. . . A "New" Fat Burner
I've included a fair amount of
information on ephedrine at this
site, and it's been a frequent topic on my radio show. Why?
Because so many products from stay awake pills to metabolism
boosters and fat burners contain ephedrine as their primary
ingredient. The word is slowly getting out that ephedrine
is potentially dangerous, perhaps life-threatening. The supplement
sellers are on track to make 1.2 Billion Dollars in ephedrine
related sales this year (2002). You can understand why they
don't want their goldmine to cave in.
Now, as people are scanning labels
for ephedrine, ephedra, or Ma Huang, many "fat burners"
are being sold as "ephedrine-free." They include
as a key ingredient something called Synephrine. As with ephedrine,
synephrine can be found under different herbal names including
Advantra Z, Bitter Orange, Citrus aurantium, zhi shi, and
shangzhou zhiqiao fructus Aurantii (say that ten times fast!).
People have asked me frequently
about synephrine and repeatedly expressed that when they tried
to find information on the web, all they found were thousands
of advertisements for fat burners. What is this stuff?
Put your brain to work for a minute.
Where have you heard or seen that word before? Synephrine.
Can you think of it? OK, let me help. Envision the shelves
in the Cold Relief section of your pharmacy. Think nasal spray.
Aha! Neo-Synephrine. Is it any surprise we're finding something
by the same name sold as an over the counter cold relief aid?
It shouldn't be. After all, ephedrine is sold in pharmacies
as Primatene Tablets. Despite their herbal sources, ephedrine
and synephrine are over the counter drugs.
The newest "ephedrine-free"
formulas use synephrine and in their marketing literature
use the same promotional jargon as they do to sell ephedrine.
They call it "thermogenic" and claim it burns fat.
"Thermogenic" actually means "initiates heat"
and since metabolism is directly correlated to the body's
generation of heat, the thinking is, crank things up a degree
or so and more calories are burned. Ephedrine, when combined
with caffeine, does have thermogenic properties, but synephrine
is not the same thing. Ephedrine is a beta adrenergic agonist.
Synephrine is an alpha adrenergic agonist. Don't worry . .
. in a moment I'll explain those terms. For now, all I want
you to know is that their actions (ephedrine and synephrine)
are different. You might feel warm after taking synephrine,
but that warmth comes from a very different mechanism than
ephedrine induced heat.
Neo-Synepherine is used to stop
a "runny nose" because it has a vasoconstriction
effect. Synephrine constricts the blood vessels. Contricted
blood vessels equals restricted blood flow, and that's the
complete opposite of what you want if you're looking to optimize
fat burning, yet it may cause a sensation of heat.
If you were to look at the ingredient
label of Neo-Synephrine, you wouldn't find "bitter orange"
or even synephrine. What you would find is phenylephrine.
Phenylephrine and synephrine are isomers (they are composed
of the same molecular material in different configurations)
thus it's probable many of their effects will be the same.
Is there research on synephrine? Yup. I'll get more into that
in a moment. Is there an abundance of research proving that
synephrine administered to human beings acts as a fat burner?
Absolutely not. Conversely, Neo-Synephrine has been on the
market since 1940, so there's lots of real world trial. The
side effects label of the nasal spray should provide some
preliminary insight into the potential side effects of synephrine.
From the Label of Neo-Synephrine:
Do not use this product for
more than 3 days and use only as directed. Frequent or prolonged
use may cause nasal congestion to recur or worsen. If symptoms
persist, consult a doctor. Side effects: General stimulation
causing increased heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia,
nervousness, anxiety, tremor, dry mouth, blurry vision,
and headache. It may also cause an inability to urinate.
Therefore, consult a physician if you have any history of
cardiac disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, or urinary
problems. Also, combining decongestants with other other-the-counter
or prescribed medicines with similar side effects may lead
to dangerous complications.
I haven't seen such warnings posted
on synephrine products aimed at "fat burning." That
should raise a red flag. Unfortunately, with supplements,
it isn't until people suffer or die that the FDA begins to
investigate the safety of a product.
