease should avoid this product.
Raspberry ketone, present in raspberries, cranberries, and blackberries, and bitter orange are two ingredients found in weight loss supplements. These chemicals have ephedra- like properties and work by increasing metabolism and suppressing appetite. Evidence on safety and efficacy are limited. Increased blood pressure has been linked to raspberry ketone Fainting, heart-attacks and strokes in otherwise healthy people have been reported with bitter orange alone or in combo with caffeine.
OTC supplements marketed for weight loss are not to be used by patients with high blood pressure or that have heart related issues as these drugs can increase blood pressure and overall risk for heart attack and stroke especially in this patient population. Whether they are marketed as "natural" and most have ingredients that patients have not heard of yet have similar effects as caffeine, ephedra etc. The number of dietary supplements marketed for weight loss continues to grow. Patients should not purchase weight loss products online, as they may contain drugs, such as sibutramine or amphetamines that are harmful. Changing your lifestyle to incorporate exercise, reduced calorie intake, increase fiber in your diet and overall healthy eating are really tried and true measures for keeping weight down and living healthier.
- Vanessa Andricola, Pharm D.