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Can Drinking Darker Coffee Improve Your Health?

Recent research has shown that moderate coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Since reactive oxygen species (ROS) are believed to be involved in both of these diseases, it was theorized that antioxidants in coffee might contribute to the risk reduction.

Scientists examined whether or not dark roast coffee has a stronger antioxidant effect than light roast.  They found that dark roast was the most effective.

According to the study, as reported by Green Med Info:

"Furthermore, administration of the [dark roast] led to a significant body weight reduction in pre-obese subjects." 

The common wisdom with coffee is that it is better off avoided, but some new information has changed my position on this. Coffee, like many other natural plants and herbs, does appear to have some therapeutic benefits given the right circumstances. Most notably, if you are drinking the popular coffee beverages doused with creamer, milk, sugar and other sweeteners and flavorings, you are missing out on the therapeutic benefit and only causing potential harm to your health.

On the other hand, organic whole-bean black coffee, does appear to have some health benefits, and it seems the darker the roast, the more benefits it provides.

Dark Roast Coffee may be Superior to Light Roast

The "darkness" of your coffee refers to the ending coloration of a bean after it has been roasted for a certain length of time. Coffee roasting is actually a very complex art that requires the beans to be brought to high temperatures very quickly, and then cooled off just as fast when the desired roast is reached. Expert roasters may have years of training that allows them to "read" the coffee beans for signs of appropriate roasting. 

It's often the case that foods with the darkest pigments also offer the most robust benefits to health, and dark roast coffee, such as French Roast or that used to make espresso or Turkish coffee, may be no exception.

New research in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found that dark roast coffee restored blood levels of the antioxidants vitamin E and glutathione more effectively than light roast coffee. The dark roast also led to a significant body weight reduction in pre-obese volunteers, whereas the light roast did not.

Separate research also showed that dark roast coffee produces more of a chemical called N-methylpyridinium. This chemical is produced during the roasting process, and the darker the roast, the more N-methylpyridinium it contains. Interestingly, this chemical also appears to prevent your stomach cells from producing excess acid, which means dark roast coffee may be easier on your stomach, whereas lighter roasts might give you the acid-like stomach irritation that coffee drinkers sometimes experience.

Caffeine levels also vary depending on roast, with darker roasts containing less caffeine than lighter roasts. Please realize that the warnings against the use of caffeine are well-warranted, because in and of itself it can be quite toxic. However, like so many other natural substances, when it comes to the whole food, in this case the coffee bean as opposed to the isolated caffeine, the converse is oftentimes true, and whole caffeinated foods, such as coffee, cocoa beans and tea, may actually be highly beneficial.

Please note that I still recommend women avoid caffeine during pregnancy, however.

Are There Other Health Benefits to Coffee?

In an interview was recently conducted with Ori Hofmekler, author and a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast who has researched coffee extensively, you can hear the details of why coffee may have additional benefits.

For instance, recent research, which Ori has written about in his upcoming book, Unlocking the Muscle Gene, has shown that coffee, which can trigger glutamate reuptake inhibition, ALSO triggers a mechanism in your brain that releases a growth factor called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).

BDNF activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, and also expresses itself in your muscles. It does this by supporting the neuromotor, which is the most critical element in your muscle. Without the neuromotor, your muscle is like an engine without ignition …  Neuro-motor degradation is part of the process that explains age-related muscle atrophy.

So in this respect natural, whole coffee may help keep your brain and muscle tissue young.

A large study of nearly 50,000 men also found that men who drank six cups of coffee a day had a 60 percent lower risk of lethal prostate cancer, while those who drank three cups a day had a 30 percent lower risk. The benefits were thought to come from the non-caffeine components of coffee, which include multiple nutrients and flavonoid antioxidants.

Other studies, too, have shown a lower cancer risk among coffee drinkers. For instance, a Japanese study found that those who drank coffee daily, or close to it, had about half the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma(HCC), a type of liver cancer, than people who never drank coffee. Other research has also linked coffee with lower rates of:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Dementia
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Stroke

There is also reason to believe that coffee could help curb your sugar cravings. One of the reasons why you get addicted to a food is because your brain has opioid receptors. They're part of a primordial reward system that helps you detect, select and enjoy eating fresh foods over rancid ones.

Today, however, we live in a world of plenty, surrounded by processed foods that are typically loaded with sugar, which has led our addictive opioid receptors to become addicted to the wrong foods. Well, coffee is an opioid receptor antagonist, meaning caffeine can bind to your opioid receptors, occupy them and essentially prohibit you from being addicted to something else. This may attenuate the addictive impact of another substance, such as sugar.

"If you are addicted to sugar, for instance, and you really want to train your body gradually to get rid of this addiction, using coffee would be a viable way to help yourself achieve this. Train yourself to drink black coffee. Drink it sugarless on an empty stomach and you will see how, gradually, the cravings will dissipate."

Coffee Quality is Key: 4 Tips to Remember

When it comes to achieving any therapeutic benefits from coffee, only quality coffee will do.

This includes:

  • Organic:Most coffee produced today is heavily contaminated with pesticides. It's actually one of the most heavily sprayed crops grown. So, any coffee you consume should be organic, pesticide-free coffee.
  • Whole bean:You'll want to purchase coffee in whole bean form and then grind it yourself to prevent rancidity. Pre-ground coffee may be rancid by the time you drink it.
  • Properly dried and roasted:The coffee should smell and taste fresh, not stale. If your coffee does not have a pleasant aroma, it is likely rancid and poor quality.
  • Black:If you're interested in health benefits, drink your coffee black, without sugar or cream. Add sugar and you'll certainly ruin any of the benefits discussed above by spiking your insulin levels and causing insulin resistance.

Further, if you use a "drip" coffee maker, be sure to use non-bleached filters. The bright white ones, which most people use, are chlorine bleached and some of this chlorine will be extracted from the filter during the brewing process. They are also full of dangerous disinfection byproducts like dioxin. If you adhere to the tips above, I see no reason why coffee cannot be a sensible and even therapeutic part of your diet.

 

 

 

 

10 Benefits of Green Tea Extract

Green tea is one of the most commonly consumed teas in the world.

Green tea extract is its concentrated form, with just one capsule containing the same amount of active ingredients as an average cup of green tea.

Like green tea extract is a great source of antioxidants. These have been credited with a range of health benefits, from promoting heart, liver and brain health to improving your skin and even reducing the risk of cancer.

What’s more, many studies have looked at green tea extract’s ability to aid weight loss. In fact, many weight loss products list it as a key ingredient.

This article explores 10 science-based benefits of green tea extract.

1. High in Antioxidants

The health benefits of green tea extract are mostly due to its high antioxidant content.

Antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress by fighting cell damage caused by free radicals. This cell damage is associated with aging and several diseases.

Polyphenol antioxidants called catechins comprise the majority of green tea extract’s antioxidant content. Among the catechins in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most researched and thought to provide the most health benefits.

Studies have shown that green tea extract increases the antioxidant capacity of the body and protects against oxidative stress.

For example, one study had 35 obese people take 870 mg of green tea extract for eight weeks. Their blood antioxidant capacity increased from 1.2 to 2.5 μmol/L, on average.

Green tea extract boosts antioxidant capacity, which may help prevent various health problems caused by oxidative stress.

Green tea extract is rich in antioxidants called catechins, which have been shown to increase antioxidant capacity and protect against oxidative stress.

2. May Promote Heart Health

Oxidative stress increases fat buildup in the blood, which promotes inflammation in the arteries and leads to high blood pressure.

Fortunately, the antioxidants in green tea extract can decrease inflammation and help reduce blood pressure. They can also inhibit fat absorption in cells, helping reduce blood fat levels.

One study had 56 obese people with high blood pressure take 379 mg of green tea extract daily for three months. They showed a significant decrease in blood pressure, compared to the placebo group.

Additionally, they experienced significant reductions in blood fat levels, including lower triglycerides and total and LDL cholesterol.

Another study in 33 healthy people found that taking 250 mg of green tea extract daily for eight weeks reduced total cholesterol by 3.9% and LDL cholesterol by 4.5%.

Given that high blood pressure and high blood fat levels are risk factors for heart diseases, regulating them can promote heart health.

The catechins in green tea may help reduce blood pressure and improve blood fat levels, which promotes heart health.

3. Good for the Brain

The antioxidants in green tea extract, especially EGCG, have been shown to protect brain cells from oxidative stress.

This protection can help reduce brain damage that could lead to mental decline and brain diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Furthermore, green tea extract can decrease the action of heavy metals like iron and copper, both of which can damage brain cells.

It’s also been shown to help memory by enhancing the connection between different parts of the brain.

One study had 12 people drink a soft drink containing 27.5 grams of green tea extract or a placebo. Then, while the participants worked on memory tests, brain images were obtained to assess brain function.

The green tea extract group showed an increase in brain function and improved task performance, compared to the placebo group.

Green tea extract has been shown to have a positive effect on brain health and memory, and may help protect against brain diseases.

4. Can Help With Weight Loss

Green tea extract is rich in catechins, and it contains a decent amount of caffeine.

Interestingly, it seems that this combination of ingredients is responsible for its weight loss properties.

Both catechins and caffeine have been shown to assist in weight loss by regulating the hormones that can enhance thermogenesis.

Thermogenesis is the process by which your body burns calories to digest food and produce heat. Green tea has been shown to boost this process by making your body more effective at burning calories, which can lead to weight loss.

One study had 14 people take a capsule containing a mixture of caffeine, EGCG from green tea and guarana extract before each meal. It then examined the effect on calorie burning.

It found that the participants burned 179 more calories, on average, in the following 24 hours.

Another study showed that 10 healthy men burned 4% more calories during the 24 hours after consuming a green tea extract capsule containing 50 mg of caffeine and 90 mg of EGCG.

What’s more, a 12-week study that had 115 overweight women take 856 mg of green tea extract daily observed a 2.4-lb (1.1-kg) weight loss among participants.

Green tea extract can aid weight loss by increasing the number of calories your body burns through thermogenesis.

5. Might Benefit Liver Function

The catechins in green tea extract may also help reduce inflammation caused by some liver diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

One study gave 80 participants with NAFLD either 500 mg of green tea extract or a placebo daily for 90 days.

The green tea extract group showed significant reductions in liver enzyme levels, which is an indication of improved liver health.

Similarly, 17 patients with NAFLD took 700 ml of green tea, which contained at least 1 gram of catechins, daily for 12 weeks. They had significant decreases in liver fat content, inflammation and oxidative stress.

Interestingly, it’s important to stick to the recommended dosage for green tea extract, as exceeding it has been shown to be harmful to the liver.

Green tea extract seems to help improve liver function by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress.

6. May Reduce the Risk of Cancer

The maintenance of your body’s tissues and organs is characterized by cell death and regrowth. Specialized cells known as stem cells produce new cells to replace those that die. This process keeps cells active and healthy.

However, when this balance is disrupted, cancer can occur. This is when your body starts producing dysfunctional cells, and cells don’t die when they should.

The antioxidants in green tea extract, especially EGCG, seem to have favorable effects on the balance of cell production and death.

One study explored the effects of taking 600 mg of green tea catechins per day for a year on patients at risk of developing prostate cancer.

It found that the likelihood of developing cancer was 3% for the green tea group, compared to 30% for the control group.

Green tea extract has been shown to help maintain cell health. It may even help prevent some types of cancer, though more research is needed.

7. Its Components May Be Good for the Skin

Whether taken as a supplement or applied to the skin, green tea extract has been shown to improve skin health.

A large review demonstrated that when applied to the skin, green tea extract can help treat a variety of skin problems, such as dermatitis, rosacea and warts. Also, as a supplement, it has been shown to help with skin aging and acne.

For example, a study showed that consuming 1,500 mg of green tea extract daily for four weeks resulted in significant reductions in red skin bumps caused by acne.

Moreover, both supplements and the topical application of green tea extract seem to help prevent skin conditions like loss of skin elasticity, inflammation, premature aging and cancer caused by exposure to UV rays.

A study in 10 people revealed that applying a cream containing green tea extract to the skin for 60 days resulted in improved skin elasticity.

Additionally, a study showed that applying green tea extract to the skin reduced skin damage caused by sun exposure.

Interestingly enough, adding green tea extract to cosmetic products has been shown to benefit the skin by providing a moisturizing effect.

Green tea extract has been shown to help prevent and treat several skin conditions.

8. May Benefit Exercise Performance and Recovery

Green tea extract seems to be helpful in exercise, whether it’s by improving exercise performance or enhancing recovery.

While exercise has many health benefits, it’s known to produce oxidative stress and damage cells in the body.

Fortunately, antioxidants like green tea catechins can reduce cellular damage and delay muscle fatigue.

In fact, a study in 35 men showed that green tea extract combined with strength training for four weeks enhanced the body’s antioxidant protection.

Additionally, 16 sprinters who took green tea extract for four weeks demonstrated increased protection against oxidative stress produced by repeated sprint bouts.

Furthermore, green tea extract seems to benefit exercise performance.

One study found that 14 men who consumed green tea extract for four weeks increased their running distance by 10.9%.

Green tea extract increases antioxidant protection against oxidative damage caused by exercise. This translates to better exercise performance and recovery.

9. May Help Lower Blood Sugar

The catechins in green tea, especially EGCG, have been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and regulate the production of blood sugar, both of which can lower blood sugar levels.

A study gave 14 healthy people a sugary substance and 1.5 grams of green tea or a placebo. The green tea group experienced better blood sugar tolerance after 30 minutes, and continued to show better results, compared to the placebo group.

Another study showed that green tea extract improved insulin sensitivity in healthy young men by 13%.

Moreover, an analysis of 17 studies concluded that green tea extract is useful in decreasing fasting blood sugar levels. It can also help lower levels of hemoglobin A1C, which is an indicator of blood sugar levels over the past 2–3 months.

Green tea extract has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and blood sugar tolerance, all while decreasing hemoglobin A1C and blood sugar levels.

10. Easy to Add to Your Diet

Green tea extract is available in liquid, powder and capsule forms.

The liquid extract can be diluted in water, while the powder can be mixed into smoothies. However, it has a strong taste.

The recommended dosage of green tea extract is between 250–500 mg per day. This amount can be obtained from 3–5 cups of green tea, or about 1.2 liters.

But it’s important to know that not all green tea extract supplements are created equal. Some supplements contain only dry green tea leaves, while others contain isolated forms of one or more catechins.

The catechin most closely linked to the health benefits of green tea extract is EGCG, so you’ll want to make sure that the supplement you are consuming contains it.

Finally, it’s best to take green tea extract with foods. Both exceeding the recommended dose and taking it on an empty stomach may cause serious liver damage.

Green tea extract can be consumed in capsule, liquid or powder form. The recommended dose is 250–500 mg taken with food.

The Bottom Line

Thanks to its high antioxidant content, green tea extract has been shown to help improve health and body composition.

Many studies have shown that green tea extract can promote weight loss, blood sugar regulation, disease prevention and exercise recovery.

It can also help keep your skin and liver healthy, reduce blood fat levels, regulate blood pressure and improve brain health.

It can be consumed in capsule, liquid or powder form. The recommended dose is 250–500 mg a day, and it is best taken with food.

Whether you want to improve your general health or decrease your risk of disease, green tea extract is an easy way to add health-boosting antioxidants to your diet.

 

 

 

7 Proven Health Benefits of Ginseng

Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.

This slow-growing, short plant with fleshy roots can be classified three ways, depending on how long it is grown: fresh, white or red.

Fresh ginseng is harvested before 4 years, while white ginseng is harvested between 4–6 years and red ginseng is harvested after 6 or more years.

There are many types of this herb, but the most popular are American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng).

American and Asian ginseng vary in their concentration of active compounds and effects on the body. It is believed that American ginseng works as a relaxing agent, whereas the Asian variety has an invigorating effect.

Ginseng contains two significant compounds: ginsenosides and gintonin. These compounds complement one another to provide health benefits.

Here are 8 evidence-based health benefits of ginseng.

1. Potent Antioxidant That May Reduce Inflammation

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Ginseng has beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Some test-tube studies have shown that ginseng extracts and ginsenoside compounds could inhibit inflammation and increase antioxidant capacity in cells.

For example, one test-tube study found that Korean red ginseng extract reduced inflammation and improved antioxidant activity is skin cells from people with eczema.

The results are promising in humans, as well.

One study investigated the effects of having 18 young male athletes take 2 grams of Korean red ginseng extract three times per day for seven days.

The men then had levels of certain inflammatory markers tested after performing an exercise test. These levels were significantly lower than in the placebo group, lasting for up to 72 hours after testing.

However, it should be noted that the placebo group got a different medicinal herb, so these results should be taken with a grain of salt and more studies are needed.

Lastly, a larger study followed 71 postmenopausal women who took 3 grams of red ginseng or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. Antioxidant activity and oxidative stress markers were then measured.

Researchers concluded that red ginseng may help reduce oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant enzyme activities.

Ginseng has been shown to help reduce inflammatory markers and help protect against oxidative stress.

2. May Benefit Brain Function

Ginseng could help improve brain functions like memory, behavior and mood.

Some test-tube and animal studies show that components in ginseng, like ginsenosides and compound K, could protect the brain against damage caused by free radicals.

One study followed 30 healthy people who consumed 200 mg of Panax ginseng daily for four weeks. At the end of the study, they showed improvement in mental health, social functioning and mood.

However, these benefits stopped being significant after 8 weeks, suggesting that ginseng effects might decrease with extended use.

Another study examined how single doses of either 200 or 400 mg of Panax ginseng affected mental performance, mental fatigue and blood sugar levels in 30 healthy adults before and after a 10-minute mental test.

The 200-mg dose, as opposed to the 400-mg dose, was more effective at improving mental performance and fatigue during the test.

It is possible that ginseng assisted the uptake of blood sugar by cells, which could have enhanced performance and reduced mental fatigue. Yet it is not clear why the lower dose was more effective than the higher one.

A third study found that taking 400 mg of Panax ginseng daily for eight days improved calmness and math skills.

What’s more, other studies found positive effects on brain function and behavior in people with Alzheimer's disease.

Ginseng has been shown to benefit mental functions, feelings of calmness and mood in both healthy people and those with Alzheimer's disease.

3. Could Improve Erectile Dysfunction

Research has shown that ginseng may be a useful alternative for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED) in men.

It seems that compounds in it may protect against oxidative stress in blood vessels and tissues in the penis and help restore normal function.

Additionally, studies have shown that ginseng may promote the production of nitric oxide, a compound that improves muscle relaxation in the penis and increases blood circulation.

One study found that men treated with Korean red ginseng had a 60% improvement in ED symptoms, compared to 30% improvement produced by a medication used to treat ED.

Moreover, another study showed that 86 men with ED had significant improvements in erectile function and overall satisfaction after taking 1,000 mg of aged ginseng extract for 8 weeks.

However, more studies are needed to draw definite conclusions about the effects of ginseng on ED.

Ginseng may improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction by decreasing oxidative stress in tissues and enhancing blood flow in penile muscles.

4. May Boost the Immune System

Ginseng may strengthen the immune system.

Some studies exploring its effects on the immune system have focused on cancer patients undergoing surgery or chemotherapy treatment.

One study followed 39 people who were recovering from surgery for stomach cancer, treating them with 5,400 mg of ginseng daily for two years.

Interestingly, these people had significant improvements in immune functions and a lower recurrence of symptoms.

Another study examined the effect of red ginseng extract on immune system markers in people with advanced stomach cancer undergoing post-surgery chemotherapy.

After three months, those taking red ginseng extract had better immune system markers than those in the control or placebo group.

Furthermore, a study suggested that people who take ginseng could have up to a 35% higher chance of living disease-free for five years after curative surgery and up to a 38% higher survival rate compared to those not taking it.

It seems that ginseng extract could enhance the effect of vaccinations against diseases like influenza, as well.

Even though these studies show improvements in immune system markers in people with cancer, more research is needed to demonstrate the efficacy of ginseng in boosting resistance to infections in healthy people.

Ginseng may strengthen the immune system in people with cancer and even enhance the effects of certain vaccinations.

5. May Have Potential Benefits Against Cancer

Ginseng may be helpful in reducing the risk of certain cancers.

Ginsenosides in this herb have been shown to help reduce inflammation and provide antioxidant protection.

The cell cycle is the process by which cells normally grow and divide. Ginsenosides could benefit this cycle by preventing abnormal cell production and growth.

