Most people understand that if a weight-loss claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately, when those claims are broadcast on national TV shows with well-respected hosts and large daily viewership, a veritable feeding frenzy can occur in an effort to take advantage of the latest weight loss tool. That's exactly what happened when Dr. Oz featured raspberry ketone supplements on a recent show. Overnight, searches for "raspberry ketones" boomed, and the supplement industry began fighting to keep these supplements on the shelves.
There's just one problem: the weight loss claims still sound too good to be true.
After a quick internet search of research studies on the effects of raspberry ketones and weight loss, it became clear that most of the studies that cited weight loss were performed on mice, not humans. And, the "human studies" appeared to be uncontrolled tests put together by the supplement companies or individuals with a vested interest in a particular supplement.
All that said, I'm not a nutrition expert, and while I believe a little healthy skepticism is important when it comes to supplements, I'm not completely against them if there's expert research backing their claims. So, I decided to turn to an expert for more information on raspberry ketones. Tina Ruggiero is a Registered Dietician with a Masters Degree in Biochemistry who is literally an expert on berries (as she put it, "Yes, my middle name is polyphenol!"). Tina was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about raspberry ketones, so that I could pass the word along!
A promise too sweet?
GirlsGoneSporty (GGS): What exactly are raspberry ketones and are they generally something that can be included in a well-balanced diet, or are they something that should be added as a supplement?
Tina Ruggiero, MS, RD, LD (TR): Raspberry ketones are naturally-occurring compounds found in red raspberries, and the ketones give the berries their sweet, fragrant aroma.
The amount of ketones found in raspberries is actually quite low; there’s only about one to four milligrams of ketones in every two pounds of raspberries. So, the supplement industry makes raspberry ketones synthetically to produce their supplements.
While raspberry ketone supplements are being aggressively marketed for weight loss, no human studies have proven they are effective.
Further, no one can truly say the ketones operate alone; therefore, it’s more advantageous to eat the whole berry. Raspberries are packed with vitamin C, folate, iron, potassium and disease-fighting ellagic acid.
GGS: If someone were to decide to supplement with raspberry ketones, is there an amount that they should aim to take? Is there an amount that could be unhealthy?
TR: I wouldn’t recommend anyone begin supplementing with raspberry ketones. I’d recommend they start eating more raspberries. Why?
- Raspberry ketone supplements can cost between $12 and $25 per bottle. For that price, you can buy up to eight (8) clam shells of fresh berries.
- Raspberries are low in calories and fat, they're cholesterol-free, high in fiber and they're a good source of anti-oxidants.
- Raspberries are also a good source of the flavonoids quercetin and gallic acid, which have been shown to play a role related to a person’s heart health and in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and age-related decline.
Clearly, you get more bang for your nutritional buck when eating the whole berry. Further, the raspberry ketone craze begun on the Dr. Oz show was instigated by a personal trainer with her own brand of raspberry ketone supplements. This, alone, should make people think twice before they begin buying supplements!
GGS: Good point! So, how can a consumer know that they're purchasing a quality supplement?
TR: Examine the label on the bottle, and be sure there is a "USP" designation. USP refers to U.S. Pharmacopeia, an organization which creates standards to ensure the quality of vitamin and mineral supplements.
If you are sensitive to gluten, look for hypoallergenic products that don’t include wheat, yeast and corn.
Look for an expiration date to ensure the product is fresh.
Dietary supplements are not regulated, so the amount of the nutrients that are claimed on the label might be different than what is really in the pills. Join ConsumerLab.com to find out which brands of supplements they have tested.
Use caution and good sense when you come across inflated claims for vitamin supplements. If the supplement’s promise sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I can't thank Tina enough for the time she took to help clear this subject up. All-in-all, while raspberry ketones probably aren't harmful when taken in supplement form, there's no scientific basis for believing that they'll aid in weight loss. Instead of investing in supplements, pick up a clamshell of raspberries from the grocery store and try one of the delicious raspberry recipes from Driscoll's. The Whole Grain Raspberry Breakfast Bars sound delicious!
Header image credit: green lover, http://www.flickr.com/photos/green_lover/375850088/sizes/z/in/photostream/