Green Coffee Beans: Hype or Helpful?

UH OptiWeight Blogger Meghann Featherstun, MS, RD, LD

Meghann Featherstun, MS, RD, LD

June 15th, 2013

In America, we are always looking for a newer, faster, more efficient way to function in most aspects of life. Why wouldn’t we want a new, fast approach to weight loss? A quick flip through any fitness, health, and nutrition magazine will likely expose you to the latest and greatest weight loss “secret” out there. A few popular daytime talk shows can also be found touting rapid weight-loss products and quick fixes, promising miracles in days of following certain diets. Exposure to this media may leave you thinking things like: “I can lose 10 pounds in five days just by drinking a foul-tasting concoction before every meal!” Or, “Taking this miracle pill twice a day means I don’t have to exercise and I’ll be at my wedding weight in two weeks!” Maybe even, “If I take this pill before meals, I can eat whatever I want and still lose 30 pounds in 30 days!”

It’s easy to get caught up in this hype. But if these claims were true, why are they coming out with a new pill/diet/product/infomercial every month with the same outlandish claims? If these products backed their claims, they would put themselves out of business in less than a year. Everyone would be in their skinny jeans!

The latest “hot topic” diet pill on the market is green coffee bean extract. Green coffee beans are raw coffee beans before they are roasted. Coffee is made from roasted coffee beans. Once a coffee bean is roasted, it can be made into coffee. Green coffee beans are high in chlorogenic acid, which is thought to be the constituent responsible for the product claims. Once we roast the bean, the chlorogenic acid levels decrease, which is why green coffee beans are getting the attention and coffee, is not. (Source: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database)

Green coffee bean extract has been claimed to produce rapid weight loss, burn fat and sugar, act as a fat blocker and slow the body’s absorption of sugar. To date, only one clinical trial has been conducted in humans. This is the study that is quoted by all the media outlets and supplement manufacturers to sell their product.

A few key details about the study: it was funded by a green coffee bean supplement manufacturer and it had a small sample size of 16 adults. Results from this study have been extrapolated to suggest that taking green coffee bean extract can result in a 10-percent weight loss (for these study participants this was an average of 17 pounds lost) over 22 weeks. At face value this sounds fantastic, which alerts us to look deeper into the study. Study subjects were divided into three groups. Each group took a high dose of green coffee bean extract, a low dose of green coffee bean extract, and a placebo for six weeks each with a two week washout period in between supplement periods. Interestingly enough when you look at their weight-loss graph in reference to these defined supplement periods, much of the weight loss occurred during the placebo and washout periods. If green coffee bean extract truly had an effect on weight loss, we would see the weight loss occurring during the low and high dose green coffee bean extract six-week periods. This leads us to conclude that the “placebo” effect was in full force here, or in other words taking a pill filled with air may lead to more weight loss than the green coffee bean extract!

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Be skeptical of any weight-loss supplement claiming to produce miracles or anything more than two pounds lost per week.

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