Raspberry ketone or RK is one of the world’s longest running weight loss dietary supplements. It is now making an undeniable huge comeback because of the people’s enthusiasm to lose weight and the aggressive marketing of diet supplements. Because there is no therapeutic value provided, the Food and Drug Association or FDA did not perform any rigorous testing on the product. The same is true with all other supplements in the market. This makes the safety of the product as one of the major concerns that consumers have to deal with. With this, only the available clinical data can be used to ascertain the product’s safety.
There are members of the scientific community that conduct research on dietary supplements. However, there is scarce information about raspberry ketone and its safety. The physiologic actions of the supplement are what scientists can use to deduce its possible side effects.
Raspberry ketone, which is found in blackberries and cranberries, is widely used as scent additive in many perfumery lines in the cosmetic industry. In addition, it also provides a very distinct fruity aroma and flavor when used as food additive. On the other hand, its effect on weight loss is the most controversial. At the same time, people highly seek this benefit. Though there is very little clinical evidence, the supplement is claimed to be among the best and effective natural remedies for weight loss. It is said that it loses weight because it speeds up metabolism.
We don’t claim that all raspberry ketone diet supplements have profiles that are very unsafe. However, we have to be aware that diet supplements and weight loss are part of a multi-billion dollar industry. This is why we now normally see companies that capitalize on mankind’s demand for weight loss products that are safe and effective. But it is regrettable that there are some who enhance their product’s weight loss effects through the increase of highly-controlled substances.
There are even those that say they use pure raspberry ketone but actually use an ingredient that is entirely different. With these, we have to be very cautious when buying diet supplements because we might suffer from side effects and end up in the hospital instead of enjoying the supposed benefits of weight loss.
To determine raspberry ketone’s safety profile, it is crucial to learn about its functions because the involved physiologic processes are highly related to its possible side effects.
How does the dietary supplement work?
There were previous studies involving laboratory rats that did not experience significant weight loss after consuming raspberry ketone. However, the opposite happened when the dose was adjusted to 2% of the diet by weight. For example, if the lab rat’s diet is 200 grams per day, they are given a minimum of 4 grams of raspberry ketone. The adjustment in amount led to a statistically significant loss in body weight. To apply the study’s results on humans, dietary portioning is important to determine the raspberry ketone’s sufficient dose that leads to significant weight loss.
Sadly, there are no studies yet that were conducted on human beings. With this, what we can only do is speculate about raspberry ketone’s mechanism of action.
To shed light, it is crucial to highlight the determination of raspberry ketone’s possible mechanism of action in so far as shedding body weight is concerned. Currently, there are three physiologic pathways that experts believe are important in effecting weight loss. These are:
- Increased in the amount of adiponectin secreted
- Enhancement in the oxidation of fatty acids
- Increase in norepinephrine’s breakdown of fat molecules
All of these mechanisms are overlapping or inherently related because one can hugely affect the development or occurrence of the other.
Directly related to these mechanisms is the chemical structure of raspberry ketone as studies suggest. It was observed that in terms of chemical structure, RK is related closely to:
We are not claiming that synephrine and capsaicin are present in RK. What we are saying is that RK is similar to the substances in terms of structure. Until today, there is no available definitive proof about raspberry ketone’s similarity to synephrine and capsaicin functionally and chemically. However, there are hundreds of people that provided anecdotal evidence about losing weight after consuming RK supplement. With this, we can then say that raspberry ketone can function like capsaicin and synephrine.
It is a general fact that capsaicin is known to burn fats. It has a thermogenic property that is unparalleled as proven by experts in the science community. It is a natural fat-burner that increases the human body’s core temperature to hasten metabolic and biochemical processes. For example, it takes 15 to 30 minutes to bring water to a boil when you heat it under low fire. But if the heat is increased, then you can expect the water to boil in just a few minutes. The same thing happens to capsaicin. The good thing is it uses adipocytes or fat cells as fuel to increase heat production.
Another helpful analogy is fever and its effect on your weight. You lose weight as you suffer from fever for several days. You always feel tired and your body needs more energy as its temperature rises. This is not a problem if you have more than enough fat reserves. If you are thin, then the glycogen that is stored in your muscles will be used. This is the reason for malaise or muscle fatigue that you experience when having fever.
Whenever the temperature of your body increases, there is also an increase in the energy the body uses. Breakdown of fat is the best way to support the process. There are around 9 energy molecules or 9 calories for every gram of fat. Clearly, this is the reason why fat is the go-to molecule of the body when in need of stored energy. Carbohydrates only have 4 calories in every gram.