A review of several studies concluded that people who take ginseng may have a a 16% lower risk of developing cancer.

Moreover, an observational study suggested that people taking ginseng could be less likely to develop certain types of cancer, such as lip, mouth, esophagus, stomach, colon, liver and lung cancer, than those who do not take it.

Ginseng may also help improve the health of patients undergoing chemotherapy, reduce side effects and enhance the effect of some treatment drugs.

While studies on the role of ginseng in cancer prevention show some benefits, they remain inconclusive.

Ginsenosides in ginseng seem to regulate inflammation, provide antioxidant protection and maintain the health of cells, which could help decrease the risk of certain kinds of cancer. Nevertheless, more research is needed.

6. May Fight Tiredness and Increase Energy Levels

Ginseng has been shown to help fight fatigue and promote energy.

Various animal studies have linked some components in ginseng, like polysaccharides and oligopeptides, with lower oxidative stress and higher energy production in cells, which could help fight fatigue.

One four-week study explored the effects of giving 1 or 2 grams of Panax ginseng or a placebo to 90 people with chronic fatigue.

Those given Panax ginseng experienced less physical and mental fatigue, as well as reductions in oxidative stress, than those taking the placebo.

Another study gave 364 cancer survivors experiencing fatigue 2,000 mg of American ginseng or a placebo. After eight weeks, those in the ginseng group had significantly lower fatigue levels than those in the placebo group.

Furthermore, a review of over 155 studies suggested that ginseng supplements may not only help reduce fatigue but also enhance physical activity.

Ginseng may help fight fatigue and enhance physical activity by lowering oxidative damage and increasing energy production in cells.

7. Could Lower Blood Sugar

Ginseng seems to be beneficial in the control of blood glucose in people both with and without diabetes.

American and Asian ginseng have been shown to improve pancreatic cell function, boost insulin production and enhance the uptake of blood sugar in tissues.

Moreover, studies show that ginseng extracts help by providing antioxidant protection that reduce free radicals in the cells of those with diabetes.

One study assessed the effects of 6 grams of Korean red ginseng, along with the usual anti-diabetic medication or diet, in 19 people with type 2 diabetes.

Interestingly, they were able to maintain good blood sugar control throughout the 12-week study. They also had an 11% decrease in blood sugar levels, a 38% decrease in fasting insulin and a 33% increase in insulin sensitivity.

Another study showed that American ginseng helped improve blood sugar levels in 10 healthy people after they performed a sugary drink test.

It seems that fermented red ginseng could be even more effective at blood sugar control. Fermented ginseng is produced with the help of live bacteria that transform the ginsenosides into a more easily absorbed and potent form.

In fact, a study demonstrated that taking 2.7 grams of fermented red ginseng daily was effective at lowering blood sugar and increasing insulin levels after a test meal, compared to a placebo.

Ginseng, particularly fermented red ginseng, may help increase insulin production, enhance blood sugar uptake in cells and provide antioxidant protection.

Easy to Add to Your Diet

Ginseng root can be consumed in many ways. It can be eaten raw or you can lightly steam it to soften it.

It can also be stewed in water to make a tea. To do this, just add hot water to freshly sliced ginseng and let it steep for several minutes.

Ginseng can be added to various recipes like soups and stir-frys, too. And the extract can be found in powder, tablet, capsule and oil forms.

How much you should take depends on the condition you want to improve. Overall, daily doses of 1–2 grams of raw ginseng root or 200–400 mg of extract are suggested. It’s best to start with lower doses and increase over time.

Look for a standard ginseng extract that contains 2–3% total ginsenosides, and consume it before meals to increase absorption and get the full benefits.

Ginseng can be eaten raw, made into tea or added to various dishes. It can also be consumed as a powder, capsule or oil.

Safety and Potential Side Effects

According to research, ginseng appears to be safe and should not produce any serious adverse effects.

However, people taking diabetes medications should monitor their blood sugar levels closely when using ginseng to ensure these levels do not go too low.

Additionally, ginseng may reduce the effectiveness of anticoagulant drugs.

For these reasons, talk to your doctor before supplementing with it.

Note that due to the lack of safety studies, ginseng is not recommended for children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Lastly, there is evidence suggesting that the extended use of ginseng could decrease its effectiveness in the body.

To maximize its benefits, you should take ginseng in 2–3-week cycles with a one or two week break in between.

While ginseng appears to be safe, people taking certain medications should pay attention to possible drug interactions.

The Bottom Line

Ginseng is an herbal supplement that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine.

It is commonly touted for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It could also help regulate blood sugar levels and have benefits for some cancers.

What’s more, ginseng may strengthen the immune system, enhance brain function, fight fatigue and improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

Ginseng can be consumed raw or lightly steamed. It can also easily be added to your diet via its extract, capsule or powder form.

Whether you want to improve a certain condition or simply give your health a boost, ginseng is definitely worth a try.

  

 

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L-Carnitine: Benefits

L-carnitine is a naturally occurring amino acid derivative that's often taken as a supplement. It is used for weight loss and may have an impact on brain function. However, popular claims about supplements don’t always match up with the science. This article examines the potential risks and benefits of L-carnitine supplements and explains how this nutrient functions in your body.

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What Is L-Carnitine?

L-carnitine is a nutrient and dietary supplement. It plays a crucial role in the production of energy by transporting fatty acids into your cells' mitochondria.

The mitochondria act as engines within your cells, burning these fats to create usable energy.

Your body can produce L-carnitine out of the amino acids lysine and methionine.

For your body to produce it in sufficient amounts, you also need plenty of vitamin C.

In addition to the L-carnitine produced in your body, you can also obtain small amounts by eating animal products like meat or fish.

Vegans or people with certain genetic issues may be unable to produce or obtain enough. This makes L-carnitine a conditionally essential nutrient.

Different Types

L-carnitine is the standard biologically active form of carnitine, which is found in your body, foods and most supplements.

Here are several other types of carnitine:

  • D-carnitine:This inactive form may cause a carnitine deficiency in your body by inhibiting the absorption of other, more useful forms.
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine:Often called ALCAR, this is possibly the most effective form for your brain. Studies suggest that it may benefit people with neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Propionyl-L-carnitine:This form is well-suited for circulatory issues, such as peripheral vascular disease and high blood pressure. It may boost production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow.
  • L-carnitine L-tartrate: This is commonly added to sports supplements due to its rapid absorption rate. It may aid muscle soreness and recovery in exercise.

For most people, acetyl-L-carnitine and L-carnitine seem to be the most effective for general use. However, you should always pick the form that's best for your personal needs and goals.

Role in Your Body

L-carnitine's main role in your body involves mitochondrial function and energy production.

In cells, it helps transport fatty acids into the mitochondria, where they can be burned for energy.

About 98% of your L-carnitine stores are contained in your muscles, along with trace amounts in your liver and blood.

L-carnitine may help increase mitochondrial function, which plays a key role in disease and healthy aging.

Newer research illustrates the potential benefits of carnitine’s different forms, which may be used for various conditions, including heart and brain diseases.

SUMMARY L-carnitine is an amino acid derivative that transports fatty acids into your cells to be processed for energy. It is made by your body and also available as a supplement.

Does It Aid Weight Loss?

In theory, using L-carnitine as a weight loss supplement makes sense.

Since L-carnitine helps move more fatty acids into your cells to be burned for energy, you might think this would increase your ability to burn fat and lose weight.

However, the human body is extremely complex, and the results of both human and animal studies are mixed.

In an eight-week study in 38 women who exercised four times per week, there was no difference in weight loss between those who took L-carnitine and those who didn’t.

What’s more, five of the participants taking L-carnitine experienced nausea or diarrhea.

Another human study monitored L-carnitine's effect on fat burning during a 90-minute stationary bicycle workout. Four weeks of taking supplements did not increase fat burning.

However, one analysis of nine studies — mostly in obese individuals or older adults — found that people lost an average of 2.9 pounds (1.3 kg) more weight while taking L-carnitine.

More research is needed to confirm the benefits of L-carnitine in a younger, more active population.

While it may aid in weight loss for obese individuals or older adults, a thorough diet and exercise regimen must be in place first.

SUMMARY Although the cellular mechanism of L-carnitine suggests it could benefit weight loss, its effects — if present at all — are small.

Effects on Brain Function

L-carnitine may benefit brain function.

Some animal studies suggest that the acetyl form, acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR), may help prevent age-related mental decline and improve markers of learning.

Human studies indicate that taking acetyl-L-carnitine daily helps reverse the decline in brain function associated with Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.

This form exhibited similar benefits for general brain function in older adults who did not have Alzheimer's or other brain conditions.

In specific cases, this form may even protect your brain from cell damage.

In a 90-day study, people with alcohol addictions who took 2 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine per day experienced significant improvements in all measures of brain function.

More research is needed on long-term benefits for healthy individuals.

SUMMARY L-carnitine — specifically acetyl-L-carnitine — can have beneficial effects on brain function in various diseases.

Other Health Benefits

A few more health benefits have been linked to L-carnitine supplements.

Heart Health

Some studies demonstrate a potential for reducing blood pressure and the inflammatory process associated with heart disease.

In one study, 2 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine per day resulted in an almost 10-point drop in systolic blood pressure — the top number of a blood pressure reading and an important indicator of heart health and disease risk.

L-carnitine is also linked to improvements in patients with severe heart disorders, such as coronary heart disease and chronic heart failure.

One 12-month study observed a reduction in heart failure and deaths among participants who took L-carnitine supplements.

Exercise Performance

The evidence is mixed when it comes to L-carnitine's effects on sports performance.

However, several studies note mild benefits associated with larger or more long-term doses.

L-carnitine's benefits may be indirect and take weeks or months to appear. This differs from supplements like caffeine or creatine, which can directly enhance sports performance.

L-carnitine may benefit:

  • Recovery:May improve exercise recovery.
  • Muscle oxygen supply:May increase oxygen supply to your muscles.
  • Stamina:May increase blood flow and nitric oxide production, helping delay discomfort and reduce fatigue.
  • Muscle soreness:May reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
  • Red blood cell production: May increase the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body and muscles.

Type 2 Diabetes

L-carnitine may also reduce symptoms of type 2 diabetes and its associated risk factors.

One study of people with type 2 diabetes taking anti-diabetic medication indicated that carnitine supplements significantly reduced blood sugar levels, compared to a placebo.

It may also combat diabetes by increasing a key enzyme called AMPK, which improves your body's ability to use carbs.

SUMMARY Research suggests that L-carnitine may aid exercise performance and treat health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Safety and Side Effects

For most people, 2 grams or less per day is relatively safe and free from any serious side effects.

In one study, people who took 3 grams every day for 21 days experienced no negative effects.

In one review of L-carnitine's safety, doses of approximately 2 grams per day appeared to be safe for long-term use. However, there were some mild side effects, including nausea and stomach discomfort.

However, L-carnitine supplements may raise your blood levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) over time. High levels of TMAO are linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis — a disease which clogs your arteries.

More studies on the safety of L-carnitine supplements are needed.

SUMMARY Doses of 2 grams or less per day seem to be well tolerated and safe for most people. Tentative evidence suggests L-carnitine supplements might increase your risk of atherosclerosis.

Food Sources

You can get small amounts of L-carnitine from your diet by eating meat and fish.

The best sources of L-carnitine are:

  • Beef:81 mg per 3 ounces (85 grams)
  • Fish:5 mg per 3 ounces (85 grams)
  • Chicken:3 mg per 3 ounces (85 grams)

Interestingly, food sources of L-carnitine have a greater absorption rate than supplements.

According to one study, 57–84% of L-carnitine is absorbed when it's consumed from food, compared to only 14–18% when taken as a supplement.

As noted before, your body can also produce this substance naturally from the amino acids methionine and lysine if your stores are low.

For these reasons, L-carnitine supplements are only necessary in special cases, such as disease treatment.

SUMMARY The main dietary sources of L-carnitine are meat, fish and some other animal products, such as milk. A healthy individual can also produce sufficient amounts within the body.

Should You Take It?

Your L-carnitine levels are influenced by how much you're eating and how much your body is producing.

For this reason, L-carnitine levels are often lower in vegetarians and vegans, since they restrict or avoid animal products.

Therefore, vegetarians and vegans may want to consider L-carnitine supplements. However, no studies have confirmed the benefits of carnitine supplements in these specific populations.

Older adults may also benefit from L-carnitine supplements. Research shows that your levels tend to decline as you age.

In one study, 2 grams of L-carnitine reduced fatigue and increased muscle function in older adults. Other research reveals that acetyl-L-carnitine may also help boost brain health and function as you age.

Additionally, the risk of deficiency is higher for those with diseases like cirrhosis and kidney disease. If you have one of these conditions, a supplement may be beneficial.

As with any supplement, you should speak with your doctor before taking L-carnitine.

SUMMARY Specific populations may benefit from L-carnitine supplements. This includes older adults and people who rarely or never eat meat and fish.

Dosage Recommendations

The standard dose of L-carnitine is 500–2,000 mg per day.

Although dosage varies from study to study, here is an overview of the use and dose for each form:

  • Acetyl-L-carnitine:This form is best for brain health and function. Doses vary from 600–2,500 mg per day.
  • L-carnitine L-tartrate:This form is most effective for exercise performance. Doses vary from 1,000–4,000 mg per day.
  • Propionyl-L-carnitine: This form is best for improving blood flow in those with high blood pressure or related health conditions. Doses vary from 400–1,000 mg per day.

Up to 2,000 mg (2 grams) per day seems safe and effective in the long term.

SUMMARY Although the recommended dose varies, around 500–2,000 mg (0.5–2 grams) seems to be both safe and effective.

The Bottom Line

L-carnitine is best known as a fat burner — but the overall research is mixed. It is unlikely to cause significant weight loss.

However, studies support its use for health, brain function and disease prevention. Supplements may also benefit those with lower levels, such as older adults, vegans and vegetarians.

Of the different forms, acetyl-L-carnitine and L-carnitine are the most popular and seem to be most effective.

 

 

 

  

Top 6 Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body.

It is the major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, skin and muscle.

Collagen has many important functions, including providing your skin with structure and strengthening your bones.

In recent years, collagen supplements have become popular. Most are hydrolyzed, which means the collagen has been broken down, making it easier for you to absorb.

There are also several foods you can eat to increase your collagen intake, including pork skin and bone broth.

Consuming collagen may have a variety of health benefits, from relieving joint pain to improving skin health.

This article will discuss six science-backed health benefits of taking collagen.

  1. Can Improve Skin Health

Collagen is a major component of your skin.

It plays a role in strengthening skin, plus may benefit elasticity and hydration. As you age, your body produces less collagen, leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles.

However, several studies have shown that collegen peptides or supplements containing collagen may help slow the aging of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness.

In one study, women who took a supplement containing 2.5–5 grams of collagen for eight weeks experienced less skin dryness and a significant increase in skin elasticity compared to those who did not take the supplement.

Another study found that women who drank a beverage mixed with a collagen supplement daily for 12 weeks experienced increased skin hydration and a significant reduction in wrinkle depth compared to a control group.

The wrinkle-reducing effects of collagen supplements have been attributed to their ability to stimulate your body to produce collagen on its own.

Additionally, taking collagen supplements may promote the production of other proteins that help structure your skin, including elastin and fibrillin.

There are also many anecdotal claims that collagen supplements are helpful for preventing acne and other skin conditions, but these are not supported by scientific evidence.

Taking supplements that contain collagen may be helpful for slowing the aging of your skin. However, stronger evidence is needed from studies examining the effects of collagen on its own.

  1. Helps Relieve Joint Pain

Collagen helps maintain the integrity of your cartilage, which is the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints.

As the amount of collagen in your body decreases as you get older, your risk of developing degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis increases.

Some studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain overall.

In one study, 73 athletes who consumed 10 grams of collagen daily for 24 weeks experienced a significant decrease in joint pain while walking and at rest compared to a group that did not take it.

In another study, adults took two grams of collagen daily for 70 days. Those who took collagen had a significant reduction in joint pain and were better able to engage in physical activity than those who did not take it.

Researchers have theorized that supplemental collagen may accumulate in cartilage and stimulate your tissues to make collagen.

They have suggested this may lead to lower inflammation, better support of your joints and reduced pain.

If you want to try taking a collagen supplement for its potential pain-relieving effects, studies suggest you should start with a dosage of 8–12 grams daily.

Taking collagen supplements has been shown to reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen synthesis in the body. This may help promote pain relief for people with joint disorders such as osteoarthritis.

  1. Could Prevent Bone Loss

Your bones are made mostly of collagen, which gives them structure and helps keep them strong.

As collagen in your body deteriorates as you age, bone mass does too. This may lead to conditions such as osteoporosis, which is characterized by low bone density and linked with a higher risk of bone fractures.

Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may have certain effects in the body that help inhibit the bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis.

In one study, women took either a calcium supplement combined with 5 grams of collagen or a calcium supplement and no collagen daily for 12 months.

By the end of the study, the women taking the calcium and collagen supplement had significantly lower blood levels of proteins that promote bone breakdown than those taking only the calcium.

Another study found similar results in 66 women who took 5 grams of collagen daily for 12 months.

The women who took the collagen had an increase of up to 7% in their bone mineral density (BMD), compared to women who did not consume collagen.

BMD is a measure of the amount of minerals, such as calcium, in your bones. Low BMD is associated with weak bones and the development of osteoporosis.

These results are promising, but more human studies are needed before the role of collagen supplements in bone health can be confirmed.

Consuming collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of bone disorders such as osteoporosis. They have the potential to help increase BMD and lower levels of proteins in the blood that stimulate bone breakdown.

  1. Could Boost Muscle Mass

Between 1–10% of muscle tissue is composed of collagen. This protein is necessary to keep your muscles strong and functioning properly.

Studies suggest that collagen supplements help boost muscle mass in people with sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass that happens with age.

In one study, 27 frail men took 15 grams of collagen while participating in an exercise program daily for 12 weeks. Compared to men who exercised but did not take collagen, they gained significantly more muscle mass and strength.

Researchers have suggested that taking collagen may promote the synthesis of muscle proteins such as creatine, and may also stimulate muscle growth after exercise.

More research is necessary to investigate collagen’s potential to boost muscle mass.

Research has shown that consuming collagen supplements increased muscle growth and strength in people with age-related muscle mass loss.

  1. Promotes Heart Health

Researchers have theorized that taking collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of heart-related conditions.

Collagen provides structure to your arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Without enough collagen, arteries may become weak and fragile.

This may lead to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by the narrowing of the arteries. Atherosclerosis has the potential to lead to heart attack and stroke.

In one study, 31 healthy adults took 16 grams of collagen daily for six months. By the end, they had experienced a significant reduction in measures of artery stiffness compared to before they started taking the supplement.

Additionally, they increased their levels of “good” HDL cholesterol by an average of 6%. HDL is an important factor in the risk of heart conditions, including atherosclerosis.

Nevertheless, more studies are needed on the role of collagen supplements in heart health.

Taking collagen supplements may help reduce the risk factors associated with heart conditions such as atherosclerosis.

  1. Other Health Benefits

Collagen supplements may have other health benefits, but these have not been studied extensively.

  • Hair and nails:Taking collagen may increase the strength of your nails by preventing brittleness. Additionally, it may stimulate your hair and nails to grow longer.
  • Gut health:Although there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, some health practitioners promote the use of collagen supplements to treat intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome.
  • Brain health:No studies have examined the role of collagen supplements in brain health. However, some people claim they improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
  • Weight loss:Some believe that taking collagen supplements may promote weight loss and a faster metabolism. There have not been any studies to support these claims.

Although these potential effects are promising, research is needed before formal conclusions can be made.

Collagen supplements have been claimed to promote brain, heart and gut health, as well as to help control weight and keep hair and nails healthy. However, currently there’s little-to-no evidence for these effects.

Foods That Contain Collagen

Collagen is found in the connective tissues of animals. Thus, foods such as chicken skin, pork skin, beef and fish are sources of collagen.

Foods that contain gelatin, such as bone broth, also provide collagen. Gelatin is a protein substance derived from collagen after it has been cooked.

More research is needed to determine if eating collagen-rich foods actually helps increase collagen in your body. There have not been any human studies on whether collagen-rich foods have the same benefits as supplements.

Collagen in food is broken down into individual amino acids and peptides by digestive enzymes.

