By Phil Kaplan
"it" work?" still holds its
place at the top of the "most common questions"
list. Of course the "it" changes from month to
month, year to year . . . and as science, infomercials,
and supplement sales move forward, there's the inevitable
emerging of "new stuff." There are four products
that seem to have attracted a great amount of attention
based on the volume of "does it work" emails that
come in to my inbox relating to them. I'll do the best I
can to give you, in short order, the "real story"
on these relatively new offerings:
is called "The Stress Hormone," and a new product,
Cortislim, promises to combat the fat-accumulating effects
of this hormone. Cortisol is not "a bad hormone."
It has an important role. In times of trauma, it is vital
in facilitating survival. I wrote about it in an update
on October 3, 2001, shortly after September 11, as stress
was in high gear nationwide.
As far as Cortislim being a great
aid in reducing fat . . . I am not convinced of its efficacy.
In regard to the product's marketing, it is 100% accurate
that the hormone cortisol leads to increased accumulation
of midsection fat, but that doesn't mean that a supplement
can reverse the process. Fat loss is a two step process.
It must first be released into the bloodstream from an adipose
cell, and then it must be transported into the mitochondria
of a muscle cell where it can be burned as fuel. Even if
stress induced cortisol elevation contributed to the problem,
the solution is in all likelihood going to lie in alterations
in nutrition and exercise, even if you're already training
intensely and "eating right." I don't see anything magical
in Cortislim. It's ingredients include a relatively tiny
dose of Vitamin C, a small dose of calcium, and an almost
insignificant dose of chromium. It also contains magnolia
bark, which according the Chinese Herbal medicine has application
in treating some digestive issues (not related to cortisol)
and gastric bloating. Despite clever marketing, the most
prominent ingredients appear to be green tea extract (caffeine)
and bitter orange (synephrine).
I think there is virtue in reducing the negative physical
impact of stress, but I don't see this being the solution.
Exercise to optimize neurotransmission, eat right to provide
nutrients for healthy metabolism, and if you want to try
cortislim, or another compound, phosphatidylserine, to attempt
to limit cortisol induced damage, consider it "the
Here for a CortiSlim Update 08-05-04
Greer Childers looks good on
camera, especially "for her age," and she has
a polished sincerity that makes her a hot infomercial product
spokesperson. Body Flex, according to the infomercial, is
something she supposedly developed over 20 years of frustration,
and now, as all infomercial offerings, "it's easy."
The "show" is driven by emotional testimonials
from women who were frustrated with their weight, and now,
thanks to Body Flex, they look and feel wonderful.
"revolutionary" program suggests something I'm
sure nobody has ever thought of before. Breathing! Now there's
a revoutionary idea! What can be easier than sitting on
the couch and getting all psyched up to inhale, and then
. . . . of all things . . . exhale. They assure you several
times on the show that sitting on the couch is perfectly
OK during your "exercise" session - after all,
we wouldn't want to move too much, would we?
The Body Flex program, which
sells for $79.99, comes with videos, with a "patented
gym bar," and a tape measure. The first clue that there
is a questionable message being sent is the reliance on
"how many inches" you can lose. "Losing inches"
is an old trick performed by diet centers. By measuring
a dozen or more sites, they total up the fractions of inches
to come up with a grand total . . . but there's nothing
scientific about this. If you measure more sites, you're
going to get a higher number of inches! Water loss can quickly
facilitate fractional losses that can total up to whatever
number the measurer wants to display as a total. If someone
who is sedentary and who eats poorly begins to breathe deeply,
challenge their body with resistance, and make better food
choices, are they going to improve? Sure, but do you need
to spend $79.99 to learn to breathe? I believe that money
could be far better spend on a pair of dumbbells and some
running shoes. The power of the infomercial is the production
itself, not the value of the product. Now we're left with
the question . . . . "does it work," or more accurately,
"does it work as the show promises?" I'll leave
it to the FTC to answer that. In an FTC News release distributed
in November of 2003, The Federal Trade Commission revealed
they had sued the marketers of the BodyFlex+ System for
falsely advertising that "BodyFlex causes fast inch
loss and fat loss."
Carb Blockers - Phase
2 and HCA
There is a new wave of "carb
blockers" on the market. Since the explosion of Atkins
and similar diets have turned people against carbs, the
idea of taking a pill that prevents those "evil carbs"
from doing their dastardly deed is guaranteed to sell products.
The question is, will the products actually help? Hydroxycitric
acid (HCA) has been sold in health food stores for quite
some time playing off of the fact that Hoffman-Laroche researched
it extensively considering the release of a weight loss
drug. What's important to note is that after investing lots
and lots and lots and lots of money, the pharmaceutical
giant abandoned the effort. The supplement sellers picked
it up as a possible weight loss aid, and while research
with rats showed it might have an impact on reducing the
conversion of glucose molecules (carbs) into triglycerides
(fats), it doesn't live up to the claims the sellers of
HCA products make. I've used it, but without any definitive
results. When I'm adjusting my nutrient intake with a goal
in mind, and manipulating carb intake, on higher carb days
I consider it an insurance policy just in case I've taken
in more carbs than I need to meet metabolic energy needs.