When it comes to synephrine, it is similar to norepinephrine and catecholamines epinephrine chemically speaking. Known as a group of neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and catecholamines epinephrine have functions in various processes such as:
- Increase in the amount of gluconeogenesis
- Increase in metabolic rate
- Central nervous system stimulation
Gluconeogenesis is a process used to describe adipocytes sequestration from the skin’s subcutaneous layer and abdominal cavity. Adipocytes will then undergo lipolysis or a process of breaking down. These fat cells are the body’s molecules that have the densest energy. When these are broken down, huge amounts of energy are released and are ready for use by the cells. This is the reason why there are experts saying that raspberry ketone’s anti-obesity effects are related closely to its ability to increase lipolysis that is norepinephrine-induced. This is particularly true in adipocytes or white cells.
However, it must be noted that these were only based on a few rat studies, which involved very high raspberry ketone dose.
Increased stimulation of adiponectin’s production and release is another action that is attributed to raspberry ketone. This is shown to be effective in increasing the process of burning fat. Adiponectin, in scientific terms, is known to enhance lipolysis. In simple terms, it helps in speeding up the breaking down of fats. There are several studies that showed that obese or overweight people have lower adiponectin levels. But when these same people lose weight, they gain higher adiponectin levels. In addition, there are descriptive studies that showed that individuals with low adiponectin levels have higher chances or risks of developing health issues such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Fatty liver disease for non-alcoholics
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
It must be emphasized, however, that raspberry ketone intake is not the only way to increase the levels of adiponectin. Exercise, as shown in many studies, is known to increase adiponectin levels substantially. In just one week of exercise, the levels can increase by as much as 260%. Another way to increase adiponectin is through drinking of a cup of coffee. With these, it is clear, that the hormone adiponectin can also be increased without relying on raspberry ketone.
What are the side effects?
Jungmin Lee did a research in 2015 about the lack of human clinical evidence that supports raspberry ketone’s safety. So far, the only studies conducted are those that involved laboratory mice. Lee’s study revealed that many of the available RK supplements in the market today have concentration of ingredients that is beyond the maximum limit.
In Denmark, Bredsdorff of the National Food Institute have shown in 2016 that the recommended raspberry ketone intake per day is around 100 to 1,400 milligrams. Her colleagues helped her in reaching the conclusion. Toxicology studies that exist today are still limited to laboratory rats. The studies showed that there is toxicological concern of 56 times the threshold value when 100 milligram of raspberry ketone is taken every day. The threshold value is the measure of the substance’s relative risk of toxicity. There is a 12 margin of safety for the 1,400 milligram upper limit of raspberry ketone, which clearly shows the potential danger of the substance.
It is unfortunate and saddening that there is currently no single clinical study about the side effects of raspberry ketone and other related types of dietary supplements. What we can only do now is to learn about the side effects as associated to reactions that are attributed to capsaicin and synephrine. These reactions include:
- Gastric complaints
- Increased blood pressure
- Anxiety and restlessness
What are the active ingredients?
Now that we know the side effects, it is also important to identify the active ingredients. Well, raspberry ketone itself is the single active ingredient of raspberry ketone. Scientifically speaking, we are referring to p-hydroxybenzyl acetone, 4-(p-hydroxyphenyl)-2-butanone, or 4-(4-hydroxyphenyl)butan-2-one. These are very complicated names, which make raspberry ketone the easier and simpler way of saying it.
When choosing the brand of raspberry ketone supplement, you should always choose the one that is purest in terms of quality. Choose the one that contains no additional ingredients. However, it is common to see raspberry ketone supplements blended with substances like:
- Acai berry
- African mango
- Green tea
It is said that these natural substances are capable of enhancing raspberry extract’s fat burning properties. At the same time, these substances also facilitate the clearing of active metabolites inside the body.
Moreover, it is also important to read the label carefully. However, there are companies that write everything on their product’s label. It is thus wise to choose a company raspberry ketone supplement that:
- Has been at least five years in the business
- Uses nothing but red raspberries as the main source of raspberry ketone
- Has a GMP certification
- Has substantial pieces of evidence and documentation that can support their reputation, trustworthiness, and credibility particularly when it comes to their claim of using the highest quality of raspberry ketone extracts
- Has laboratory facility that the FDA has certified and recognized
Who should not take the supplement?
Because there is no credible proof on the efficacy and safety of raspberry ketones on humans, there are individuals that should not take it. They are:
- Breastfeeding mothers
- Pregnant women
- People with low blood sugar
- People who are taking medications for diabetes
- People who are suffering from cardiovascular conditions
- People who have other chronic medical conditions
With all these, you have to take note of the fact that there has never been a stop in the number of controversies that surround the dietary supplement market. Though there is no scientific evidence that clearly proves the real and effective benefits of raspberry ketone, there is a long list of anecdotal evidence that fuels people to demand for the supplement. Because of the undying hype for these weight loss supplements, it is very crucial that you have a deep understanding of the supplement you are taking. You should be aware of the possible side effects and you should be very clear about what you are searching for.