The collagen in supplements has already been broken down, or hydrolyzed, which is why it is thought to be absorbed more efficiently than the collagen in foods.

Several foods contain collagen, including animal foods and bone broth. However, their absorption is not as efficient as that of hydrolyzed collagen.

Collagen Side Effects

Currently, there are not many known risks to taking collagen supplements.

However, some supplements are made from common food allergens, such as fish, shellfish and eggs. People with allergies to these foods should avoid collagen supplements made with these ingredients to prevent allergic reactions.

Some people have also reported that collagen supplements leave a lingering bad taste in the mouth.

Additionally, collagen supplements have the potential to cause digestive side effects such as feelings of fullness and heartburn.

Regardless, these supplements appear to be safe for most people.

Collagen supplements may lead to side effects such as a bad taste in the mouth, heartburn and fullness. If you have allergies, make sure to purchase supplements that aren’t made from collagen sources you’re allergic to.

The Bottom Line

Taking collagen is associated with a number of health benefits and very few known risks.

For starters, supplements may improve skin health by reducing wrinkles and dryness. They may also help increase muscle mass, prevent bone loss and relieve joint pain.

People have reported many other benefits of collagen supplements, but these haven’t been studied much.

Although several foods contain collagen, it is unknown whether the collagen in food has the same benefits as supplements.

Collagen supplements are generally safe, quite easy to use and definitely worth trying for their potential benefits.

 

  

 

7 Benefits and Uses of CBD CANNABIDIOL

 

Cannabidiol is a popular natural remedy used for many common ailments.

Better known as CBD, it is one of the 104 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis or marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and causes the sensation of getting “high” that’s often associated with marijuana. However, unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive.

This quality makes CBD an appealing option for those who are looking for relief from pain and other symptoms without the mind-altering effects of marijuana or certain pharmaceutical drugs.

CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil.

It’s gaining momentum in the health and wellness world, with some scientific studies confirming it may help treat a variety of ailments like chronic pain and anxiety.

Here are seven health benefits of CBD oil that are backed by scientific evidence.

 

1. Can Relieve Pain

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Marijuana has been used to treat pain as far back as 2900 B.C.

More recently, scientists have discovered that certain components of marijuana, including CBD, are responsible for its pain-relieving effects.

The human body contains a specialized system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is involved in regulating a variety of functions including sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response.

The body produces endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in your nervous system.

Studies have shown that CBD may help reduce chronic pain by impacting endocannabinoid receptor activity, reducing inflammation and interacting with neurotransmitters.

For example, one study in rats found that CBD injections reduced pain response to surgical incision, while another rat study found that oral CBD treatment significantly reduced sciatic nerve pain and inflammation.

Several human studies have found that a combination of CBD and THC is effective in treating pain related to multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

An oral spray called Sativex, which is a combination of THC and CBD, is approved in several countries to treat pain related to multiple sclerosis.

In a study of 47 people with multiple sclerosis, those treated with Sativex for one month experienced a significant improvement in pain, walking and muscle spasms, compared to the placebo group.

Another study found that Sativex significantly improved pain during movement, pain at rest and sleep quality in 58 people with rheumatoid arthritis.

CBD, especially in combination with THC, may be effective in reducing pain associated with diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

2. Could Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are common mental health disorders that can have devastating impacts on health and well-being.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the single largest contributor to disability worldwide, while anxiety disorders are ranked sixth.

Anxiety and depression are usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause a number of side effects including drowsiness, agitation, insomnia, sexual dysfunction and headache.

What’s more, medications like benzodiazepines can be addictive and may lead to substance abuse.

CBD oil has shown promise as a treatment for both depression and anxiety, leading many who live with these disorders to become interested in this natural approach.

In one study, 24 people with social anxiety disorder received either 600 mg of CBD or a placebo before a public speaking test.

The group that received the CBD had significantly less anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, compared to the placebo group.

CBD oil has even been used to safely treat insomnia and anxiety in children with post-traumatic stress disorder.

CBD has also shown antidepressant-like effects in several animal studies.

These qualities are linked to CBD’s ability to act on the brain’s receptors for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and social behavior.

Using CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in both human and animal studies.

3. Can Alleviate Cancer-Related Symptoms

CBD may help reduce symptoms related to cancer and side effects related to cancer treatment, like nausea, vomiting and pain.

One study looked at the effects of CBD and THC in 177 people with cancer-related pain who did not experience relief from pain medication.

Those treated with an extract containing both compounds experienced a significant reduction in pain compared to those who received only THC extract.

CBD may also help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, which are among the most common chemotherapy-related side effects for those with cancer.

Though there are drugs that help with these distressing symptoms, they are sometimes ineffective, leading some people to seek alternatives.

A study of 16 people undergoing chemotherapy found that a one-to-one combination of CBD and THC administered via mouth spray reduced chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting better than standard treatment alone.

Some test-tube and animal studies have even shown that CBD may have anticancer properties. For example, one test-tube study found that concentrated CBD induced cell death in human breast cancer cells.

Another study showed that CBD inhibited the spread of aggressive breast cancer cells in mice.

However, these are test-tube and animal studies, so they can only suggest what might work in people. More studies in humans are needed before conclusions can be made.

Though CBD has been shown to help reduce symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatment, and may even have cancer-fighting properties, more research is needed to assess its efficacy and safety.

4. May Reduce Acne

Acne is a common skin condition that affects more than 9% of the population.

It is thought to be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, bacteria, underlying inflammation and the overproduction of sebum, an oily secretion made by sebaceous glands in the skin.

Based on recent scientific studies, CBD oil may help treat acne due to its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to reduce sebum production.

One test-tube study found that CBD oil prevented sebaceous gland cells from secreting excessive sebum, exerted anti-inflammatory actions and prevented the activation of “pro-acne” agents like inflammatory cytokines.

Another study had similar findings, concluding that CBD may be an efficient and safe way to treat acne, thanks in part to its remarkable anti-inflammatory qualities.

Though these results are promising, human studies exploring the effects of CBD on acne are needed

CBD may have beneficial effects on acne due to its anti-inflammatory qualities and its ability to control the overproduction of sebum from the sebaceous glands.

5. Might Have Neuroprotective Properties

Researchers believe that CBD’s ability to act on the endocannabinoid system and other brain signaling systems may provide benefits for those with neurological disorders.

In fact, one of the most studied uses for CBD is in treating neurological disorders like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Though research in this area is still relatively new, several studies have shown promising results.

Sativex, an oral spray consisting of CBD and THC, has been proven to be a safe and effective way to reduce muscle spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis.

One study found that Sativex reduced spasms in 75% of 276 people with multiple sclerosis who were experiencing muscle spasticity that was resistant to medications.

Another study gave 214 people with severe epilepsy 0.9–2.3 grams of CBD oil per pound (2–5 g/kg) of body weight. Their seizures reduced by a median of 36.5%.

One more study found that CBD oil significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder, compared to a placebo.

However, it’s important to note that some people in both these studies experienced adverse reactions associated with CBD treatment, such as convulsions, fever and diarrhea.

CBD has also been researched for its potential effectiveness in treating several other neurological diseases.

For example, several studies have shown that treatment with CBD improved quality of life and sleep quality for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Additionally, animal and test-tube studies have shown that CBD may decrease inflammation and help prevent the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

In one long-term study, researchers gave CBD to mice genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, finding that it helped prevent cognitive decline.

Though research is limited at this time, CBD has been shown to effectively treat symptoms related to epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. CBD was also shown to reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in test-tube and animal studies.

6. Could Benefit Heart Health

Recent research has linked CBD with several benefits for the heart and circulatory system, including the ability to lower high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is linked to higher risks of a number of health conditions, including stroke, heart attack and metabolic syndrome.

Studies indicate that CBD may be a natural and effective treatment for high blood pressure.

One recent study treated 10 healthy men with one dose of 600 mg of CBD oil and found it reduced resting blood pressure, compared to a placebo.

The same study also gave the men stress tests that normally increase blood pressure. Interestingly, the single dose of CBD led the men to experience a smaller blood pressure increase than normal in response to these tests.

Researchers have suggested that the stress- and anxiety-reducing properties of CBD are responsible for its ability to help lower blood pressure.

Additionally, several animal studies have demonstrated that CBD may help reduce the inflammation and cell death associated with heart disease due to its powerful antioxidant and stress-reducing properties.

For example, one study found that treatment with CBD reduced oxidative stress and prevented heart damage in diabetic mice with heart disease.

Though more human studies are needed, CBD may benefit heart health in several ways, including by reducing blood pressure and preventing heart damage.

7. Several Other Potential Benefits

CBD has been studied for its role in treating a number of health issues other than those outlined above.

Though more studies are needed, CBD is thought to provide the following health benefits:

  • Antipsychotic effects:Studies suggest that CBD may help people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders by reducing psychotic symptoms.
  • Substance abuse treatment:CBD has been shown to modify circuits in the brain related to drug addiction. In rats, CBD has been shown to reduce morphine dependence and heroin-seeking behavior.
  • Anti-tumor effects:In test-tube and animal studies, CBD has demonstrated anti-tumor effects. In animals, it has been shown to prevent the spread of breast, prostate, brain, colon and lung cancer.
  • Diabetes prevention:In diabetic mice, treatment with CBD reduced the incidence of diabetes by 56% and significantly reduced inflammation.

Some studies suggest that CBD may be an effective treatment for diabetes, substance abuse, mental disorders and certain types of cancers. However, more research in humans is needed.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Though CBD is generally well tolerated and considered safe, it may cause adverse reactions in some people.

Side effects noted in studies include

Diarrhea

  • Changes in appetite

 

CBD is also known to interact with several medications. Before you start using CBD oil, discuss it with your doctor to ensure your safety and avoid potentially harmful interactions. Although CBD is generally considered safe, it can cause adverse reactions like diarrhea and fatigue in some people. It may also interfere with certain medications.

The Bottom Line

CBD oil has been studied for its potential role in treating many common health issues, including anxiety, depression, acne and heart disease.

For those with cancer, it may even provide a natural alternative for pain and symptom relief.

Research on the potential health benefits of CBD oil is ongoing, so new therapeutic uses for this natural remedy are sure to be discovered.

Though there is much to be learned about the efficacy and safety of CBD, results from recent studies suggest that CBD may provide a safe, powerful natural treatment for many health issues.

 

 

But before we get started let’s explore What Is CBD?

To start, it seems only right that we look at CBD itself, or Cannabidiol as it is scientifically known. After all, this therapeutic compound is one of the most talked about parts of the marijuana plant, and has been for quite some time! Long gone are the days where cannabis is strictly used for getting high — now you can treat a wide variety of conditions with the plant (without any mind-altering effects),and this is largely thanks to CBD.

Cannabidiol has actually been heavily researched over the past few years, and the studies have brought to light some incredible facts about this particular cannabinoid. From mental conditions such as depression and anxiety to physical diseases such as chronic paindiabetes, and even cancer, CBD can play a hand in effectively treating the root of the disease.

Unlike THC, which although being medicinally beneficial will also leave you high, CBD works alongside our bodies with the endocannabinoid system to enhance the production of natural cannabinoids like anandamide. It is thanks to these natural cannabinoids that our bodies can regulate themselves and make sure that everything is functioning in a balanced and efficient manner. It helps keeps our core body temperature in check, for example, along with many other vital functions such as the way we feel pain, emotion and even hunger.

So, What Is A CBD Nanomolecule?

I suppose the question you might actually be asking is, “what is a nanomolecule?” If we have been consuming CBD safely and effectively for years now, why is there a need to change things up?

Well, with science and the knowledge around cannabinoids forever advancing, the need to improve and progress with the times is just a natural part of the industry. However, as we have seen with some other recent trends, not everything is always what it claims to be – there are a lot of gimmicks out there, so it pays to be diligent about what’s legit and what’s not.

With this in mind, we wanted to dig deep into the science behind CBD nanomolecules to try and determine whether this newly talked about development is all it claims to be, or whether it’s just another ridiculous industry marketing ploy that will pass like all fads do.

Scientifically speaking, a nanomolecule is any sub-particle of a compound that can be “broken off” into a smaller subunit. For example we all know that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms that are bonded together, so the nanomolecules of water, then, are of course hydrogen and oxygen because they are the individual “building blocks” that combine to make the whole compound.

So what does this mean for CBD then? Like all chemical compounds, cannabidiol is a substance that is made up of many other smaller subunits that are bonded together. The argument for CBD ‘nanotechnology,’ then, is that by breaking the compound down into its smaller parts (i.e. its ‘nanomolecules’), we can more effectively absorb the compound and thereby utilize it to maximum therapeutic efficiency.

 

How Does Nanotechnology Work For CBD?

Despite its massive health benefits, CBD is not water-soluble, which means in order for our bodies to absorb it well enough to get any benefits, it has to be consumed in a carrier oil and in relatively high doses. For those who require CBD on a regular basis, this can be pretty costly.

When we introduce the idea of nanotechnology to CBD, we are actually changing the way the molecules penetrate the cells in our body. In other words, while regular or “full-size” CBD molecules have a tough time working their way across tightly-packed cell membranes, CBD nanomolecules can skim right across them with relative ease. Hypothetically, this means we could use a whole lot less CBD to treat our ailments, while receiving the same therapeutic effects!

According to research, in fact, regular CBD products are not “consumed” by the human body all that efficiently (in other words, they do not present optimal bioavailability). Due to the sheer size of the CBD particles, it has been estimated that a massive 90-99%% of regular CBD products are not absorbed for use, and rather are passed through the urinary system, and eventually – you guessed it – flushed down the toilet.

With nanotechnology, however, CBD particles are being reduced roughly down to the size of iron atoms, making them much more absorbable to our cells, which allow for efficient passage of particles between about 60-80 nanometres in width.

While research regarding CBD nanomolecules is still very much on-going and in its early stages, the simple fact that our bodies are over 60% water – and CBD in its normal form is not water soluble – seems to be a pretty clear indicator that nanomolecules and nanotechnology could be the future of CBD consumption.

In fact, we are already seeing a massive rise in products like CBD water, which unlike CBD capsules, oils and powders has been shown to be more easily absorbed by the body. CBD water also “keeps” better (meaning it has a longer shelf life) than most CBD products, which will often breakdown and become ineffective within a short timeframe. By breaking up the CBD into smaller particles that can be dispensed through water, you are tackling the issue of CBD bioavailability and absorbability head on!

Research on CBD Nanomolecules

As we have noted, research into CBD nanomolecules is still very much in its infancy. However, there have been some interesting studies published which give promise to the future of cannabis nanotechnology, and to our favorite cannabinoid (CBD) in particular.

One study published in 2017, for example, looked at the nanoparticle-mediated delivery of anti-inflammatory phytocompounds like THC and CBD (along with a variety of other compounds), in order to see whether breaking them down into their smaller subunits could increase their bioavailability, and ultimately enhance their ability to treat things like pain and inflammation.

The overall results of the study were pretty impressive, as based on the following statement made by the research team: “…[nanotechnology is] a promising approach which has already provided significant steps forward to bringing [cannabinoids like CBD] much closer to clinical applications.”

As of now, it appears, we will simply have to wait and see what the future has in store.

Final Thoughts on CBD Nanotechnology

We understand that keeping up with the most recent studies into cannabis and its cannabinoids can be a difficult and confusing task, and can even leave some patients feeling at a loss as to what products and consumption methods are best.

While there is some strong evidence emerging for nanotechnology and the use of CBD nanomolecules, we wouldn’t yet recommend getting bogged down in the science, as it’s way too early to come to any sort of definitive conclusions. CBD as a cannabinoid has – and continues to be – used very effectively in its current form to treat dozens of conditions, and while it is true that it does not absorb as effectively as it potentially could, this is not to say that it is not already an effective solution.

Like with anything else, we would always recommend discussing your treatment options with a medical professional. Also, it is helpful to make an effort to remain up to date with the ever-changing world of cannabis, as the continued progression of science and research always has the “next big thing” lurking just around the corner!

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412295/

  

 

 

 

Everything You Should Know About Maitake Mushroom

 

What is maitake mushroom?

“Maitake” means dancing mushroom in Japanese. The mushroom is said to have gotten its name after people danced with happiness upon finding it in the wild, such are its incredible healing properties.

This mushroom is a type of adaptogen. Adaptogens assist the body in fighting against any type of mental or physical difficulty. They also work to regulate systems of the body that have become unbalanced. While this mushroom can be used in recipes for taste alone, it’s considered to be a medicinal mushroom.

The mushroom grows wild in parts of Japan, China, and North America. It grows at the bottom of Oak, Elm, and Maple trees. It can be cultivated and even grown at home, though it typically won’t grow as well as it does in the wild. You can usually find the mushroom during the autumn months.

Although maitake mushroom has been used in Japan and China for thousands of years, it has only gained popularity in the United States over the last twenty years. People are praising this mushroom for its promises of health, vitality, and longevity.

What health benefits are tied to maitake mushroom?

Compared to other mushrooms, maitake has shown better results in preventing and treating cancer and other health conditions. Maitake also has a positive effect on overall immunity.

Maitake mushrooms are rich in:

  • antioxidants
  • beta-glucans
  • vitamins B and C
  • copper
  • potassium
  • fiber
  • minerals
  • amino acids

The mushrooms are also:

  • fat-free
  • low-sodium
  • low-calorie
  • cholesterol-free

Scientists are currently studying the unique way the mushroom supports overall health and fights illness.

What the research says

Laboratory research suggests that maitake may be effective in treating certain illnesses. More studies are needed to confirm its effect on humans, but the current findings are promising.

Cancer

2013 study indicates that maitake D-Fraction could be useful in preventing and treating breast cancer. Researchers suggest that this mushroom can fight the growth and reproduction of cancerous cells.

Maitake mushroom has been shown to suppress tumor growth in mice. It can also increase the number of cells fighting against the tumor. This suggests that it could also be effective in managing cancer in humans when taken orally.

An earlier study found maitake D-Fraction, which is an extract, to be efficient in killing human cancer cells. It was taken alongside a protein that also fights cancer and succeeded in increasing the protein’s effectiveness.

Cholesterol

Researchers in a 2013 study found that maitake powdered extract lowered cholesterol levels in mice. It was also shown to increase fatty acids that provide energy. Because of this, researchers theorized that eating maitake mushroom may help keep arteries healthy.

Type 2 Diabetes

The results of a 2015 study showed that maitake mushroom can have a positive effect on rats with type 2 diabetes. During the study, maitake mushroom consumption had a positive effect on glucose levels of rats. This points to the mushroom’s potential to treat type 2 diabetes in humans.

Maitake mushroom may also be useful in treating:

  • cold and flu viruses
  • high or low blood pressure
  • immune function
  • side effects of chemotherapy

How to add maitake mushroom to your regimen

If you’re using maitake to boost your health, you can add it to any food in which you would normally add mushrooms. It can be added to stir-fry, salad, pasta, pizza, omelets, coffee or soup. You can also fry the mushrooms in butter or grill them. Maitake has a strong, earthy taste, so be sure you enjoy its flavor before adding it to a large amount of food.

If you’re buying maitake fresh, buy it whole to increase its shelf life. Store it in a paper bag in the refrigerator. You may be able to find it dried at some grocery stores. It freezes well, so you can keep it in stock if you are able to find it fresh. You can also freeze it raw.

Maitake may also be taken as a liquid concentrate or in dry form in capsules. If you decide to take it as a supplement, look for maitake D-Fraction, which is an extract of the mushroom.

The correct dosage depends your age, weight, and health. It also depends on the actual strength of a particular brand of supplement. Be sure to read the instructions carefully before use.

Always check with your doctor before taking a high dose, and monitor your reactions carefully. If you begin experiencing any unusual symptoms or discomfort, discontinue use and consult your doctor.

It may take a few weeks or months for you to feel a noticeable difference. Taking it with vitamin C is said to increase its benefits.

Risk factors to consider

Maitake is digestible as long as the mushroom is not too old. If older, the mushroom’s toughness can make it difficult to digest. Cooking the mushroom can improve its digestibility.

Although allergic reaction and upset stomach is uncommon, it’s possible. More often than not, maitake mushroom is well tolerated.

If you have diabetes, you should consult your doctor before ingestion. Maitake may have an effect on your blood sugar. It may also lower your blood pressure, so be sure to discuss your options with your doctor if you have hypotension.

You shouldn’t ingest maitake mushroom within two weeks of surgery or if you have a bleeding disorder.

