Green Coffee Beans: Fat Burning Fad?

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Weight loss gimmicks. Some of them are frivolous; a few of them, downright dangerous. It isn’t often that a seeming “magic pill” notion comes along that is actually supported by science. But green coffee beans are a bit of an exception. At a gathering of the American Chemical Society earlier this year, researchers announced a gold-standard study where overweight or obese participants lost an average of 17 pounds and (more importantly!) 16% of their body fat over 22 weeks without making any other changes to their lifestyle. This was attained by consuming a rotating supplement of either a placebo, low-dose, or high-dose coffee been extract. It seems likely that the results would have been a lot more significant if participants had been on the high-dose extract all along. This is truly impressive.

Shocked? I was too. At least until I began researching the biochemical impact of chlorogenic acid. Prior to roasting, fresh green coffee beans are full of a compound called chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid is an antioxidant that also happens to slow the absorption of sugars in the small intestines. It also appears to inhibit the secretion of glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptides (quite a mouthful, huh? Just call them GIPs), a sort of hormone called an incretin which helps to trigger insulin secretion as a result of sugars we ingest. With less of an insulin surge, we don’t store as many calories as fat. But wait; there’s more! Chlorogenic acid also seems to slow an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphatase which controls release of sugars into overall circulation. This would promote the use of more stored body fat for fuel in our metabolism. An impressive set of skills for a lowly bean!

Interestingly enough (I hate to disappoint Dr. Oz fans), this is not actually “news”. As far back as 2007, an identical study revealed the fat-burning and weight-loss benefits of chlorogenic acid. But we know now that it is dose-dependent as well. You may also be interested to know that chlorogenic acid has been clinically shown to lower blood pressure significantly and improve the health of our critical arterial linings as well.

Found in many plant foods, the concentration of chlorogenic acid in coffee is many times greater than that in any other food. Unfortunately when we roast coffee beans (which often happens at very high temperatures), almost all of this lovely substance is split up into other ineffective compounds. So you can’t get these benefits by drinking another cup of Joe. You need the real, raw bean. Raw, green coffee beans taste quite bitter, so the best way to get the benefit is via a supplement. You need to take about 800mg twice daily (about 30-60 min. before a meal) to be in line with the study parameters study. And for this supplement in particular, it’s important to make sure you get a high-quality, pure extract with zero binders or fillers that will impair absorption.

Now the scientist in me wants to make sure you comprehend the caveats involved here… The study quoted above was not 100% gold-standard; there were some study design gaffs. However, I think the aggregate findings (and the prior study results) are compelling regardless. If you wish to drop some weight, I do think trying green coffee bean extract (GCBE) is a valid piece of your plan. But realize that no remedy is going to benefit everyone. GCBE will only assist you if your barriers to weight-loss are diet-related, insulin-related,and/or as a result of impaired thermogenesis which promotes fat-burning. There are many other reasons why folks can struggle to lose weight: undiagnosed food sensitivities, toxicity, hormone imbalance, chronic insufficient sleep, or chronic stress to mention a few. Ultimately you have to arrive at the real cause of what holds back your unique body. Be aware that GCBE does contain about a tenth the caffeine of coffee which may be a concern for some of you with a high sensitivity to stimulants. GCBE also isn’t a long-term fix. Ultimately – if you want to shed weight AND keep it off – you do have to make the diet changes that will naturally lessen your sugar absorption, repair your insulin resistance, and allow your body to shed fat sustainably again. But the GCBE can be a perfect quick start toward your weight loss goals. Every journey, no matter the length, always begins successfully with just a few small steps. Get going!

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