Synephrine and phenylephrine are
both categorized as alpha-adrenergic agonists. Uh-oh, there
I go with those big words again. Don't worry. I promised an
explanation and I've never let you down so far, have I? Allow
me to clarify these terms.
The little signal receiving sites
that regulate the actions of the central nervous system can
be divided into two types, alpha adrenergic receptors and
beta adrenergic receptors. An agonist is something that stimulates
an action at the receptor site. Alpha receptors and beta receptors
have different roles. The beta adrenergic receptors increase
the force of contraction in the circulatory system and produce
bronchodilation (the opening up of bronchial passages). Remember,
ephedrine is a beta adrenergic agonist. The receptor that
produces vasoconstriction is referred to as an alpha receptor.
The two receptors are normally stimulated by the production
of neurotransmitters and hormones such as adrenalin, norephinephrine,
and dopamine. Specific drugs that interrupt nervous system
activity have an affinity to act more at the beta sites, others
at the alpha sites.
OK. Now that I've shared a bit
of biochemistry, on to the research (this won't be anywhere
near as complicated)! All of the ads claim there has been
extensive research on synephrine. Has there? Yes, but again,
most of it was not done on humans. Here's one research study
that I've seen quoted in ads.
Park JH, Keeley LL. The effect
of biogenic amines and their analogs on carbohydrate metabolism
in the fat body of Blaberus discoidalis. Gen Comp
Endocrinol 1998 Apr;110(1):88-95
Does this study prove that synephrine
(a biogenic amine) will burn fat in your body? Only if you
fall into the species categorized as Blaberus discoidalis.
Allow me translate Blaberus discoidalis into its more recognizable
Here's another study that used
"bitter orange" (an herb from which we get synephrine):
Mwaiko GL. Citrus peel oil
extracts as mosquito larvae insecticides. East Afr
Med J 1992 Apr;69(4):223-6
In this study, it was proven
that syneprine kills mosquitos. Wow, that has a lot to do
with fat burning in people, doesn't it? If someone told
you to buy mosquito repellant and use it as a fat burner,
wouldn't you think twice? My point is, when they say there
is an abundance of research on synephrine, you have to question
the specifics of the research conducted. Rabbits, rats,
and roaches have all ingested synephrine in the pursuit
of science . . . and if you choose to experiment on your
own body . . . that's entirely up to you. If, however, the
goal is to burn fat, my suggestion is to leave the synephrine
on the shelves with ephedrine and develop a concern for
supportive eating and exercising.
The ads openly claim that "synephrine
is proven safe," but if we recognize that risk may be
cumulative, how, in a short period of time, can anything be
proven "safe?" The ads may point you to some studies
that may or may not hint at synephrine safety, but they surely
won't point you toward this study:
Diane L Nykamp, Majed N Fackih,
and Anthony L Compton. Possible Association of Acute
Lateral-Wall Myocardial Infarction and Bitter Orange Supplement.
Ann. Pharmacother., May 2004; 38: 812 - 816
The abstract discusses an incident
of a 55-year old woman who went to the hospital with dull
aching pain in her shoulder was diagnosed with a lesion
in the left main coronary artery. She had been taking a
supplement containing 300 mg of bitter orange (citrus aurantium
- synephrine) for the past year and had absolutely no prior
history of any cardiac disturbance. She was diagnosed with
acute lateral-wall Myocardial Infarction (heart attack)
and was hospitalized for four days. After review, what was
the conclusion of the study? The use of supplements containing
citrus aurantium may present a risk for cardiovascular toxicity.
Is it possible synephrine can aid
in fat release? Yes. Is it likely to be significant or in
any way superior to eating right and exercising effectively?
No. Some companies are "stacking" synephrine with
caffeine and ephedrine to cover all bases. Perhaps, by using
synephrine, a lower dosage of ephedrine can minimize the stimulant
buzz. There is lots of room for continued experimentation.
I just wouldn't encourage you to position yourself as a guinea
pig. There just isn't any need.
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