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or have an autoimmune disease, check with your doctor before use.

The bottom line

Maitake shows enormous potential for healing. There are no guarantees, but the possibilities are promising. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you wish to add this to your diet or take this as a supplement. They can go over the potential risks and benefits, as well as help advise you on the best option for you.

In general, you should:

  • Look for 100 percent extract with no fillers. It’s important to know exactly what you’re getting and always Organic.
  • Take special care if you are using it for diabetes or blood pressure. Be sure to check in with your doctor for approval or guidance.

You should also support your immunity and overall health by taking care of your well-being, both mentally and physically.

 

 

  

6 Benefits of Reishi Mushroom (Plus Side Effects and Dosage)

Eastern medicine makes use of many different plants and fungi. Interestingly, the reishi mushroom is particularly popular.

It has a variety of potential health benefits, including boosting the immune system and fighting cancer. However, its safety has recently come into question.

This article will tell you what you need to know about the potential benefits and risks of reishi mushroom.

What Is the Reishi Mushroom?

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The reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is a fungus that grows in various hot and humid locations in Asia.

For many years, this fungus has been a staple in Eastern medicine.

Within the mushroom, there are several molecules, including triterpenoids, polysaccharides and peptidoglycans, that may be responsible for its health effects. While the mushrooms themselves can be eaten fresh, it is also common to use powdered forms of the mushroom or extracts that contain these specific molecules.

These different forms have been tested in cell, animal and human studies.

Below are 6 scientifically studied benefits of the reishi mushroom. The first three are backed by stronger evidence, while support for the others is less conclusive.

1. Boost the Immune System

One of the most important effects of the reishi mushroom is that it can boost your immune system.

While some details are still uncertain, test-tube studies have shown that reishi can affect the genes in white blood cells, which are critical parts of your immune system.

What’s more, these studies have found that some forms of reishi may alter inflammation pathways in white blood cells.

Research in cancer patients has shown that some of the molecules found in the mushroom can increase the activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells.

Natural killer cells fight infections and cancer in the body.

Another study found that reishi can increase the number of other white blood cells (lymphocytes) in those with colorectal cancer.

Although most immune system benefits of reishi mushroom have been seen in those who are ill, some evidence has shown that it can help healthy people, too.

In one study, the fungus improved lymphocyte function, which helps fight infections and cancer, in athletes exposed to stressful conditions.

However, other research in healthy adults showed no improvement in immune function or inflammation after 4 weeks of taking reishi extract.

Overall, it is clear that reishi impacts white blood cells and immune function. More research is needed to determine the extent of the benefits in the healthy and ill.

Reishi mushroom can enhance immune function through its effects on white blood cells, which help fight infection and cancer. This may occur primarily in those who are ill, as mixed results have been seen in those who are healthy.

2. Anti-Cancer Properties

Many people consume this fungus due to its potential cancer-fighting properties.

In fact, one study of over 4,000 breast cancer survivors found that around 59% consumed reishi mushroom.

Additionally, several test-tube studies have shown that it can lead to the death of cancer cells.

Yet the results of these studies do not necessarily equate to effectiveness in animals or humans.

Some research has investigated if reishi could be beneficial for prostate cancer due to its effects on the hormone testosterone.

While one case study showed that molecules found in this mushroom may reverse prostate cancer in humans, a larger follow-up study did not support these findings.

Reishi mushroom has also been studied for its role in preventing or fighting colorectal cancer.

Some research showed that one year of treatment with reishi decreased the number and size of tumors in the large intestine.

What’s more, a detailed report of multiple studies indicated that the mushroom can beneficially affect cancer patients.

These benefits included increasing the activity of the body’s white blood cells, which help fight cancer, and improving quality of life in cancer patients.

However, researchers state that reishi should be administered in combination with traditional treatment rather than replacing it.

What’s more, many of the studies of reishi mushroom and cancer were not high-quality. Because of this, much more research is needed.

Although reishi mushroom appears to hold some promise for cancer prevention or treatment, more information is needed before it becomes part of standard therapy. However, it may be appropriate to use in addition to normal care in some cases.

3. Could Fight Fatigue and Depression

Reishi’s effects on the immune system are often most emphasized, but it has other potential advantages as well.

These include reduced fatigue and depression, as well as improved quality of life.

One study examined its effects in 132 people with neurasthenia, a poorly defined condition associated with aches, pains, dizziness, headaches and irritability.

The researchers found that fatigue was reduced and well-being was improved after 8 weeks of taking the supplements.

Another study found that fatigue was reduced and quality of life was improved after 4 weeks of taking reishi powder in a group of 48 breast cancer survivors.

What’s more, the people in the study also experienced less anxiety and depression.

While reishi mushroom may hold promise for people with certain diseases or illnesses, it is not clear if it would benefit those who are otherwise healthy.

Some preliminary studies have shown that reishi mushroom could decrease anxiety and depression as well as improve quality of life in those with certain medical conditions.

4–6. Other Potential Benefits

In addition to its effects on the immune system and quality of life, reishi mushroom has been studied for its potential to improve other aspects of health.

4. Heart Health

One 12-week study of 26 people showed that reishi mushroom may increase “good” HDL cholesterol and decrease triglycerides.

However, other research in healthy adults showed no improvement in these heart disease risk factors.

Moreover, a large analysis demonstrated no beneficial effects for heart health after examining five different studies containing around 400 people. The researchers found that consuming reishi mushroom for up to 16 weeks did not improve cholesterol.

Overall, more research is needed in regard to reishi mushrooms and heart health.

5. Blood Sugar Control

Several studies have indicated that molecules found in the reishi mushroom can decrease blood sugar in animals.

Some preliminary research in humans reported similar findings.

However, the majority of research has not supported this benefit. After evaluating hundreds of participants, researchers found no benefits for fasting blood sugar.

Mixed results were seen for blood sugar after meals. In some cases, reishi mushroom lowered blood sugar, but in other cases, it was worse than a placebo.

Again, more research is needed here as well.

6. Antioxidant Status

Antioxidants are molecules that can help prevent damage to your cells.

Because of this important function, there is substantial interest in foods and supplements that can enhance antioxidant status in the body.

Many claim that reishi mushroom is effective for this purpose.

However, several studies have found no change in the levels of two important antioxidant enzymes in the blood after consuming the fungus for 4 to 12 weeks.

A small amount of research has shown that reishi mushroom could improve good cholesterol or blood sugar. However, the majority of the research indicates that it does not improve cholesterol, blood sugar or antioxidants in the body.

Dosage Recommendations Vary Based on the Form Used

Unlike some foods or supplements, the dose of reishi mushroom can vary substantially based on which type is used.

The highest doses are seen when someone consumes the mushroom itself. In these cases, doses may range from 25 to 100 grams, depending on the size of the mushroom.

Commonly, a dried extract of the mushroom is used instead. In these cases, the dose is approximately 10 times less than when the mushroom itself is consumed.

For example, 50 grams of reishi mushroom itself may be comparable to approximately 5 grams of the mushroom extract. Doses of the mushroom extract vary but typically range from approximately 1.5 to 9 grams per day.

Additionally, some supplements use only certain portions of the extract. In these cases, the recommended doses may be much lower than the values reported above.

Because the suggested dose can vary widely based on which form of the mushroom is used, it is very important to know which type you are taking.

The dose of reishi mushroom varies based on the form of the fungus, so it is important to know which form you are using. Consuming the mushroom itself provides higher doses, while extracts provide lower doses.

Possible Side Effects

Despite its popularity, there are those who have questioned the safety of reishi mushroom.

Some research found that those who took reishi mushroom for 4 months were almost two times as likely to experience a side effect as those taking a placebo.

However, these effects were minor and included a slightly increased risk of upset stomach or digestive distress. No adverse effects on liver health were reported.

Other research also indicated that four weeks of taking reishi mushroom extract did not produce any detrimental effects on the liver or kidneys in healthy adults.

In contrast to these reports, significant liver problems have been reported in two case studies.

Both of the people in the case studies had previously used reishi mushroom without problems but experienced adverse effects after switching to a powdered form.

This makes it difficult to know for certain if the mushroom itself was responsible for the observed liver damage or if there were problems with the powdered extract.

It is also important to note that many studies of reishi mushroom have not reported safety data, so limited information is available overall .

Nevertheless, there are several groups of people who should probably avoid reishi.

These include those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a blood disorder, will be undergoing surgery or have low blood pressure.

Some studies of reishi mushroom have not provided safety information, but others have reported that several months of taking it is likely safe. Nonetheless, several cases of severe liver damage have been associated with reishi extract.

The Bottom Line

Reishi mushroom is a popular fungus used in Eastern medicine.

It may boost the immune system through its effects on white blood cells, particularly in people who are ill, such as those with cancer.

This fungus may also be able to decrease the size and number of tumors in certain types of cancer, as well as improve quality of life for some cancer patients.

Most human research has shown that it does not improve cholesterol, blood sugar or antioxidants, but it may be effective at reducing fatigue or depression in some cases.

 

 

  

Why Shiitake Mushrooms Are Good For You

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide. They are prized for their rich, savory taste and diverse health benefits. Compounds in shiitakes may help fight cancer, boost immunity and support heart health. This information explains everything you need to know about shiitake mushrooms.

What Are Shiitake Mushrooms?

Shiitakes are edible mushrooms native to East Asia.

They're tan to dark brown in color, and the caps usually grow to between 2 and 4 inches (5 and 10 centimeters).

While typically used as vegetables, shiitakes are actually a fungus that grows naturally on decaying hardwood trees.

They're also widely grown. 83% of shiitakes are grown in Japan, although the US, Canada, Singapore and China also produce them.

You can find them fresh, dried or in various dietary supplements.

BOTTOM LINE: Shiitake mushrooms are brown-capped mushrooms used around the world for food and as supplements.

Nutrition Profile of Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitakes are low in calories. They also offer good amounts of fiber, as well as B vitamins and some minerals.

Here are the nutrients you get in four dried shiitake:

  • Calories:
  • Carbs:11 grams.
  • Fiber:2 grams.
  • Protein:1 gram.
  • Riboflavin:11% of the RDI.
  • Niacin:11% of the RDI.
  • Copper:39% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin B5:33% of the RDI.
  • Selenium:10% of the RDI.
  • Manganese:9% of the RDI.
  • Zinc:8% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin B6:7% of the RDI.
  • Folate:6% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin D:6% of the RDI.

In addition, shiitakes contain many of the same amino acids as meat.

They also contain polysaccharides, terpenoids, sterols and lipids linked to immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering and anti-cancer effects.

All of these properties can differ, depending on how and where the mushrooms are grown, stored and used.

BOTTOM LINE: Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories. They also offer many vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting compounds.

How Are They Used?

Shiitake mushrooms have two main uses: as food and as supplements.

Shiitakes as Whole Foods

You can cook with both fresh and dried shiitakes, although the dried mushrooms are slightly more popular.

Dried shiitakes have an umami flavor that's even more intense than when they're fresh.

Umami means savory and delicious. It is described as the "fifth taste" along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

Both dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms are used in stir-fries, soups, stews and other dishes.

Shiitakes as Supplements

Shiitake mushrooms have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

They're also part of the medical traditions of Japan, Korea and Eastern Russia.

In Chinese medicine, shiitakes are thought to boost health and longevity, as well as improve circulation.

Modern studies have found shiitake mushrooms' bioactive compounds may offer some protection against cancer and inflammation.

However, many of the studies have been done with lab animals or in test tubes, rather than with humans.

In addition, many of the mushroom-based supplements on the market have not been tested to determine how well they work.

Although the proposed benefits are promising, you should consider them with a grain of salt.

BOTTOM LINE: Shiitakes have a long history of use, both as food and in medicinal supplements.

They Could Help Your Heart

Shiitake mushrooms may have several benefits for heart health. For example, they have three compounds that may help lower cholesterol:

  • Eritadenine:A compound that inhibits an enzyme involved in producing cholesterol.
  • Sterols:Molecules that help block cholesterol absorption in your gut.
  • Beta-glucans:A type of fiber that can lower cholesterol.

One study of rats with genetically high blood pressure found that shiitake mushroom powder prevented an increase in blood pressure.

Beyond its individual components, shiitakes may be heart-healthy as a whole food.

A study in lab rats fed a high-fat diet found that those given shiitake mushrooms developed less fat in their livers, less plaque on their artery walls and had lower cholesterol levels than those who didn't get any mushroom supplement.

BOTTOM LINE: Several compounds in shiitakes help lower cholesterol and may keep plaque from sticking to artery walls.

They May Boost Your Immune System

Shiitakes may also help strengthen your immune system.

A 2015 study had people eat around two dried shiitakes daily for a month. Overall, their immune markers improved. They also had less inflammation than before the study began.

This immune effect might be due in part to one of the polysaccharides found in shiitake mushrooms.

Additionally, your immune system gets weaker with age. However, a mouse study found that a supplement derived from shiitakes helped reverse some of the age-related decline in immune function.

BOTTOM LINE: Eating shiitake mushrooms regularly may help bolster your immune system and reduce age-related decline in immune function.

They Have Compounds Used to Fight Cancer

Polysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms may also have an anti-cancer effect.

For example, the polysaccharide lentinan helps fight tumors by activating the immune system.

Lentinan has been shown to inhibit the growth and spread of leukemia cells.

In China and Japan, an injectable form of lentinan is used alongside chemotherapy and other major cancer treatments to improve immune function and quality of life in people with gastric cancer.

However, there's not enough evidence to say whether actually eating shiitake mushrooms has any effect on cancer.

BOTTOM LINE: Lentinan is a polysaccharide in shiitake mushrooms that may help fight cancer.

More Benefits of Shiitakes

Shiitake mushrooms may also help fight germs and promote bone health.

They Have Promising Antibacterial and Antiviral Effects

Several compounds in shiitakes have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects. These include oxalic acid, lentinan, centinamycins A and B (antibacterial) and eritadenine (antiviral).

In the face of growing antibiotic resistance, some scientists think it's important to explore the antimicrobial potential of shiitakes.

They May Help Strengthen Your Bones

Mushrooms are the only natural plant source of vitamin D.

Your body needs vitamin D to build strong bones, yet very few foods contain this important nutrient.

The vitamin D levels of mushrooms vary, depending on how they are grown. When exposed to UV light, they develop higher vitamin D levels.

In one study, mice fed a low-calcium, low-vitamin D diet developed symptoms of osteoporosis. In comparison, those given calcium and UV-enhanced shiitake mushrooms had higher bone density.

However, keep in mind that shiitakes contain vitamin D2. This is an inferior form of the vitamin compared to vitamin D3, which is found in fatty fish and some other animal foods.

BOTTOM LINE: Compounds in shiitake mushrooms have antimicrobial properties. Eating shiitakes with higher vitamin D levels may improve your bone density.

Possible Side Effects

Most people can safely consume shiitakes, although some side effects may occur.

In rare cases, people can develop a skin rash from eating or handling raw shiitakes.

This condition, called "shiitake dermatitis," is thought to be caused by lentinan.

In addition, using powdered mushroom extract over a long period of time may cause some side effects. These include stomach upset, sensitivity to sunlight and shiitake dermatitis.

Some also claim that eating mushrooms can cause symptoms in gout sufferers due to their high purine content. However, research suggests that eating mushrooms is linked to a lower risk of gout 

6 Benefits of Cordyceps, All Backed by Science

Cordyceps is a genus of parasitic fungi that grows on the larvae of insects.

When these fungi attack their host, they replace its tissue and sprout long, slender stems that grow outside the host’s body.

The remains of the insect and fungi have been hand-collected, dried and used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries to treat fatigue, sickness, kidney disease and low sex drive.

Supplements and products containing Cordyceps extract have become increasingly popular due to their many purported health benefits.

Of the more than 400 species of Cordyceps discovered, two have become the focus of health research: Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris.

However, much of this research is limited to animal or lab studies, so health experts currently can’t draw conclusions about their effects on people.

However, their potential health benefits are promising.

This article highlights 6 potential benefits of Cordyceps, based on science.

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1. May Boost Exercise Performance

Cordyceps are thought to increase the body’s production of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is essential for delivering energy to the muscles.

This may improve the way your body uses oxygen, especially during exercise.

In one study, researchers tested their effects on exercise capacity in 30 healthy older adults using a stationary bike. Participants received either 3 grams per day of a synthetic strain of Cordyceps called CS-4 or a placebo pill for six weeks.

By the end of the study, VO2 max had increased by 7% in participants who had taken CS-4, while participants given the placebo pill showed no change.

VO2 max is a measurement used to determine fitness level.

In a similar study, 20 healthy older adults received either 1 gram of CS-4 or a placebo pill for 12 weeks.

While researchers found no change in VO2 max in either group, participants given CS-4 improved other measures of exercise performance.

One study also tested the effects of a Cordyceps-containing mushroom blend on exercise performance in younger adults.

After three weeks, participants’ VO2 max had increased by 11%, compared to a placebo.

However, the current research suggests Cordyceps are not effective at improving exercise performance in trained athletes.

SUMMARY Cordyceps have been shown to improve measures of exercise performance in older and younger adults, but not in well-trained athletes.

2. Anti-Aging Properties

The elderly have traditionally used Cordyceps to reduce fatigue and boost strength and sex drive.

Researchers believe their antioxidant content may explain their anti-aging potential.

Several studies have found that Cordyceps increase antioxidants in aged mice, helping improve memory and sexual function.

Antioxidants are molecules that fight cell damage by neutralizing free radicals, which can otherwise contribute to disease and aging.

One study found that mice that given Cordyceps lived several months longer than mice given a placebo.

Another study found that Cordyceps extended the lives of fruit flies, further supporting the belief that they have anti-aging benefits.

However, it’s unknown if Cordyceps have these same anti-aging benefits in humans.

SUMMARY Research in mice suggests Cordyceps have anti-aging properties. While these findings are promising, it’s unknown whether they apply to humans.

3. Potential Anti-Tumor Effects

Cordyceps’ potential to slow the growth of tumors has generated significant interest in recent years.

Researchers believe the fungi may exert anti-tumor effects in several ways.

In test-tube studies, Cordyceps have been shown to inhibit the growth of many types of human cancer cells, including lung, colon, skin and liver cancers.

Studies in mice have also shown that Cordyceps have anti-tumor effects on lymphoma, melanoma and lung cancer.

Cordyceps may also reverse the side effects associated with many forms of cancer therapy. One of these side effects is leukopenia.

Not to be confused with the cancer leukemia, leukopenia is a condition in which the number of white blood cells (leukocytes) decreases, lowering the body’s defenses and increasing the risk of infection.

One study tested the effects of Cordyceps on mice that developed leukopenia after radiation and treatments with Taxol, a common chemotherapy drug.

Interestingly, Cordyceps reversed the leukopenia. These results suggest the fungi may help reduce complications associated with some cancer treatments.

However, it’s important to note that these studies were performed in animals and test tubes, not humans.

The effects of Cordyceps on leukopenia and tumor growth in humans is unknown, so health experts can’t currently draw conclusions.

SUMMARY Test-tube and animal studies suggest Cordyceps may have the potential to treat cancer, as well as some side effects of cancer treatments. However, these effects have not been shown in humans, and more research is needed.

4. May Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Cordyceps contain a special type of sugar that may help treat diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body either does not produce or respond to the hormone insulin, which normally transports the sugar glucose into your cells for energy.

When your body does not produce enough insulin or respond well to it, glucose cannot enter the cells, so it stays in the blood. Over time, having too much glucose in the blood can cause serious health problems.

Therefore, it’s important for people with diabetes to make sure their blood sugar levels are well controlled.

Interestingly, Cordyceps may keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range by mimicking the action of insulin.

In several studies in diabetic mice, Cordyceps have been shown to decrease blood sugar levels.

Some evidence suggests that they may also protect against kidney disease, a common complication of diabetes.

In a review of 22 studies including 1,746 people with chronic kidney disease, those who took Cordyceps supplements experienced improved kidney function.

However, these results aren’t conclusive. The authors of the review stated that many of the studies were low quality. Therefore, no conclusions could be made about the effects of Cordyceps on kidney function in humans with chronic kidney disease.

SUMMARY Chronically elevated blood sugar levels are common in people with uncontrolled diabetes and can have serious health effects. Research in animals suggests Cordycepsmay have potential as a diabetes treatment.

5. Possible Benefits for Heart Health

As research emerges on the effects of Cordyceps on heart health, the benefits of the fungi are becoming increasingly apparent.

