Hydroxycut is one of those supplements that just won’t go away. Originally fueled by the now-banned and controversial ingredient ephedra, Hydroxycut’s current formula consists of a bunch of ingredients with little – if any – track record of success with regard to weight loss.
Beside the questionable nature of the effectiveness of the ingredients, Hydroxycut’s advertising and marketing approach is a great lesson in how supplement companies play the game. If you read the disclaimer at the bottom of their ads you probably won’t bother to buy this stuff, but just in case I’m going to give you a rundown of this new formula.
Let’s start with Hydroxycut’s “research-supported ingredients” list.
Chromium Polynicotinate is one of the main ingredients in the new Hydroxycut recipe. The Federal Trade Commission has stated that since there is no credible evidence to support the position that chromium – in ANY of its forms – has any effect on increasing muscle mass, boosting performance or losing weight that anyone making claims that chromium is effective is engaging in unsubstantiated and deceptive advertising. How’s that for starters?
The American Diabetes Association has gone on record and stated “chromium supplementation has no known benefit in patients who aren’t chromium deficient.” And with the research that has been done, there is little – if any – understanding of how chromium is absorbed, distributed, metabolized and eliminated by the body.
Next on the list of ingredients is something called “Hydroxagen Plus” that is a blend of Garcina Cambogia, Gymnema Sylvestre, Glucomannan, Alpha Lipoic Acid and Willow Bark Extract.
As used in supplements, hydroxycitric acid is extracted from the rind of a fruit called the Garcina Cambogia, or Brindle berry. The claims that this substance is effective as a weight loss or anti-obesity agent are not supported by well-controlled studies. Conflicting data has been reported from some of the studies, and where some studies resulted in subjects losing weight other studies resulted in no weight loss, or even weight gain.
Gymnema Sylvestre is a substance derived from the leaves of a plant found in India and used as a treatment of diabetes. There’s not much – if any – evidence to support that this substance can aid in weight loss by preventing sugar from being absorbed by the body, and no science that shows that the chemicals in this leaf can block the absorption of sugar by the body. Most literature on this substance – even from the “pro-gymnema” camp – mentions that there’s no understanding of how this substance might work.
Glucomannan is basically a soluble dietary fiber derived from Konjac flour – very popular in China and Japan – that in some studies has shown to be beneficial for the obese and for high-risk, Type 2 diabetics. Since glucomannan is a fiber, it’s been shown to help those cursed by constipation. Sweet.
Alpha Lipoic Acid – which is produced by the body – has shown promise as a treatment for those with diabetic neuropathy – the degeneration of the peripheral nervous system as a result of diabetes – and is actually an approved treatment in Germany. Alpha Lipoic Acid is also an anti-oxidant. In animal studies, the anti-oxidant action of Alpha Lipoic Acid reduces or eliminates events that are precursors to neuropathy.
But in all the positives of the research that deals with this subject, there is no mention of any application of this substance to weight loss. With that, several of the areas where Alpha Lipoic Acid has shown promise still need to be studied further in order to confirm its benefits.
The final member of this “blend” is Willow Bark Extract. For centuries, the bark of the willow tree has been used as a pain reliever, and today some people use it instead of aspirin.
If you’re keeping score so far, Hydroxycut consists of four ingredients that have no proven benefits to the general population – with the exception of alleviating constipation – an anti-oxidant and a pain reliever.
The other “blend ingredient” in Hydroxycut is called Hydroxy Tea and consists of Green Tea Extract, Caffeine and Guarana Extract.
This part of the formula is designed to give you all of that extra energy that you’ll need to get through your workouts. Caffeine and guarana are different forms of the same substance, and will definitely gear you up. This is why users are advised to not use other forms of caffeine while taking Hydroxycut, as the daily dosage of this supplement is the equivalent of six cups of coffee. Yikes!
The Green tea extract has shown to be helpful and protective across a broad spectrum, from anti-oxidative to anti-cancer to the control of fat oxidation.
What we have here is the classic example of how these nutritional supplements are designed and marketed. Hydroxycut is a supplement that combines ingredients with dubious pedigrees with ingredients that may prove to be beneficial in some regard other than weight loss, topped off with stimulants.
On the Hydroxycut web site, we are able to look at only the abstracts of the two studies offered as proof. If you look at the details – nothing more than a one-paragraph summary of the results of two different studies – you’ll see that a total of only 90 “moderately obese subjects” were studied. This is an insufficient sample size to reach any kind of valid conclusion.
In one of the abstracts we’re told, “all subjects were placed on a 2000 kcal/day diet.” Well, for some people, 2000 calories a day can be a feast, for others it’s famine. So, to put people on a fixed calorie diet without regards for what their basic needs are is indicative of a huge flaw in methodology, and calls into question everything about this “study”.
For the “moderately obese” person, to consume 2000 calories a day would result in significant weight loss regardless of the amount of exercise a person performs or the supplements that they take.
If you come across a print ad for Hydroxycut you’ll see all the supplement marketers’ tricks of the trade. Fantastic anecdotal evidence of impressive weight loss, the “results may vary” and “exercise/proper diet are a must in order to lose weight” disclaimer and vague, scientific-sounding language are all on display in a typical one-page ad.
There is no better place to apply the phrase “buyer beware” than to Hydroxycut.
Read more of The Healthy Skeptic here.