Does it work? I don't know. Most people buying this are
not as forgiving as I, and they expect it to do something
visible, to somehow make the pounds drop off. If the expectation
is high, HCA is certain to disappoint. Still, the concept
was great and just putting the words "carb blocker"
on a supplement bottle guaranteed sales. Back in the 1970's,
Dr. John Marshall suspected that certain proteins in beans
had the ability to ingerfere with the enzyme alpha-amylase.
Alpha-amylase comes into play after carbohydrates leave
the stomach and it works to facilitate the breakdown of
starches into sugars (glucose). The thinking evolved with
the hope that ingestion of these proteins can prevent the
starches from being fully broken down into their glucose
components, thus the proteins would prevent glucose from
being absorbed. The starch chains would simply remain in
the digestive tract until they are excreted. Through the
1980's trails and research studies proved inconclusive and
disappointing, and studies seemed to result in . . . ummm
. . . what they politely call gastric distress. Over time,
as they began to isolate purified phaseolamin from the kidney
bean, the gastric issues decreased and the research began
to show promise (I've listed a few of the encouraging studies
below). Phaseolamin was patented and sold as "Phase
2." Does it work? I'd have to say . . . it might. But
I'd have to follow the tentative assertion of possible efficacy
with the question, "what do you mean by "work??"
It is not a weight loss panacea. It doesn't affect stored
bodyfat. In fact, it doesn't have any effect on existing
body composition. At best, it can limit insulin spikes resultant
from starch intake. My concern with these products is the
marketing tends to suggest you can "eat all the carbs
you want," and a pill will neutralize them. I find
it far more effective to teach people to ingest the nutrients
they need, to limit glucose intake and the resultant insulin
spike, and to exercise for optimal use of ingested nutrients.
Phase 2 might have some promise, but I don't believe it's
going to prove to be of great value in and of itself for
those seeking to shed the pounds. It absolutely is not an
excuse for a lack of control or nutritional discipline.
P., et al. “Effect of purified amylase inhibitor on carbohydrate
tolerance in normal subjects and patients with diabetes
mellitus." MAYO Clinic Proceedings 61, 6 (June, 1986)
W.R. and M. S. Rosenfeld. "Impairment of starch absorption
by a potent amylase inhibitor." American Journal of Gastroenterology
82, 8 (August, 1987) 718-722.
P., et al. “Effects of decreasing intra luminal amylase
on starch digestion and postprandial gastrointestinal
function in humans." On carbohydrate tolerance in normal
subjects and patients with diabetes mellitus." Gastroenterology
91, 1 (July, 1986) 41-48.
Ed Byrd and Anthony Almada were
frequent guests on my radio show back around 1994 when creatine
was first gaining momentum as a possible muscle builder.
Ed and Anthony were the creators of a mass marketed creatine
product that through a series of events found its way into
the EAS product line as the best selling Phosphagen. I've
stayed in touch with Anthony, but have not since had conversations
with Ed. Ed Byrd didn't vanish into thin air by any means.
He took the supplement industry by storm with his newest
release, NO2, and there have since been an entire army of
imitators playing up the muscle pumping virtues of Nitric
Nitric Oxide (NO) is nitrogen
bound with oxygen to form a reactive gas (nitrogen monoxide).
In the human body NO2 acts to control blood vessel dilation
allowing for healthy blood pressure and circulatory response.
Because the nitric oxide molecule is so tiny, it is capable
of passing through cell membranes to act as an intermediary
in specific metabolic processes. It acts to stimulate brain
signal transmission as well as immune function. In order
to "maintain" NO levels, you don't necessarily need a supplement.
You first have to make certain you're taking in adequate
protein as nitrogen is a component of intracellular protein.
Keeping a healthy cardiorespiratory system is also vital.
NO is synthesized from the amino acid arginine, so there
is some study going on in examining precisely how L-arginine
supplementation can aid in maintaining optimal NO levels,
but the studies are inconclusive at best. Interestingly,
Viagra works by acting on the Nitric Oxide pathway to enhance
circulation so there is also much interest in L-arginine
supplementation as a sexual aid. I believe Ed did a nice
job of marketing an expensive product which I don't see
as being more than another L-arginine supplement. While
I've heard some people swear by it, I haven't personally
seen anything conclusive. Anecdotal evidence often comes
from strength training athletes who lump together six or
seven supplements and if muscle increase is apparent, they
"swear by" all six or seven. I'm unconvinced,
but open minded. I would welcome Ed Byrd onto my show to
discuss this product preparing him in advance that he will
be subject to skepticism and scrutiny. Whatdya think Ed?
Phil Know Your Opinions and Comments:
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