In fact, Cordyceps are approved in China for the treatment of arrhythmia, a condition in which the heartbeat is too slow, too fast or irregular.

A study found that Cordyceps significantly reduced heart injuries in rats with chronic kidney disease. Injuries to the heart from chronic kidney disease are thought to increase the risk of heart failure, so reducing these injuries may help avoid this outcome.

The researchers attributed these findings to the adenosine content of Cordyceps. Adenosine is a naturally occurring compound that has heart-protective effects.

Cordyceps may also have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels.

Animal research has shown that Cordyceps decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol.

LDL can raise your risk of heart disease by leading to the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.

Similarly, Cordyceps have been shown to decrease triglyceride levels in mice.

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. High levels are linked to a greater risk of heart disease.

Unfortunately, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether Cordyceps benefit heart health in humans.

SUMMARY Cordyceps may benefit heart health by helping prevent arrhythmias and lowering levels of triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol.

6. May Help Fight Inflammation

Cordyceps is said to help fight inflammation in the body.

Although some inflammation is good, too much can lead to diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Research has shown that when human cells are exposed to Cordyceps, special proteins that increase inflammation in the body become suppressed.

Thanks to these potential effects, researchers believe Cordyceps may serve as a useful anti-inflammatory supplement or drug.

In fact, Cordyceps have been shown to reduce inflammation in the airways of mice, making them a potential therapy for asthma. However, the fungi appear to be less effective than commonly prescribed drugs used to provide relief for inflamed areas of the body.

Cordyceps may also have topical uses. One study found it reduced skin inflammation when applied topically in mice, further demonstrating its anti-inflammatory properties.

The potential inflammation-fighting properties of Cordyceps have yet to be observed in humans.

SUMMARY Research suggests Cordyceps decrease inflammatory markers in animals. However, their effects on inflammation in humans remain unknown.

Taking Cordyceps Supplements

Cordyceps sinensis is difficult to harvest and carries a price tag of more than $9,000 USD per pound.

For this reason, the majority of Cordyceps supplements contain a synthetically grown version called Cordyceps CS-4.

To ensure you buy high-quality Cordyceps supplements, look for brands that carry the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International (NSF) seal.

These are third-party organizations that ensure supplements contain the ingredients listed on the label, without impurities.

Side Effects and Safety

No studies have yet examined the safety of Cordyceps in humans.

However, a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests they are nontoxic.

In fact, the Chinese government approved Cordyceps CS-4 for use in hospitals and recognizes it as a safe, natural drug.

SUMMARY Cordyceps supplements are grown in labs due to the high costs of wild-harvested Cordyceps sinensis. Dosages in humans range from 1,000–3000 mg. There are currently no studies on their safety in humans.

The Bottom Line

Cordyceps are well known in Traditional Chinese Medicine and have been used for centuries to treat many health ailments.

Though the fungi show promise in many areas, there’s little research on their effects in humans. Thus, more research is needed before experts can make any recommendations.

Animal and lab studies suggest Cordyceps have the potential to improve heart health and fight inflammation, cancer, diabetes and aging. However, many of these studies are poor quality, and the results cannot be extended to humans.

Nevertheless, there have been human studies on Cordyceps’ effects on exercise performance. The fungi have been found to potentially boost energy and oxygen use during exercise.

Currently, there is no consensus on the dosage people should take to reap its potential health benefits, or how safe it is.

If you choose to take Cordyceps supplements, make sure they’ve been tested by a third-party organization for purity and quality.

Only time will tell if the health benefits of Cordyceps observed in animal and laboratory studies apply to humans.

 

 

 

  

9 Health Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushroom (Plus Side Effects)

Lion’s mane mushrooms, also known as hou tou gu or yamabushitake, are large, white, shaggy mushrooms that resemble a lion’s mane as they grow.

They have both culinary and medical uses in Asian countries like China, India, Japan and Korea.

Lion’s mane mushrooms can be enjoyed raw, cooked, dried or steeped as a tea. Their extracts often used in over-the-counter health supplements.

Many describe their flavor as “seafood-like,” often comparing it to crab or lobster.

Lion’s mane mushrooms contain bioactive substances that have beneficial effects on the body, especially the brain, heart and gut.

Here are 9 health benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms and their extracts.

1. Could Protect Against Dementia

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The brain’s ability to grow and form new connections typically declines with age, which may explain why mental functioning gets worse in many older adults.

Studies have found that lion’s mane mushrooms contain two special compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines.

Additionally, animal studies have found that lion’s mane may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disease that causes progressive memory loss.

In fact, lion’s mane mushroom and its extracts have been shown to reduce symptoms of memory loss in mice, as well as prevent neuronal damage caused by amyloid-beta plaques, which accumulate in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease.

While no studies have analyzed whether lion’s mane mushroom is beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease in humans, it appears to boost mental functioning.

A study in older adults with mild cognitive impairment found that consuming 3 grams of powdered lion’s mane mushroom daily for four months significantly improved mental functioning, but these benefits disappeared when supplementation stopped.

The ability of lion’s mane mushroom to promote nerve growth and protect the brain from Alzheimer’s-related damage may explain some of its beneficial effects on brain health.

However, it’s important to note that most of the research has been conducted in animals or in test tubes. Therefore, more human studies are needed.

SUMMARY Lion’s mane mushrooms contain compounds that stimulate the growth of brain cells and protect them from damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. However, more human research is needed.

2. Helps Relieve Mild Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Up to one-third of people living in developed countries experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.

While there are many causes of anxiety and depression, chronic inflammation could be a major contributing factor.

New animal research has found that lion’s mane mushroom extract has anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice.

Other animal studies have found that lion’s mane extract can also help regenerate brain cells and improve the functioning of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses.

Researchers believe that improved functioning of the hippocampus may explain the reductions in anxious and depressive behaviors in mice given these extracts.

While these animal studies are promising, there is very little research in humans.

One small study in menopausal women found that eating cookies containing lion’s mane mushrooms daily for one month helped reduce self-reported feelings of irritation and anxiety.

SUMMARY Studies suggest that lion’s mane mushrooms may help relieve mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, but more human research is needed to better understand the correlation.

3. May Speed Recovery from Nervous System Injuries

The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord and other nerves that travel throughout the body. These components work together to send and transmit signals that control almost every bodily function.

Injuries to the brain or spinal cord can be devastating. They often cause paralysis or loss of mental functions and can take a long time to heal.

However, research has found that lion’s mane mushroom extract may help speed recovery from these types of injuries by stimulating the growth and repair of nerve cells.

In fact, lion’s mane mushroom extract has been shown to reduce recovery time by 23–41% when given to rats with nervous system injuries.

Lion’s mane extract may also help reduce the severity of brain damage after a stroke.

In one study, high doses of lion’s mane mushroom extract given to rats immediately after a stroke helped decrease inflammation and reduce the size of stroke-related brain injury by 44%.

While these results are promising, no studies have been conducted in humans to determine if lion’s mane would have the same therapeutic effect on nervous system injuries.

SUMMARY Rat studies have found that lion’s mane extract can speed up recovery time from nervous system injuries, but human research is lacking.

4. Protects Against Ulcers in the Digestive Tract

Ulcers are capable of forming anywhere along the digestive tract, including the stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

Stomach ulcers are often caused by two major factors: overgrowth of a bacteria called H. pyloriand damage to the mucous layer of the stomach that’s often due to long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Lion’s mane extract may protect against the development of stomach ulcers by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori and protecting the stomach lining from damage.

Several studies have found that lion’s mane extract can prevent the growth of H. pylori in a test tube, but no studies have tested whether they have the same effects inside the stomach.

Additionally, an animal study found that lion’s mane extract was more effective at preventing alcohol-induced stomach ulcers than traditional acid-lowering drugs — and without any negative side effects.

Lion’s mane extract can also reduce inflammation and prevent tissue damage in other areas of the intestines. In fact, they may help treat inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

One study in people with ulcerative colitis found that taking a mushroom supplement containing 14% lion’s mane extract significantly reduced symptoms and improved quality of life after three weeks.

However, when the same study was repeated in patients with Crohn’s disease, the benefits were no better than a placebo.

It’s important to note that the herbal supplement used in these studies included several types of mushrooms, so it’s difficult to draw any conclusions about the effects of lion’s mane specifically.

Overall, research suggests that lion’s mane extract may help inhibit the development of ulcers, but more human research is needed.

SUMMARY Lion’s mane extract has been shown to protect against stomach and intestinal ulcers in rodents, but human research has been conflicting.

5. Reduces Heart Disease Risk

Major risk factors for heart disease include obesity, high triglycerides, large amounts of oxidized cholesterol and an increased tendency to get blood clots.

Research shows that lion’s mane extract can influence some of these factors and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Studies in rats and mice have found that lion’s mane mushroom extract improves fat metabolism and lowers triglyceride levels.

One study in rats fed a high-fat diet and given daily doses of lion’s mane extract observed 27% lower triglyceride levels and 42% less weight gain after 28 days.

Since obesity and high triglycerides are both considered risk factors for heart disease, this is one way that lion’s mane mushrooms contribute to heart health.

Test-tube studies have also found that lion’s mane extract can help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Oxidized cholesterol molecules tend to attach to the walls of arteries, causing them to harden and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Therefore, reducing oxidation is beneficial for heart health.

What’s more, lion’s mane mushrooms contain a compound called hericenone B, which can decrease the rate of blood clotting and lower the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Lion’s mane mushrooms appear to benefit the heart and blood vessels in multiple ways, but human studies are needed to support this.

SUMMARY Animal and test-tube studies suggest that lion’s mane extract can reduce the risk of heart disease in several ways, but human studies are needed to confirm these findings.

6. Helps Manage Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body loses the ability to control blood sugar levels. As a result, levels are consistently elevated.

Chronically high blood sugar levels eventually cause complications like kidney disease, nerve damage in the hands and feet and vision loss.

Lion’s mane mushroom may be beneficial for diabetes management by improving blood sugar control and reducing some of these side effects.

Several animal studies have shown that lion’s mane can cause significantly lower blood sugar levels in both normal and diabetic mice, even at daily dosages as low as 2.7 mg per pound (6 mg per kg) of body weight.

One way that lion’s mane lowers blood sugars is by blocking the activity of the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which breaks down carbs in the small intestine.

When this enzyme is blocked, the body is unable to digest and absorb carbs as effectively, which results in lower blood sugar levels.

In addition to lowering blood sugars, lion’s mane extract may reduce diabetic nerve pain in the hands and feet.

In mice with diabetic nerve damage, six weeks of daily lion’s mushroom extract significantly reduced pain, lowered blood sugar levels and even increased antioxidant levels.

Lion’s mane mushroom shows potential as a therapeutic supplement for diabetes, but more research is needed to determine exactly how it might be used in humans.

SUMMARY Lion’s mane mushroom can help lower blood sugar and reduce diabetic nerve pain in mice, but more studies are needed to determine whether it might be a good therapeutic option in humans.

7. May Help Fight Cancer

Cancer occurs when DNA becomes damaged and causes cells to divide and replicate out of control.

Some research suggests that lion’s mane mushroom has cancer-fighting abilities, thanks to several of its unique compounds.

In fact, when lion’s mane extract is mixed with human cancer cells in a test tube, they cause the cancer cells to die at a faster rate. This has been demonstrated with several types of cancer cells, including liver, colon, stomach and blood cancer cells.

However, at least one study has failed to replicate these results, so more studies are needed.

In addition to killing cancer cells, lion’s mane extract has also been shown to slow the spread of cancer.

One study in mice with colon cancer found that taking lion’s mane extract reduced the spread of cancer to the lungs by 69%.

Another study found that lion’s mane extract was more effective than traditional cancer medications at slowing tumor growth in mice, in addition to having fewer side effects.

However, the anti-cancer effects of lion’s mane mushroom have never been tested in humans, so more research is needed.

SUMMARY Animal and test-tube studies show that lion’s mane extract can kill cancer cells and slow the spread of tumors, but human studies are still needed.

8. Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are believed to be at the root of many modern illnesses, including heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders.

Research shows that lion’s mane mushrooms contain powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that may help reduce the impact of these illnesses.

In fact, one study examining the antioxidant abilities of 14 different mushroom species found that lion’s mane had the fourth highest antioxidant activity and recommended it be considered a good dietary source of antioxidants.

Several animal studies have found that lion’s mane extract reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in rodents and may be especially useful in the management of inflammatory bowel disease, liver damage and stroke.

Lion’s mane mushrooms may also help reduce some of the health risks associated with obesity, as they have been shown to decrease the amount of inflammation released by fat tissue.

More studies are needed to determine the potential health benefits in humans, but the results from lab and animal studies are promising.

SUMMARY Lion’s mane mushroom contains powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help reduce the impact of chronic illness.

9. Boosts the Immune System

A strong immune system protects the body from bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing pathogens.

On the other hand, a weak immune system puts the body at a higher risk of developing infectious diseases.

Animal research shows that lion’s mane mushroom can boost immunity by increasing the activity of the intestinal immune system, which protects the body from pathogens that enter the gut through the mouth or nose.

These effects may partly be due to beneficial changes in gut bacteria that stimulate the immune system.

One study even found that supplementing with lion’s mane extract daily nearly quadrupled the lifespan of mice injected with a lethal dose of salmonella bacteria.

The immune-boosting effects of lion’s mane mushrooms are very promising, but this area of research is still developing.

SUMMARY Lion’s mane mushrooms have been shown to have immune-boosting effects in rodents, but much more research is needed.

Safety and Side Effects

No human studies have examined the side effects of lion’s mane mushroom or its extract, but they appear to be very safe.

No adverse effects have been seen in rats, even at doses as high as 2.3 grams per pound (5 grams per kg) of body weight per day for one month or lower dosages for three months.

However, anyone who is allergic or sensitive to mushrooms should avoid lion’s mane, since it is a species of mushroom.

There have been documented cases of people experiencing difficulty breathing or skin rashes after exposure to lion’s mane mushrooms, likely related to allergies.

SUMMARY Animal studies suggest that lion’s mane mushroom and its extracts are very safe, even at high doses. However, allergic reactions in humans have been reported, so anyone with a known mushroom allergy should avoid it.

The Bottom Line

Lion’s mane mushroom and its extract have been shown to have a variety of health benefits.

Research has found that lion’s mane may protect against dementia, reduce mild symptoms of anxiety and depression and help repair nerve damage.

It also has strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune-boosting abilities and been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, ulcers and diabetes in animals.

While the current research is promising, more human studies are needed to develop practical health applications for lion’s mane mushroom.

 

 

  

What Are Chaga Mushrooms and Are They Healthy?

have been used for centuries in Siberia and other parts of Asia as a medicine to boost immunity and improve overall health.

Though ugly in appearance, the chaga mushroom is gaining popularity in the Western world for its potential health benefits.

What’s more, a cup of tea made from chaga is packed with antioxidants.

However, consumption of this special mushroom may come with some risks.

This article examines the uses, benefits and potential side effects of chaga mushrooms.

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What Are Chaga Mushrooms?

Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a type of fungus that grows mainly on the bark of birch trees in cold climates, such as Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada and Alaska.

Chaga is also known by other names, such as black mass, clinker polypore, birch canker polypore, cinder conk and the sterile conk trunk rot (of birch).

Chaga produces a woody growth, or conk, which looks similar to a clump of burnt charcoal — roughly 10–15 inches (25–38 centimeters) in size. However, the inside reveals a soft core with an orange color.

For centuries, chaga has been used as a traditional medicine in Russia and other Northern European countries, mainly to boost immunity and overall health.

It has also been used to treat diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease (1).

Traditionally, chaga was grated into a fine powder and brewed as an herbal tea.

Nowadays, it’s not only available as a tea but also as a powdered or capsuled supplement. The tea may feature chaga alone or in combination with other mushrooms, such as cordyceps.

Taking chaga with either warm or cold water is believed to release its medicinal properties.

Keep in mind that reliable information on chaga’s nutritional content is extremely limited.

That said, they’re low in calories, very high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants.

SUMMARy Chaga mushroom is a fungus that grows primarily on birch trees in cold climates. With an appearance similar to burnt charcoal, it has been harvested for centuries as a traditional medicine.

Potential Health Benefits

Though research is ongoing, some scientific studies indicate that chaga extract may provide certain health benefits.

Boosts Your Immune System and Fights Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural response of your immune system that can protect against disease. However, long-term inflammation is linked to conditions like heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Animal and test-tube studies suggest that chaga extract can positively impact immunity by reducing long-term inflammation and fighting harmful bacteria and viruses.

By promoting the formation of beneficial cytokines — specialized proteins that regulate the immune system — chaga stimulates white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off harmful bacteria or viruses.

As a result, this mushroom could help fight infections — from minor colds to serious illnesses.

Additionally, other animal and test-tube studies demonstrate that chaga can prevent the production of harmful cytokines, which trigger inflammation and are associated with disease.

For example, in a study in mice, chaga extract reduced inflammation and gut damage by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines.

Prevents and Fights Cancer

Several animal and test-tube studies show that chaga can prevent and slow cancer growth.

In a study in mice with cancer, chaga supplements resulted in a 60% reduction in tumor size.

In a test-tube study, chaga extract prevented the growth of cancer in human liver cells. Similar results were observed with cancer cells of the lung, breast, prostate and colon.

It’s thought that the anticancer effect of chaga is partly due to its high content of antioxidants, which protect cells from damage by free radicals.

In particular, chaga contains the antioxidant triterpene. Test-tube studies reveal that very concentrated triterpene extract can help kill cancer cells.

Keep in mind that human studies are needed in order to make strong conclusions about chaga’s anticancer potential.

Lowers Blood Sugar

Several animal studies link chaga to lower blood sugar levels. Therefore, it may help manage diabetes.

A recent study in obese, diabetic mice observed that chaga extract reduced blood sugar levels and insulin resistance compared to diabetic mice who did not receive the supplement.

In another study in diabetic mice, chaga supplements led to a 31% decrease in blood sugar levels over three weeks.

Similar results have been seen in other studies.

However, as human research is unavailable, it’s unclear whether chaga can help manage diabetes in humans.

Lowers Cholesterol

Chaga extract may also benefit cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of heart disease.

In an eight-week study in rats with high cholesterol, chaga extract reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing antioxidant levels.

Similar studies gave the same results and observed that — in addition to reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol — chaga increases “good” HDL cholesterol.

Researchers believe that the antioxidants present in chaga are responsible for its effects on cholesterol.

Again, more research in humans is needed to clearly understand chaga’s cholesterol impact.

SUMMARY Animal and test-tube studies found that chaga extract may boost immunity, prevent chronic inflammation, fight cancer, lower blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. However, more human studies are needed.

Safety and Side Effects

Chaga is generally well-tolerated. However, no human studies have been conducted to determine its safety or appropriate dosage.

In fact, chaga can interact with some common medications, causing potentially harmful effects.

For example, chaga could pose risks for people on insulin or those with diabetes due to its impact on blood sugar.

Chaga also contains a protein that can prevent blood clotting. Therefore, if you are on blood-thinning medications, have a bleeding disorder or are preparing for surgery, consult with your doctor before taking chaga (22).

Though some research shows that chaga may help reduce inflammation, it may also cause your immune system to become more active. Thus, people with autoimmune diseases should seek medical advice before taking chaga.

There is no research on the safety of chaga for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Therefore, the safest option is to avoid use.

SUMMARY No studies have analyzed the safety or appropriate dosage of chaga. Unwanted side effects could occur if you have a bleeding disorder or autoimmune disease, take blood thinners or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The Bottom Line

For centuries, people have used chaga mushrooms for medicinal purposes.

Packed with antioxidants, chaga mushroom is available in tea or supplement form.

Its extract may fight cancer and improve immunity, chronic inflammation, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Still, human studies are needed to confirm these benefits and to determine its safety, side effects and optimal dosage.

 

  

 

 

  

10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of ASSAM Black Tea

Aside from water, black tea is one of the most consumed beverage in the world.

It comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and is often blended with other plants for different flavors, such as Earl Grey, English breakfast or chai.

It’s stronger in flavor and contains more caffeine than other teas, but less caffeine than coffee.

Black tea also offers a variety of health benefits because it contains antioxidants and compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the body.

Here are 10 health benefits of black tea, all supported by science.

1. Has Antioxidant Properties

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Antioxidants are known to provide a host of health benefits.

Consuming them can help remove free radicals and decrease cell damage in the body. This ultimately may help decrease the risk of chronic disease.

Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant found in certain foods and beverages, including black tea.

Groups of polyphenols, including catechins, theaflavins and thearubigins, are the main sources of antioxidants in black tea and may promote overall health.

In fact, one study in rats examined the role of theaflavins in black tea and the risk of diabetes, obesity and elevated cholesterol. Results showed that theaflavins reduced cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Another study examined the role of catechins from green tea extract on body weight. It found that those who consumed a bottle containing 690 mg of catechins from tea on a daily basis for 12 weeks showed a decrease in body fat.

While many supplements contain antioxidants, the best way to consume them is through food and beverages. In fact, some research has found that taking antioxidants in supplement form may harm your health.

SUMMARY Black tea contains a group of polyphenols that have antioxidant properties. Consuming antioxidants may help decrease the risk of chronic disease and improve your overall health.

2. May Boost Heart Health

Black tea contains another group of antioxidants called flavonoids, which benefit heart health.

Along with tea, flavonoids can be found in vegetables, fruits, red wine and dark chocolate.

Consuming them on a regular basis may help reduce many risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated triglyceride levels and obesity.

One randomized controlled study found that drinking black tea for 12 weeks significantly decreased triglyceride values by 36%, reduced blood sugar levels by 18% and lowered the LDL/HDL plasma ratio by 170%.

Another study found that those who drank three cups of black tea per day had an 11% reduced risk of developing heart disease.

Adding black tea to your daily routine is an easy way to incorporate antioxidants into your diet and potentially reduce your risk of future health complications.

SUMMARY Black tea contains flavonoids, which are beneficial for heart health. Studies have found that regularly drinking black tea may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

3. May Lower “Bad” LDL Cholesterol

The body contains two lipoproteins that transport cholesterol throughout the body.

One is low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and the other is high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

LDL is considered the “bad” lipoprotein because it transports cholesterol to cells throughout the body. Meanwhile, HDL is considered the “good” lipoprotein because it transports cholesterol away from your cells and to the liver to be excreted.

When there is too much LDL in the body, it can build up in the arteries and cause waxy deposits called plaques. This can lead to problems like heart failure or stroke.

Fortunately, some studies have found that consuming tea may help reduce LDL cholesterol.

One randomized study found that drinking five servings of black tea per day reduced LDL cholesterol by 11% in individuals with slightly or mildly elevated cholesterol levels.

Another randomized three-month study in 47 individuals compared the effects of traditional Chinese black tea extract and a placebo on LDL levels.

Results showed a significant decrease in LDL levels in those who drank black tea, compared to the placebo, without any undesirable side effects. Researchers concluded that black tea helped improve cholesterol levels in individuals at risk for heart disease or obesity.

SUMMARY LDL and HDL are two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol throughout the body. Too much LDL in the body can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have found that black tea may help reduce LDL levels.

4. May Improve Gut Health

Studies have found that the type of bacteria in your gut may play a significant role in your health.

That’s because the gut contains trillions of bacteria, as well as 70–80% of your immune system.

While some of the bacteria in your gut is beneficial for your health, some are not.

In fact, some studies have suggested that the type of bacteria in your gut may play an important role in reducing the risk of certain health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even cancer.

The polyphenols found in black tea may help maintain a healthy gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria and inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria, such as Salmonella.

In addition, black tea contains antimicrobial properties that kill off harmful substances and improve gut bacteria and immunity by helping repair the lining of the digestive tract.

However, further research is needed before a strong conclusion can be made regarding the role of black tea and immune function.

SUMMARY The gut houses trillions of bacteria and the majority of your immune system. Polyphenols and antimicrobial properties found in black tea may help improve gut health and immunity.

5. May Help Reduce Blood Pressure

High blood pressure affects approximately 1 billion people worldwide.

It can increase your risk of heart and kidney failure, stroke, vision loss and heart attacks. Fortunately, changes in your diet and lifestyle can lower your blood pressure.

A randomized, controlled study looked at the role of black tea in decreasing blood pressure. Participants drank three cups of black tea daily over six months.

Results found that those who drank black tea had a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared to the placebo group.

However, research on the effects of black tea on blood pressure is mixed.

A meta-analysis of five different studies involving 343 participants looked at the impact of drinking black tea for four weeks on blood pressure.

Although results found some improvements in blood pressure, researchers concluded that the findings were not significant.

Drinking black tea on a daily basis, as well as incorporating other lifestyle modifications like stress management strategies, may benefit those with high blood pressure.

SUMMARY High blood pressure can cause many health complications. Drinking black tea on a regular basis may help decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure, but research is mixed.

6. May Help Reduce the Risk of Stroke

A stroke can occur when a blood vessel in the brain is either blocked or ruptures. It’s the second leading cause of death worldwide.

Fortunately, 80% of strokes are preventable. For example, managing your diet, physical activity, blood pressure and not smoking can help reduce the risk of stroke.

Interestingly, studies have found that drinking black tea may also help reduce the risk of stroke.

One study followed 74,961 people for over 10 years. It found that those who drank four or more cups of black tea per day had a 32% lower risk of stroke than those who did not drink tea.

Another study reviewed data from nine different studies including over 194,965 participants.

Researchers discovered that individuals who drank more than three cups of tea (either black or green tea) per day had a 21% decreased risk of stroke, compared to individuals who drank less than one cup of tea per day.

SUMMARY Stroke is the second leading cause of death globally. Fortunately, in many cases, it can be prevented. Studies have found that black tea may help reduce the risk of stroke.

7. May Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Elevated blood sugar levels may increase your risk of health complications, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and depression.

Consuming large amounts of sugar, particularly from sweetened beverages, has been shown to increase blood sugar values and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

When you consume sugar, the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin to carry the sugar to the muscles to be used for energy. If you consume more sugar than your body needs, the excess sugar gets stored as fat.

Black tea is a great non-sweetened beverage that has been found to help enhance the use of insulin in the body.

One test-tube study looked at the insulin-enhancing properties of tea and its components. Results showed that black tea increased insulin activity more than 15-fold.

Researchers concluded that several compounds in tea were shown to improve insulin levels, specifically a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate.

Another study in mice compared the effects of black and green tea extract on blood sugar levels. Results found that they both lowered blood sugar and improved how the body metabolized sugar.

SUMMARY Insulin is a hormone that is secreted when you consume sugar. Black tea is a great non-sweetened beverage that can help improve the use of insulin and reduce blood sugar.

8. May Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Over 100 different types of cancer exist, and some are not preventable.

Nevertheless, the polyphenols found in black tea may help prevent cancer cell survival.

One test-tube study analyzed the effects of the polyphenols in tea on cancer cells. It showed that black and green tea may play a role in regulating cancer cell growth and reducing new cell development.

Another study analyzed the effects of the polyphenols in black tea on breast cancer. It showed that black tea may help overcome the spread of hormone-dependent breast tumors.

Although black tea should not be considered an alternative treatment for cancer, some research has demonstrated black tea’s potential to help reduce cancer cell survival.

More research in humans is needed to more clearly determine the link between black tea and cancer cells.

SUMMARY Black tea contains polyphenols, which may help fight cancer cells in the body. Although consuming black tea will not cure cancer, it may help decrease cancer cell development.

9. May Improve Focus

Black tea contains caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine, which can improve alertness and focus.

L-theanine increases alpha activity in the brain, resulting in relaxation and better focus.

Studies have found that beverages containing L-theanine and caffeine have the greatest impact on focus due to the effects of L-theanine on the brain.

This may be why many individuals report more stable energy after drinking tea, compared to other caffeinated beverages like coffee.

Two randomized studies tested black tea’s effects on accuracy and alertness. In both studies, black tea significantly increased accuracy and self-reported alertness among participants, compared to a placebo.

This makes black tea a great beverage if you are looking to improve energy and focus without a lot of caffeine.

SUMMARY Black tea can help improve focus due to its content of caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine. This amino acid increases alpha activity in the brain, which can help improve focus and alertness.

The Bottom Line

Black tea is a great option if you are looking for a low-calorie, non-sweetened beverage with less caffeine than coffee or energy drinks.

It has a strong, unique flavor and contains plenty of antioxidants, which can provide several health benefits. These include improved cholesterol, better gut health and decreased blood pressure.

Best of all, it’s simple to make and can easily be found at many stores or online.

If you haven’t done so before, consider trying black tea so you can reap its numerous health benefits.

  

 

  

Can Green Coffee Bean Help You Lose Weight?

What is green coffee bean extract?

You’ve probably heard about the long-standing health debate on drinking coffee. Researchers go back and forth on whether the popular brew is good for you. There is also controversy about the use of green coffee beans. They became well-known as a weight loss supplement after being featured on “The Dr. Oz Show.”

Green coffee bean extract comes from coffee beans that haven’t been roasted. Coffee beans contain compounds known as chlorogenic acids. Some believe these compounds have antioxidant effects, help lower blood pressure, and help you lose weight.

Roasting coffee reduces chlorogenic acid content. This is why drinking coffee isn’t thought to have the same weight loss effects as the unroasted beans.

The extract is sold as a pill and can be found online or in health food stores. A typical dose is between 60 to 185 milligrams per day.

Claim: Fact or fiction?

Does green coffee extract actually promote weight loss? There haven’t been a lot of studies on chlorogenic acids and their effectiveness as weight loss supplements. A review of human studies did show that green coffee extract may have the potential to help with weight loss. But the documented effects on weight loss were small, and the studies weren’t long term. The studies were also poorly designed. So, there isn’t enough evidence to say that the supplements are effective or safe. More research is needed.

The Use of Green Coffee Extract as a Weight Loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials

Igho Onakpoya, * Rohini Terry, and Edzard Ernst

Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.

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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to assess the efficacy of green coffee extract (GCE) as a weight loss supplement, using data from human clinical trials. Electronic and nonelectronic searches were conducted to identify relevant articles, with no restrictions in time or language. Two independent reviewers extracted the data and assessed the methodological quality of included studies. Five eligible trials were identified, and three of these were included. All studies were associated with a high risk of bias. The meta-analytic result reveals a significant difference in body weight in GCE compared with placebo (mean difference: −2.47 kg; 95%CI: −4.23, −0.72). The magnitude of the effect is moderate, and there is significant heterogeneity amongst the studies. It is concluded that the results from these trials are promising, but the studies are all of poor methodological quality. More rigorous trials are needed to assess the usefulness of GCE as a weight loss tool.

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1. Introduction

Overweight and obesity have become a serious health concern [1]. Different weight management strategies are presently utilised, and a variety of weight loss supplements sold as “slimming aids” are readily available. However, the efficacy of some of these food supplements remains uncertain. One such supplement is the green coffee extract (GCE).

GCE is present in green or raw coffee [2]. It is also present in roasted coffee, but much of the GCE is destroyed during the roasting process. Some GCE constituents, such as chlorogenic acid (CGA) can also be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables [3]. The daily intake of CGA in persons drinking coffee varies from 0.5 to 1 g [4]. The traditional method of extraction of GCE from green coffee bean, Coffea canephora robusta, involves the use of alcohol as a solvent [5]. Extracted GCE is marketed as a weight loss supplement under a variety of brand names as a weight loss supplement such as “Coffee Slender”, and “Svetol”.

Evidence is accumulating from animal studies regarding the use of GCE as a weight loss supplement [67]. In human subjects, coffee intake has been reported to be inversely associated with weight gain [8]. Consumption of coffee has also been shown to produce changes in several glycaemic markers in older adults [9]. Similarly, other research has indicated that the consumption of caffeinated coffee can lead to some reductions in long-term weight gain, an effect which is likely to be due to the known thermogenic effects of caffeine intake as well as effects of GCE and other pharmacologically active substances present in coffee [10]. GCE has also been postulated to modify hormone secretion and glucose tolerance in humans [11]. This effect is accomplished by facilitating the absorption of glucose from the distal, rather than the proximal part of the gastrointestinal tract.

The objective of this paper is to analyse the results of human clinical trials assessing the efficacy of GCE as a weight-reducing agent.

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2. Methods

Electronic searches of the literature were conducted for the following databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, AMED, and The Cochrane Library. Each database was searched from inception up until April, 2010. Search terms used included coffee, green coffee, green coffee extract, roasted coffee, decaffeinated coffee, chlorogenic acid, caffeoylquinic acid, antiobesity agent, appetite suppressant, abdominal fat, BMI, body mass index, body fat, body weight, overweight, over weight, corpulen*, obes*, weight loss, weight decrease, weight watch, weight cycle, weight control, weight gain, weight maintenance, weight reduction, weight change, dietary supplement, food supplement, nutraceutical, nutri*supplement, over-the-counter OR OTC, nonprescription drugs, randomised controlled trial, clinical trial, and placebo. We also searched other internet databases for relevant conference proceedings, as well as our own files. Hand searches of the bibliography of retrieved full texts were also conducted.

Only randomised, double-blind, and placebo-controlled studies were included in this paper. To be considered for inclusion, studies had to test the efficacy of GCE for weight reduction in obese or overweight humans. Included studies also had to report body weight and/or body mass index (BMI) as an outcome. No age, time, or language restrictions were imposed for inclusion of studies. Studies which involved the use of GCE as part of a combination treatment or not involving obese or overweight subjects were excluded from this paper.

Two independent reviewers assessed the eligibility of studies to be included in the paper. Data were extracted systematically by two independent reviewers according to the patient characteristics, interventions, and results. The methodological quality of all included studies was assessed by the use of a quality assessment checklist adapted from the consolidated standard of reporting trials (CONSORT) guidelines [1213]. Disagreements were resolved through discussion with the third author.

Data are presented as means with standard deviations. Mean changes in body weight were used as common endpoints to assess the differences between GCE and placebo groups. Using the standard meta-analysis software [14], we calculated mean differences (MD) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). The I 2 statistic was used to assess for statistical heterogeneity amongst studies.

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3. Results

Our searches produced 2160 “hits”. 328 articles were excluded because they were duplicate citations, while 767 articles were excluded because of wrong titles and abstracts. Another 598 articles were excluded because they did not investigate a food supplements, and 454 articles excluded due to no report on clinical outcome. A further 13 articles were excluded due to unsuitable study design. Thus, 5 potentially relevant articles were identified (Figure 1). One trial was excluded because it involved only normal weight individuals, and did not measure weight as an outcome [15]. Another trial was excluded because it was not randomised [16]. In effect, 3 randomised clinical trials (RCTs) including a total of 142 participants met our inclusion criteria, and were included in this systematic paper [51718]. Their key details are summarized in Tables Tables1 and1and and22.

Figure 1

Flow chart for inclusion of randomised clinical trials.

Table 1

Methodological characteristics of included studies.

Author Year Country

Main outcome (s)

Main diagnoses of study participants

Study design

Gender M/F

Randomisation appropriate?

Allocation concealed?

Groups similar at baseline?

Similar follow-up of groups?

Outcome assessor blinded?

Care provider blinded?

Patients blinded?

Attrition bias?

ITT analysis?

*Ayton Research 2009 United Kingdom

Body weight, waist, bust and hip circumference

Healthy overweight subjects

Parallel

Unclear

?

?

+

+

?

?

?

?

?

Thom 2007 Norway

Body weight, body mass index

Slight to moderately overweight subjects

Parallel

12/18

?

?

+

+

?

?

?

Dellalibera 1998 France

Body weight, body mass index

Overweight volunteers

Parallel

Unclear

?

?

+

+

?

?

?

Open in a separate window

Abbreviation: ITT (intention-to-treat); M/F: Males/Females.

Symbols: *: Unpublished study, +: Yes, −: No, ?: Unclear.

Table 2

Main results of included RCTs1.

Author Year

GCE specification

No. of participants randomised

Age in yrs; Sex: M/F

Body weight at baseline

Dosage of GCE

Treatment duration

Main results; reported as means with standard deviations

Adverse events

Control for lifestyle factors

Ayton Res. 2009 (unpublished)

CGA enriched green coffee

62

Not reported

76.65 ± 7.25 kg (GCE) 77.44 ± 12.93 kg (PLA)

180 mg daily

4 weeks

Weight loss was 1.35 ± 0.81 kg and 0.12 ± 0.27 kg for GCE and PLA respectively

Not reported

Normal lifestyle

Thom 2007

CGA enriched green coffee

30

Not reported 12/18

85.2 ± 4.5 kg (GCE) 84.3 ± 4.3 kg (PLA)

200 mg daily

12 weeks

Mean weight loss was 5.4 ± 0.6 kg (GCE) and 1.7 ± 0.9 kg (PLA). Mean fat loss was 3.6 ± 0.3% (GCE) and 0.7 ± 0.4% (PLA)

No adverse events

Regular diet, normal level of exercise

Dellalibera 2007

Green coffee extract

50

Range: 19–75

Not reported

200 mg daily

12 weeks

2 Mean weight loss was 4.97 ± 0.32 kg and 2.45 ± 0.37 kg for GCE and PLA, respectively

Not reported

Not reported

Open in a separate window

Abbreviation: PLA: placebo

1 Unless otherwise specified, values are reported as means with standard deviations.

2 Values reported as means with standard errors.

A forest plot (random-effect model) for the three trials is shown in figure 2. The meta-analysis reveals a statistically significant difference in body weight between GCE and placebo (MD: −2.47 kg; 95% CI: −4.23, −0.72). The I 2 statistic of 97% suggests that there is considerable heterogeneity amongst the studies. A further plot of two trials which involved CGA-enriched GCE revealed a statistically nonsignificant difference in body weight between GCE and placebo (MD: −1.92 kg; 95% CI: −5.40, 1.56). Heterogeneity was also considerable in this analysis (I 2 statistic of 99%). One of the studies reported a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of body fat in the GCE group compared with baseline, but no significant difference in the placebo group [5]. There was no mention of intergroup differences regarding the percentage of body fat. None of the trials reported any adverse events associated with the use of GCE.

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4. Discussion

The main purpose of this systematic paper was to assess the efficacy of GCE as a weight loss supplement. The overall meta-analysis revealed a significant difference in change in body weight between GCE and placebo. The magnitude of this significance is moderate, and the clinical relevance is therefore not certain. There is also considerable heterogeneity amongst the three trials.

In animals, GCE has been reported to influence postprandrial glucose concentration and blood lipid concentration [5]. This is thought to be via reduction in the absorption of glucose in the intestine; a mechanism achieved by promoting dispersal of the Na+ electrochemical gradient. This dispersal leads to an influx of glucose into the enterocytes [19]. GCE is also thought to inhibit the enzymatic activity of hepatic glucose-6-phosphatase, which is involved in the homeostasis of glucose [20]. Reports from animal studies have suggested that GCE mediates its antiobesity effect possibly by suppressing the accumulation of hepatic triglycerides [6]. Some authors have also posited that the antiobesity effect of GCE may be mediated via alteration of plasma adipokine level and body fat distribution and downregulating fatty acid and cholesterol biosynthesis, whereas upregulating fatty acid oxidation and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα) expression in the liver [7].

Diets rich in polyphenols may help to prevent various kinds of diseases associated with oxidative stress, including coronary heart disease and some forms of cancer [2122]. GCE has been reported to have antioxidant activity, demonstrated by its ability to scavenge free radicals in vitro, and to increase the antioxidant capacity of plasma in vivo [1623]. There is also evidence that certain dietary phenols, including GCE, may modify intestinal glucose uptake in a number of ways [824]. This activity might provide a basis for explaining its effects on body weight. The purported slimming effect of GCE would have a protective effect against diabetes mellitus, via changes in gastrointestinal hormone secretion [10]. A few questions, however, arise from the RCTs which involve the use of GCE as a weight loss aid.

All the RCTs involving the use of GCE which have been conducted so far have very small sample sizes, with the largest number of participants being 62 in one trial [17]. These small sample sizes increase the possibility of spurious or false positive results. Two of the RCTs were unclear about drop-outs of participants from the trial; neither did they report on intention-to-treat analysis [1718]. All of the trials so far identified have been of very short duration. This makes it difficult to assess the efficacy and safety of GCE as a weight reduction agent on the medium to long-term. Although none of the RCTs identified reported any adverse events, this does not indicate that GCE intake is “risk-free”. Two participants in a study report dropped out due to adverse events associated with the intake of GCE [16]. These included headache and urinary tract infection. Thus, the safety of this weight loss aid is not established.

The effective dosage of GCE for use as a weight loss supplement is also not established. The dosages of GCE reported in most of the human trials identified were estimated, as the GCE was a component of coffee. While 2 of the RCTs identified enriched their GCE with CGA [517], the third trial did not report that the GCE used was fortified with CGA [18]. This warrants further investigation.

The RCTs identified from our searches were not also clear on blinding issues. None of the RCTs reported on how randomisation was carried out, and none provided information regarding blinding of outcome assessors. This casts doubt on the internal validity of these trials. Future trials involving the use of GCE as a weight loss supplement should be conducted in line with the CONSORT guidelines. This will ensure the validity and applicability of study results. Two authors in one study were affiliated to a company which markets Svetol [18] but did not specify whether or not they had any conflicts of interest.

This systematic review has several limitations. Though our search strategy involved both electronic and nonelectronic studies, we may not have identified all the available trials involving the use of GCE as a weight loss supplement. Furthermore, the methodological quality of the studies identified from our searches is poor, and all are of short duration. These factors prevent us from drawing firm conclusions about the effects of GCE on body weight.

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5. Conclusion

The evidence from RCTs seems to indicate that the intake of GCE can promote weight loss. However, several caveats exist. The size of the effect is small, and the clinical relevance of this effect is uncertain. More rigorous trials with longer duration are needed to assess the efficacy and safety of GCE as a weight loss supplement.

Figure 2

Forest plot showing the effect of GCE on body weight.

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Conflict of Interests

  1. Onakpoya is funded by a grant from GlaxoSmithKline. The funder had no role in the preparation of the paper. R. Terry and E. Ernst declare no potential conflict of interests.

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CITRUS AURANTIUM- Energy and Weight Loss

Review of the Human Clinical Studies Involving Citrus aurantium (Bitter Orange) Extract and its Primary Protoalkaloid p-Synephrine

ABSTRACT This review summarizes the published as well as unpublished human studies involving Citrus aurantium(bitter orange) extract and its primary protoalkaloid p-synephrine, providing information and an assessment of the safety and efficacy of these widely used products. The results of over 20 studies involving a total of approximately 360 subjects that consumed p-synephrine alone or in combination with other ingredients are reviewed and critiqued. Over 50 % of the subjects involved in these studies were overweight/obese, and approximately two-thirds of these overweight/obese subjects consumed caffeine (132-528 mg/day) in conjunction with p-synephrine (10-53 mg/day). Bitter orange/p-synephrine containing products were consumed for up to 12 weeks. Approximately 44 % of the subjects consumed a bitter orange/p-synephrine only product, while the remainder consumed a complex product that contained multiple ingredients in addition to p-synephrine. In general, bitter orange extract alone (p-synephrine) or in combination with other herbal ingredients did not produce significant adverse events as an increase in heart rate or blood pressure, or alter electrocardiographic data, serum chemistry, blood cell counts or urinalysis. p-Synephrine alone as well as in combination products were shown to increase resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure, and modest increases in weight loss were observed with bitter orange extract/p-synephrine-containing products when given for six to 12 weeks. Longer term studies are needed to further assess the efficacy of these products and affirm their safety under these conditions.

Keywords: Citrus aurantium, bitter orange, p-synephrine, human subjects, obesity/overweight, safety, efficacy, caffeine.

INTRODUCTION

Citrus aurantium extract and its primary protoalkaloidal constituent p-synephrine (Figure (Figure1)1) are extensively used in weight management products and as thermogenic agents. They are also used in sports performance products to enhance stamina. C. aurantium extract is widely known as bitter orange extract, a product that is derived from the immature (green) fruits of the Seville orange. It is also known as “Chih-shi” or “Zhi shi” in traditional Chinese medicine 1. Bitter orange extract is used in weight management products due to its purported effects on metabolic processes, including an increase in basal metabolic rate and lipolysis as well as mild appetite suppression 2.

Fig 1

Chemical structure of p-synephrine.

Uncertainty has existed concerning the safety of bitter orange extract and p-synephrine. In general, both the lay public and scientific communities have failed to differentiate between p-synephrine which is a phenylethylamine derivative that has the hydroxy group in the para position on the benzene ring and the synthetic m-synephrine (phenylephrine) which has a hydroxyl group in the meta position on the benzene ring) (Figure (Figure2).2). m-Synephrine exhibits cardiovascular effects but is not a constituent of bitter orange 3-5. Properties possessed by m-synephrine are inappropriately attributed to bitter orange extract and p-synephrine, and clinical case study reports and reviews involving bitter orange extract frequently make inappropriate references to m-synpephrine (see for example 6-9).

Fig 2

Chemical structure of m-synephrine.

A limited number of studies have been conducted with p-synephrine and bitter orange extracts without the addition of various other ingredients and herbal products. The issue of safety and efficacy is further clouded and complicated by the structural similarity of p-synephrine to ephedrine (Figure (Figure3)3) and other biogenic amines, in spite of the fact that the pharmacokinetics of the these compounds and their receptor binding specificities are vastly different due to significant structural and stereochemical differences 1011. As a consequence, markedly different pharmacological properties should be anticipated.

Fig 3

Chemical structure of ephedrine

Other issues have also obfuscated the picture with respect to the safety and efficacy of bitter orange extract. Some of the extracts that are used are either non-standardized or poorly standardized, making it difficult if not impossible to establish reproducibility. In some cases, lack of knowledge of the chemical composition of the extracts being used precludes useful comparisons. Products containing bitter orange extract in most cases contain a variety of other herbal extracts, many of which are caffeine containing.

A final issue that has added to the overall confusion regarding bitter orange has been the release of erroneous adverse events information by governmental agencies. Statements implying that large numbers of adverse events and even deaths due to the use of products containing bitter orange extract have clearly been shown to be incorrect and misleading 12, but are still widely reported.

Several reviews have addressed the safety of bitter orange extract based on animal, in vitro and receptor binding studies as well as some human studies 21013. This review addresses data associated with published human studies, clinical case reports, and unpublished clinical studies. Several recent studies have been conducted with p-synephrine/bitter orange extract alone and will be reviewed. Information with respect to unpublished studies is derived from final research reports available on the internet, presentations at national meetings of professional organizations, and presentations and research reports from the investigators directly involved. References are cited based on the origin of the information.

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HUMAN STUDIES

A limited number of well-designed and controlled human studies have been conducted with bitter orange extracts assessing efficacy and safety. The majority of studies have been conducted using products that contain not only an extract of C. aurantium, but other ingredients such as caffeine, green tea, ginkgo, ginseng, guarana, and yerba mate'. The incorporation of bitter orange extract into products containing other potentially active ingredients makes comparative analyses difficult. However, several human safety and efficacy studies have been conducted on bitter orange extract (p-synephrine) alone. The 16 studies published in refereed journals involving bitter orange extract/p-synephrine are reviewed in chronological sequence, and are summarized in Table Table1,1, while 7 studies unpublished to date are summarized in Table Table22.

Table 1

Summary of published human studies involving bitter orange extract and p-synephrine

Product

Treated Subjects

overwt/ obese

Duration

p-Synephrine dose (mg)

Caffeine dose (mg)

End Point

Adverse events

Reference

Complex

9

9

42 days

58.5

528

Wt. loss, ↑BMR

No

Colker et al., 199915

Bitter orange juice

12

--

1 day

27

---

CV

No

Penzak et al., 20016

Complex

15

15

56 days

10

400

Wt. loss Multiple

No

Kalman et al., 200021

Complex

13

13

14 days

10

400

CV

No

Kalman et al., 200222

Bitter orange extract

12

--

28 days

30.6

--

Cyt.P450 enzymes

No

Gurley et al., 200424

Complex

18

18

56 days

36

132

No wt. loss ↑RMR

No

Zenk et al., 200526

Bitter orange extract

18

--

8 hrs

27

---

CV

No

Min et al., 200527

Complex

10

--

6 hrs

5.5

239

CV

↑HR, ↑BP

Haller et al., 200528

Bitter orange extract

10

--

6 hrs

46.9

---

CV

↑HR

Haller et al., 200528

Bitter orange extract

15

--

6 hrs

54

---

CV

↑HR, ↑BP

Bui et al., 200629

Complex

10

10

7 hrs

12

150

↑ RMR, ↑ Kcal use

No

Sale et al., 200630

Bitter orange extract

22

22

8 hrs

30

---

↑RQ

No

Gougeon et al., 200631

Complex

10

--

3 hrs

21.6

450

↑RQ, ↑RMR

↑BP

Hoffman et al., 200732

Complex

10

--

2 hrs

21

304

CV

↑↑DBP

Haller et al., 200834

Complex

23

23

25 hrs

52

704

↑ kcal use, ↓RER

No

Seifert et al., 201135

Bitter orange extract

40

--

2 hrs

50

---

↑RMR

No

Stohs et al., 201136

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BMR=basal metabolic rate; RMR=resting metabolic rate; CV=cardiovascular; RQ=respiratory quotient; RER=respiratory exchange ratio.

Table 2

Summary of unpublished human studies involving bitter orange extract and p-synephrine.

Product

Treated subjects

overwt/ obese

Duration

p-Synephrine dose (mg)

Caffeine dose (mg)

End Point

Adverse events

Reference

Complex

22

22

70 days

21.5

15

Wt. loss

No

Kendall-Reed, 200017

Complex

6

3

6 hrs

12

239

↑RMR

No

Kalman et al., 200218

Complex

10

5

5 hrs

12

239

↑RMR

No

Kalman et al., 200219

Complex extract

16

16

14 days

24

300

Multiple enzymes

No

Kalman et al., 200320

Complex

28

28

56days

?

10

Multiple

No

Zenk & Kuskowski, 200525

Bitter orange extract

15

?

42days

80

---

CV

No

Talbott et al., 200733

Bitter orange

16

--

15 days

49

---

Multiple

No

Shara et al., 201237

BMR=basal metabolic rate; RMR=resting metabolic rate; CV=cardiovascular; RQ=respiratory quotient; RER=respiratory exchange ratio.

Colker et al. 15 conducted the first study on the effects of a bitter orange extract-containing product on body fat loss, lipid levels, safety and mood in 20 overweight adult subjects (Table (Table1).1). The product which was consumed on a daily basis contained 975 mg C. aurantium extract (6% synephrine alkaloids), 528 mg caffeine, and 900 mg St. John's wort. The total daily intake of phenylethylamine-related protoalkaloids was approximately 58.5 mg. All subjects in the study followed an 1800 kcal/day American Heart Association Step One diet, and performed a circuit training exercise program three days per week.

After six weeks, the treated group lost small but significant amounts of body weight (1.4 kg) and body fat (2.9%). No significant changes in blood pressure, heart rate, electrocardiographic findings, serum chemistry or urinalysis were noted and no significant changes were observed in the results of the Profile of Mood States Questionnaire for fatigue or vigor. The treated group also experienced a significant increase in basal metabolic rate as compared to the placebo group.

The amount of caffeine consumed daily in the product (528 mg) is equivalent to approximately four cups of coffee or over five cups of tea, and is a well-known thermogenic agent 16. It is not clear whether the weight loss and increase in basal metabolic rate were due to the caffeine, the bitter orange extract, exercise, caloric restriction or a combination thereof. This combination of ingredients and protocol appeared to be effective and safe for promoting modest fat and body weight loss in healthy, overweight adults, although the number of subjects in the study was small 15.

Kendall-Reed 17 conducted a 10 week unpublished study on a system (Ultra Slim Down®) that consisted of two products (Table (Table2).2). The final report of the study is available on line. One product contained 125 mg hydroxycitric acid (CitrimaxTM), 125 mg bitter orange extract (Advantra Z®) and 50 mg kola nut extract, while the second product contained 344 mg chitosan. Thirty-two overweight subjects were divided into three groups and either given the two products (one capsule of each in conjunction with each meal), a diet and exercise program, or the products in conjunction with the diet and exercise program. At the end of the study no adverse side effects were observed or reported. The group consuming the product-only lost an average of 4.63 kg, the group on the diet and exercise regime lost 3.45 kg, and the group taking the product plus diet and exercise lost 6.59 kg. In summary, consumption of the products alone was more effective than diet and exercise, while consuming the products in combination with diet and exercise was most effective. No adverse effects were reported. This study was not published and subjected to peer review.

Possible cardiovascular effects of Seville (sour) orange juice in normotensive adults were assessed by Penzak et al. 6 (Table (Table1).1). The synephrine concentration in the orange juice was approximately 57 mcg/ml, while octopamine was not detected. Twelve subjects consumed 8 ounces of orange juice (approximately 13 mg p-synephrine) and water in a crossover design followed by repeat ingestion 8 hours later. Hemodynamic parameters including heart rate and blood pressure did not significantly differ between control and treated groups. In spite of the lack of evidence, the authors concluded that individuals with tachyarrhythmias, severe hypertension and narrow angle glaucoma as well as monoamine oxidase inhibitor receptors should avoid Seville orange juice. The warning was based on the erroneous assumption that the form of synephrine present in the orange juice was m-synephrine 6.

Kalman and associates have conducted three unpublished studies using a commercial weight loss product (Xenadrine EFX®) (Table (Table2).2). The product contained a proprietary blend of extracts from C. aurantium (bitter orange), yerba mate, grape seed, green tea and ginger root in addition to several vitamins and amino acids. The product contained 6 mg p-synephrine, 150 mg caffeine and 150 mg catechin polyphenols in capsule form. The results of these studies were presented at various scientific meetings, but were never published in a scientific journal and subjected to peer review. In each of these studies it is not possible to determine the role of p-synephrine in the observed effects.

A double blind cross-over study involving 6 healthy human subjects who received two capsules of Xenadrine EFX® (12 mg p-synephrine) (Kalman et al.18). A significant increase (2.41%) in resting metabolic rate was observed one hour after ingestion of the product relative to the placebo control. No effects on heart rate or blood pressure were observed, and no subjective complaints or adverse events were reported.

Kalman et al. 19 conducted a second double blind cross-over study involving 10 healthy human subjects. Basal metabolic rates were determined at baseline, four hours after a standardized meal at which time two capsules of Xenadrine EFX® or the placebo were ingested, and hourly for the next five hours. At the two and three hour time points after ingestion of the product relative to the control, 13.4 % and 8.9% increases, respectively, were observed in the basal metabolic rate. No significant differences in heart rate or blood pressure were observed in response to the product relative to baseline and control values.

Kalman et al. 20 reported the results of a 14-day clinical trial using Xenadrine EFX® in combination with exercise involving 16 healthy subjects who were either overweight or obese. Two capsules of the product were consumed twice daily, containing a total of 24 mg p-synephrine/day. No significant effects of the product were noted as compared to the placebo group with respect to blood pressure, heart rate, electrocardiographic data, fasting blood glucose, renal function, hepatic function or complete blood count with differentials over the 14 days of the study. The treated group experienced a significant reduction in fatigue levels, while sleep quality was negatively impacted. At the end of the study, the treated group experienced a reduction in diastolic blood pressure as compared to the placebo group (-8.0 vs ±4.2 mm Hg). The authors concluded that the product was safe over the course of the study 20. No weight loss was observed over the two weeks of the study.

The weight loss effects of a product (Xenadrine™) containing 20 mg ephedrine, 5 mg p-synephrine, 200 mg caffeine and 15 mg salicin given twice daily were examined by Kalman et al.21 involving 30 healthy but overweight subjects in a placebo-controlled double-blinded protocol (Table (Table1).1). Half of the subjects were randomly assigned to either the treatment or control group. All subjects performed a cross-training exercise program three days per week with a 22 kcal/kg per day diet. After 8 weeks the experimental group had lost a significantly greater amount of weight than the control group (3.14 kg vs 2.05 kg), and no significant changes in systolic or diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, serial electrocardiograms, serum chemistry or calorie intake were observed between the two groups. The daily intake of p-synephrine (10 mg) was small, and its relative contribution to the overall weight loss cannot be determined.

Kalman et al. 22 also examined the cardiovascular effects of Xenadrine RFA-1™ that contained 20 mg ephedrine, 5 mg p-synephrine and 200 mg caffeine in two capsules in 27 healthy, overweight individuals (Table (Table1).1). The study was a 14 day, placebo-controlled double-blinded crossover protocol where subjects received two capsules of the product or placebo for the first seven days and four capsules per day for the next seven days. Analyses were conducted at baseline, and days seven and 14. No significant differences were observed at any time point between treated and placebo control with respect to systolic and diastolic blood pressures, heart rate, or heart valve function and left ventricular ejection fraction as determined by serial echocardiograms or Doppler echocardiograms. The maximum amount of p-synephrine (10 mg per day) was small compared to the maximum amounts of ephedrine (40 mg per day) and caffeine (400 mg per day).

Kalman et al. 23 published a subsequent commentary on this study 22 where they reassessed the incidence of adverse effects. A statistically larger proportion of subjects taking the product reported minor adverse effects as dry mouth, increased activity, and sleep disorders, but there were no serious adverse events and no significant difference with regard to cardiovascular measurements (heart rate, blood pressures, serial echocardiograms and Doppler echocardiograms) between the treated and placebo groups.

Gurley et al. 24 conducted a study in 12 human subjects who were given a bitter orange extract for 28 days (Table (Table1).1). The daily consumption of p-synephrine was 30.6 mg. The authors concluded that a supplement containing C. aurantium extract did not appear to significantly modulate cytochrome P450 enzyme activities in human subjects, and therefore posed minimal risk for cytochrome P450-mediated, herb-drug interactions. The bitter orange extract had no significant effect on CYP1A2, CYP2D6, CYP2E1 or CYP3A4, the major drug-metabolizing cytochrome enzymes. No adverse effects were observed. The authors did not assess the possible effects on body weight or blood chemistry.

Zenk and Kuskowski 25 conducted a randomized double-blind 8 week study to evaluate the effect of a proprietary weight management product (Lean Source™) on body composition of overweight men and women. The study was not published (Table (Table2),2), but a copy of the final report is available on line. Of the 65 adults enrolled, 54 completed the study with 6 dropouts from the placebo group and 5 subjects from the product treatment group. The product contained extracts of bitter orange, guarana and green tea as well as 7-oxo-dehydroandrostenedione (DHEA), conjugated linoleic acid and chromium picolinate. The daily consumption of bitter orange extract was 200 mg but the p-synephrine content was not noted.

At the completion of the 8 week study, the treated group lost an average of 2.9 kg body weight, while the placebo group lost 1.5 kg body weight. No significant differences occurred between the treatment and placebo groups with respect to systolic and diastolic blood pressures, heart rate or temperature. Furthermore, there were no significant differences in serum chemistry profiles and complete blood counts between the two groups. There was also no difference in the reported incidence of adverse events between the two groups and no serious adverse events were reported 25. It is not possible to determine the role of p-synephrine and the bitter orange extract in the observed effects.

A study involving the use of another commercial weight loss product (Lean System 7™) on various parameters was assessed by Zenk et al. 26 (Table (Table1).1). This was a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study involving healthy, overweight adults. A total of 35 subjects completed the 8 week study. Each adult received three capsules of the weight-loss product twice daily or a placebo in conjunction with a calorie-restricted diet and an exercise program. The product contained 6 mg p-synephrine/capsule (36 mg/day). The product also contained 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone (17 mg), Coleus forskohlliextract (50 mg extract, 10 mg forskolin), yerba mate extract (167 mg), guarana extract (233 mg extract, 51 mg caffeine), piperine (1.67 mg from Piper nigrum) and dandelion leaf and root powder (83 mg). The most significant finding of the study was a 7.2% increase in resting metabolic rate in the treated subjects relative to the control group. No significant differences were noted between the treated and the placebo-controlled groups with respect to body weight, body fat, or lean tissue 26. No changes in heart rate or blood pressure were observed and no serious adverse events were reported. The relative role of each of the ingredients cannot be determined.

Min et al. 27 assessed the QTc-prolonging and hemodynamic effects of a single dose of a bitter orange extract (Nature's Way) containing 27 mg p-synephrine (Table (Table1).1). This randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind and crossover study involved 18 healthy subjects. The rate-corrected QT (QTc) interval and blood pressure were measured before dosing and at 1, 3, 5 and 8 hrs after dosing. The bitter orange extract did not significantly alter the QTc interval or the systolic or diastolic blood pressures at any time point.

Haller et al. 28 have examined potential cardiovascular changes associated with a single oral dose of a bitter orange extract (Advantra Z®) (46.9 mg p-synephrine) and a multiple component dietary supplement (Xenedrine EFX®) which contained 5.5 mg p-synephrine, caffeine and other ingredients (Table (Table1).1). The protocol consisted of a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled crossover design involving 10 subjects with a one-week washout between treatments. The results showed that the dietary supplement but not the p-synephrine-containing bitter orange extract increased both systolic and diastolic blood pressures at two hours post-treatment, while heart rate increased at six hours by 16.7 beats/min with the complex dietary supplement and 11.4 beats/min with the bitter orange (p-synephrine) extract. The authors concluded that the pressure effects were not likely caused by the C. aurantium alone since no blood pressure effect was observed with an 8-fold higher dose of p-synephrine. The authors also concluded that the increase in blood pressure may be attributable to caffeine and other stimulants in the dietary supplement. The increase in heart rate reported for p-synephrine at 6 hours is not consistent with the pharmacokinetics of p-synephrine or a number of other studies, and is discussed in detail below. The amounts of the ingredients in the products were verified by analytical analysis.

Bui et al. 29 conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study involving 15 healthy subjects who received a single dose of 900 mg bitter orange extract (Nature's Way) standardized to 6 % synephrine (54 mg p-synephrine) or the placebo (Table (Table1).1). Heart rate and blood pressure were measured every hour for six hours. These investigators reported small but clinically insignificant increases in heart rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressures for up to five hours. The difference in the results between this study and the study of Min et al. 24 which involved the same product and may be related to the dose which was twice as large in this study by Bui et al. 29. However, these effects on heart rate and blood pressure were small and have not been observed in other studies.

Sale et al. 30 conducted a double blind study on the physiological and metabolic effects of Xenadrine EFX® in 20 overweight individuals at rest and during treadmill walking (Table (Table1).1). As noted above, this product contained bitter orange, guarana and green tea extracts. Subjects received either the placebo or the product and were followed for seven hours or exercised on a treadmill for 60 min. The product had no effect on ATP utilization under resting or exercise conditions relative to control. However, a 30 % increase in carbohydrate oxidation was observed. Fatty acid oxidation to ATP decreased while plasma levels of fatty acids increased in response to the product. The product had no effect on resting heart rate or blood pressure.

Gougeon et al. 31 investigated the thermic effect of food in conjunction with the phenylethylamine protoalkaloids extracted from C. aurantium in 30 healthy but mostly overweight (average BMI≈27) male and female subjects (Table (Table1).1). No other ingredients were present in the product. The thermic effect of food on a 1.7 MJ, 30 gram protein meal was determined intermittently for 300 min by indirect calorimetry. Five capsules of the C. aurantium extract provided 26 mg p-synephrine, and 4 mg or less each of other phenethylamines (Advantra Z®). The thermic effect of food was determined on an initial 30 subjects. A subset of 11 men and 11 women were additionally studied after ingestion of the bitter orange extract in conjunction with the protein meal, while a another subset of 12 women and 8 men were studied a third time following ingestion of the C. aurantium-containing capsules alone.

This study 31 demonstrated that the thermic effect of food was 20% lower in women than men following a meal. An increase in the thermic effect of food was seen only in women, increasing by 29%, when the bitter orange extract was used in conjunction with the protein meal. The thermic effect of the bitter orange extract was greater in men than women in the absence of a meal. A significant increase in the respiratory quotient occurred in both sexes in response to the bitter orange extract alone. No significant changes occurred in systolic and diastolic blood pressures or pulse rates when compared with base line values following exposure to the bitter orange extract.

Hoffman et al. 32 examined the thermogenic effect of a coffee which contained added C. aurantium extract,Garcinia cambogia and chromium (JavaFitTM) over a three hour period of time in a randomized, double blind study which involved 10 healthy, physically active subjects (Table (Table1).1). The enriched coffee product contained 450 mg caffeine, 21.6 mg p-synephrine, 600 mg hydroxycitric acid and 225 mcg chromium polynicotinate. Significant increases were observed in responders with respect to resting metabolic rate and respiratory exchange ratio. No significant differences were observed in average heart rate or diastolic blood pressure while a 3 mm Hg increase was observed in the systolic blood pressure. The modest effect on blood pressure is not surprising based on the amount of caffeine in the product.

Talbott et al. 33 conducted a six week study involving 30 healthy subjects, half of whom consumed 80 mg p-synephrine/day in the form of the patented C. aurantium extract product Advantra Z® while the other half of the subjects received the placebo (Table (Table2).2). Heart rate and blood pressures were determined at the start of the study and after six weeks. No significant differences were observed between the treated and placebo control groups at the conclusion of the study with respect to these cardiovascular parameters. No effects on body weight were reported. This study represents the highest dose of p-synephrine for the longest period of time that has been reported. The study was presented at a scientific meeting but never published.

Haller et al. 34 examined the effects of a performance-enhancing dietary supplement under resting and exercise conditions involving 10 subjects. The product (Ripped Fuel Extreme CutTM) contained 21 mg p-synephrine and 304 mg caffeine, as well as other ingredients including herbal extracts of green tea, ginger root, cocoa seed, willow bark, and wasabi. The product or placebo was taken one hour prior to 30 min of moderately intense exercise. No significant treatment-related differences in systolic blood pressure, heart rate or body temperature were observed. Product-related increases in diastolic blood pressure (8.7 mmHg) and blood glucose levels were observed. Exercise was perceived as being less strenuous after consumption of the product. Due to the poly-alkaloidal and protoalkaloidal nature of this product, the factor or factors responsible for the effects on blood glucose and diastolic blood pressure cannot be determined.

Seifert et al. 35 conducted a study on the effects of an herbal blend on energy expenditure in mildly obese subjects (Table (Table1).1). The product contained 13 mg p-synephrine (as Advantra Z®), 176 mg caffeine (as guarana), and 55.5 mg of a green tea extract per capsule. The study involved 14 females and 9 males in a placebo-controlled, crossover design. Subjects ingested one capsule with each of three meals on day one of treatment, and one more capsule on the morning of the second day. Data were collected 60 min after the last administration of the product. The results demonstrated that from pre-test on day one to post-test on day two, caloric expenditure increased by approximately 8% following ingestion of the product. Oxygen uptake increased from 230 to 250 ml/minute following treatment. No differences were observed in heart rate or blood pressure following treatment. This was an acute study which did not provide information on long-term effects, but did demonstrate an increase in energy expenditure.

Stohs et al. 36 examined the effect of 50 mg p-synephrine (Advantra Z®, 60 % p-synephrine) alone or in combination with selected flavonoids in 40 human subjects on resting metabolic rate (Table (Table1).1). The study was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind design with the vehicle for the p-synephrine being one ounce of tomato juice. The amount of p-synephrine in the product was verified by independent analysis. Measurements were taken at baseline prior to consuming the product and at 75 min. At this time point, a 6.9 % increase in resting metabolic rate was observed in response to the p-synephrine relative to the placebo-control group. No significant effects were observed with respect to blood pressure or heart rate, nor were there any significant differences in responses to a 10 item self-report questionnaire which addressed such issues as nervousness, tension, anxiety, hunger, energy, headache, general discomfort, and sleepiness. The results of this study using p-synephrine/bitter orange alone support the previous thermic calorie expenditure studies 18-202630-3235, indicating that p-synephrine increases the metabolic rate. Longer term safety and efficacy studies involving p-synephrine alone are warranted.

In an as yet unpublished randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind crossover study that was presented at a scientific meeting, 16 healthy subjects consumed a capsule containing 49 mg p-synephrine (Advantra Z®, 30 % p-synephrine) or the placebo daily for 15 days 37 (Table (Table2).2). The amount of p-synephrine in the capsules was determined by high pressure liquid chromatographic analysis. Electrocardiograms, blood pressures, heart rates, blood chemistries and blood cell counts with differentials were determined at baseline, 30 min, 60 min, 90 min, 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours and 8 hours, as well as after 5, 10 and 15 days. Blood samples were drawn after 2 hours after the first dose as well as at 5, 10 and 15 days to measure p-synephrine levels to ensure compliance. p-Synephrine had no significant effect on heart rate, blood pressure, blood chemistries, or blood cell counts, and caused no cardiovascular abnormalities. This is the most detailed investigation on the safety of bitter orange/p-synephrine alone.

Bloomer et al. 3839 have reported on the effects of a multi-component product (Meltdown®) that contains neither p-synephrine nor bitter orange extract but does contain methyl-synephrine HCl and several other synthetic phenethylamine derivatives as well as yohimbine. Methyl-synephrine is purported to occur in nature, does not occur in bitter orange extract, and is of synthetic origin in this product and other products that have been marketed. For the sake of completeness, the results of these studies will be summarized, but these results will not be incorporated into the general discussion of bitter orange extract and p-synephrine provided below.

Both studies examined the effects of the product on metabolic rate, and plasma free fatty acids, glycerol, norepinephrine and epinephrine levels. The initial study 38 measured changes over a 90 min time frame in 10 healthy male subjects. The second study 39 measured the same parameters over a six hour time frame in 10 healthy male and 10 healthy female subjects. Increases in each of the parameters were observed, with a 13.5 % increase in caloric expenditure over the six hours. It is also important to note that significant increases in heart rate as well as systolic and diastolic blood pressure occurred in both studies in response to the consumption of the product. The authors note that the product may be useful in healthy, normotensive, closely monitored individuals. However, it is not a product that should be recommended to the general public. Furthermore, methyl-synephrine should not be confused or equated with p-synephrine/bitter orange, does not occur in significant amounts in nature if at all, and exhibits cardiovascular effects.

In a study similar to those reported by Bloomer et al. 3839, Hoffman et al. 40 conducted a double blinded, placebo-controlled cross-over study involving the methyl-synephrine-containing product Meltdown®. Over a three hour time period following ingestion of the product significant increases in resting oxygen uptake and caloric expenditure were occurred. However, increases in heart rate, systolic blood pressure, tension and confusion were also observed, confirming the highly undesirable properties of this synthetic product.

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CLINICAL CASE REPORTS

Stohs 41 has reviewed and assessed the 22 FDA adverse event reports (AERs) from April 2004 through October 2009 associated with bitter orange (C. aurantium)-containing products, as well as 10 clinical case reports published during this time interval regarding the possible involvement of bitter orange-containing weight management products with cardiovascular incidents and other adverse events. Bitter orange extract and/or p-synephrine were implicated as the possible causative agent in the case reports by all of the authors. In all reported AERs and case cases, the products involved were poly-herbal, poly-alkaloidal and poly-protoalkaloidal.

Adverse events that have been purported in conjunction with the published clinical case reports included: acute lateral-wall myocardial infarction, exercise-induced syncope associated with QT prolongation, ischemic stroke, ischemic colitis, vasospasm and stroke, variant angina, coronary vasospasm and thrombosis, exercise induced rhabdomyolysis, ST segment myocardial infarction, and ventricular fibrillation 41. In one case report it was suggested that a bitter orange-containing dietary supplement may have masked bradycardia and hypotension while exacerbating weight loss in an individual with anorexia nervosa, although no evidence was provided that an adverse event had actually occurred.

Although the products consumed were all multi-ingredient, in each case reference was specifically made to C. aurantium, bitter orange or p-synephrine as the most likely causative agent. Unfortunately, a wide range of confounding factors also existed among the published case reports including: heart murmur, pre-existing heart disease, hypertriglyceridemia, obesity, a history of smoking, gastroesophageal disease, physical inactivity, sickle cell trait, dehydration, pneumonia, possible use of anabolic steroids and/or performance enhancing drugs, high caffeine intake, and high alcohol consumption. Furthermore, products were not always being taken as recommended, and it was not always clear if the subjects were using other unreported dietary supplements and/or drugs 41. A more probable culprit for at least some of these effects may have been the high caffeine intake associated with the products in question.

Another factor to be considered is the occurrence of up to 25-40 mg p-synephrine per quarter liter of various Citrus juices 4243 which are widely consumed without the report of adverse events. Millions of individuals ingest p-synephrine and bitter orange-containing food products as orange juices and marmalades as well as dietary supplements on a daily basis. Therefore, although these case reports should raise the level of awareness with regard to the use of complex weight management products, it is not possible to extrapolate the cause of these adverse effects to the p-synephrine which may have been present in the products. No evidence showing a direct link between bitter orange extract and the adverse events is provided 41. Furthermore, it should be remembered that “case reports are incomplete, uncontrolled, retrospective, lack operational criteria for identifying when an adverse event has actually occurred, and resemble nothing so much as hearsay evidence, a type of evidence that is prohibited in all courts of industrialized societies” 44.

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DISCUSSION

A total of 23 published and unpublished studies involving a total of approximately 450 total human subjects were reviewed. Of these total subjects, approximately 360 consumed bitter orange/p-synephrine containing products, with 247 subjects involved in published studies and 113 subjects involved in studies that have not been published to date. The authors located information regarding the unpublished studies through presentations at scientific meetings and availability of research reports on the internet, as well as information from the investigators involved in the studies.

In the 23 studies, over 50 % of the subjects were overweight/obese, and about two-thirds of these overweight/obese subjects who consumed p-synephrine (10-53 mg/day) did so in combination with caffeine. No increase in heart rate or blood pressure was reported for any of the over-weight/obese subjects, with various studies lasting for two to 12 weeks.

Seven of the studies were not published in peer reviewed journals 17-20253337 (Table (Table2).2). However, six of these studies were presented at national meetings 18-20253337, and one of these six studies is in the process of being submitted for consideration for publication 37. As noted in the references, information including presentations and final reports are available on the internet regarding these unpublished studies. The results associated with these unpublished studies (Table (Table2)2) in general are consistent with the results of the published studies (Table (Table11).

Of the total subjects associated with all of the studies that consumed bitter orange extract/p-synephrine, 149 were male, 211 were female, and the gender of the remainder was not reported. Of the p-synephrine consuming subjects, about 35 % of the subjects consumed products containing caffeine in combination with p-synephrine. The remaining subjects consumed only a p-synephrine/bitter orange extract-containing product or a p-synephrine containing multi-ingredient product devoid of caffeine, but may have consumed unknown amounts of caffeine through ingestion of coffee, tea or cola beverages.

Five published studies 624273136 and two unpublished studies 3337 reported no cardiovascular effects when using p-synephrine (bitter orange) only containing products. The published studies involved a total of 104 subjects with a total of 31 subjects in the two unpublished studies. However, in one of these studies 24consisting of 12 subjects it is not clear that effects on heart rate and blood pressure were specifically examined, with the authors simply reporting that no adverse effects were observed. Five published studies 152122263035 using p-synephrine in combination with other ingredients reported no cardiovascular effects. A total of 88 subjects were involved in these studies.

Small cardiovascular effects were reported by Bui et al. 29 (15 subjects) using a 50 mg dose of p-synephrine which was not replicated by others 333637 (total of 71 subjects) using a similar dose. Small cardiovascular effects were reported for three studies that involved subjects consuming p-synephrine plus caffeine 283234. Haller et al. reported an increase in heart rate 28 and diastolic blood pressure 34 (10 subjects). Hoffman et al. 32 observed a small increase (3 mm Hg) in the systolic blood pressure of seven subjects considered to be responders with no significant increase relative to all subjects.

Upon careful review, the study of Haller et al. 28 involving a small number (10) of subjects has a number of issues in terms of design and conclusions. p-Synephrine (Advantra Z®) alone had no effect on systolic or diastolic blood pressure. The authors reported an increase in heart rate six hours after treatment. The half-life of p-synephrine is two to three hours 283445. As a consequence, an increase in heart rate after two to three half-lives when the p-synephrine blood levels will have dropped to one-fourth to one-eighth the peak blood levels would not be expected. Furthermore, a major complicating factor is that all subjects consumed a meal three hours after ingesting the p-synephrine (46.9 mg) or a product containing p-synephrine (5.5 mg), octopamine (5.7 mg) and caffeine (239 mg). The cardiovascular and thermic effects of food are well known 31, and an increase in heart rate in the control group was also observed. Thus, it is not plausible to attribute the increase in heart rate to p-synephrine, or an increase in heart rate and blood pressure to a product that contained very little p-synephrine (5.5 mg) in combination with caffeine under these experimental conditions. This study did show that the commercial product Xenadrine EFX® which contained only 5.5 mg p-synephrine produced a significant increase in heart rate and blood pressure at two hours. This product was reported to also contain 5.7 mg octopamine. C. aurantium extracts are either devoid of octopamine or contain only trace amounts 3, thus the product being used 28 appears to have been adulterated.

Hansen et al. 46 examined the cardiovascular effects of p-synephrine at 10 mg/kg and 50 mg/kg orally for 28 days given to rats in the form of 95% p-synephrine or as a 6% p-synephrine containing bitter orange extract. Caffeine (25 mg/kg) was added to some of these doses. Using the standard metabolic equivalency factor of 6 based on body surface area in converting doses in rats to doses in humans 47, a 50 mg/kg dose of p-synephrine and a 25 mg/kg dose of caffeine given to rats translate into 667 mg p-synephrine and 333 mg caffeine per day for an 80 kg (176 lb) human. These doses represent over 13 times the usual daily dose for p-synephrine and the equivalent of the caffeine in about three cups of coffee given together as a single bolus dose to these animals.

Animals treated with the 95% p-synephrine alone demonstrated no significant effects on heart rate or blood pressure, even at the high 50 mg/kg dose. When caffeine was added, increases in heart rate and blood pressure were observed 46. These studies indicate that in rats at very high doses of p-synephrine the combination with caffeine may result in cardiovascular effects. However, due to the highly inequivalent dosing between this study in rats and typical dosing in humans, the results of this study in rats cannot be directly extrapolated to humans. A dose of 3.0-3.75 mg/kg p-synephrine given to rats would have been more representative of a typical human dose.

Various studies indicate that the lipolytic activity of p-synephrine is due to binding to β-3 adrenergic receptors in adipose tissues 10. These same β-3 adrenergic receptors are also associated with cardiovascular tissues, and their activation results in a down-regulation of cardiovascular stimulation 4849. Thus, p-synephrine stimulation of β-3 adrenoreceptors in the cardiovascular system does not result in an increase in blood pressure or heart rate but may exhibit a modulating rather than a stimulatory effect. This cardiovascular receptor response may explain why an increase in heart rate or blood pressure is not seen in most cases when p-synephrine is used alone or in combination with caffeine in dietary supplements, in spite of the fact that caffeine alone may produce modest increases in these parameters under some conditions 5051.

Approximately half of the clinical studies involved the use of commercial products. In only one case 28was the actual amount of p-synephrine and other protoalkaloids determined, while in the remaining studies involving commercial products the reported amounts of p-synephrine and caffeine were simply based on label claim. The amount of p-synephrine was independently determined in two studies in which bitter orange extract was used as a single ingredient product 3637. Various studies have shown that there are not always good correlations between the label claim of marketed products or the product data sheet and the amount of p-synephrine shown to be present by independent analysis 52-56. Therefore, the actual amount of p-synephrine consumed in the majority of the studies was not verified.

Finally, nine studies involving the administration of bitter orange extract alone or in combination with other constituents have demonstrated an increase in metabolic rate without an increase in heart rate or blood pressure 18-202630-323536. These results suggest that bitter orange extract and p-synephrine may be beneficial in weight management. However, a need exists for longer term studies involving bitter orange extract/p-synephrine alone to assess the effects on body weight and verify the safety data.

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SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

The results involving both published and unpublished clinical studies indicate that p-synephrine alone or in combination with caffeine does not appear to produce significant adverse cardiovascular effects or pose a risk to human health at doses commonly ingested orally. No adverse effects have been directly attributable to bitter orange extract or p-synephrine. p-Synephrine/bitter orange extract alone as well as in combination with other ingredients results in significant increases in resting metabolic rate, and when taken for periods of time up to 12 weeks may result in modest weight loss.

The results indicate that bitter orange extract and p-synephrine increase metabolism and energy expenditure. The data accumulated to date do not support hypothesized concerns regarding potential adverse effects of p-synephrine particularly with respect to the cardiovascular system due to a paucity of binding to α-, β-1 and β-2 adrenergic receptors while exhibiting modest binding to β-3 adrenergic receptors. However, a need exists for additional well controlled, long term human efficacy and safety studies involving p-synephrine/bitter orange extract.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

All authors have served as consultants for Nutratech, Inc., a company that markets bitter orange extracts. Nutratech Inc. provided some of the unpublished research reports.

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