During the past year, Willy Street Co-op Health and Wellness staff have seen a large uptick in the number of customer requests for products recommended on the popular syndicated daytime television program The Dr. Oz Show. Hardly a day goes by without us hearing his name mentioned. Dr. Oz’s health recommendations span the gamut of wellness issues that Willy Street Co-op Owners consider important. His shows focus on everything from mental health, to women’s health, to illness prevention.

Who is Dr. Oz?
The man behind the show, Dr. Mehmet Oz, is a professor at the Department of Surgery at Columbia University and former director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York–Presbyterian Hospital. He is a prolific writer of hundreds of research papers and books as a primary and contributing author. Oz successfully transitioned as a health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, and The Today Show, among others, to his own television program in 2009, in part because of his dedication and interest in integrative and herbal medicines. On his daily program, Oz will often recommend herbal and other integrative therapies alongside conventional medicine and preventative care.

In his defense, Dr. Oz always points out that these supplements are to be used alongside diet and exercise and not seen as singular magic bullets for healthy weight attainment. His website is chock full of recommendations that include suggestions for portion control, exercise and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. Dr. Oz’s office declined to comment for this article.

However, by far the most sought after products, the ones staff hear requested most often, are those related to weight loss. In particular, konjac root fiber, white kidney bean extract, raspberry ketones, green coffee bean extract. These supplements seem to be on a rotating cycle and when mentioned have caused quite a few shortages in the wholesale market. While we are happy to provide our Owners with the highest-quality herbs and supplements that they want and deserve and are very supportive of health goals and weight management, I would also like to dispel some myths about these particular supplements. As always, you should consult with your medical professional before trying anything new.

Raspberry Ketones
Dr. Oz has referred to raspberry ketones (RK), the compound that gives raspberries their distinctive flavor, as the “miracle fat-burner in a bottle.” However, the limited studies done on this supplement are far from conclusive. The only published studies thus far have been completed on mice, which were fed up to 2% of their food intake in RK alongside a high-fat diet. The mice fed RK on average gained less weight than those fed only a high-fat diet. However, for a human to have an equivalent dosage would require them eating more than 40 grams of RK per day. To date, however, no clinical trials have been completed to verify that such a dosage would be effective or safe for human consumption. There are also some environmental issues to consider: it takes up to four pounds of fresh raspberries to make one capsule of RK and thus natural forms are very expensive. Most RK is chemically synthesized using acetone and sodium hydroxide. Willy West carries Bio Nutrition Raspberry Ketone Diet, a blend of RK from both natural and synthetic sources. A rep from their company says they will be switching to fully natural sources soon.

Green Coffee Bean Extract
Green coffee bean extract is the newest of the diet supplements to go viral. Theoretically, it works by increasing metabolism, blocking glucose absorption, and thus encouraging weight loss. Unlike RK, green coffee bean extract has had a clinical trial on human subjects. The most shocking part of the study is that it suggested weight loss was possible with little or no changes to diet or exercise habits. However, the study was done with only 16 people and has not been replicated. Willy West carries Source Naturals Green Coffee Extract and New Chapter Coffee Berry, a supplement made from whole coffee fruit.

Konjac Root Fiber/ Glucomannan
Glucomannan, a fiber made from the root of konjac, is a perennial plant grown in Asia and typically consumed in the form of shirataki noodles. Dr. Oz refers to glucomanan as “nature’s skinny sponge,” because it is highly water absorbent, contributing to a feeling of fullness. One study suggests that taking two-to-four grams per day resulted in “significant weight loss in overweight and obese individuals.” Glucomannan is not magic, however. Other fibers like guar gum, bran or psyllium can essentially do the same thing and may be more economical for most people. Willy West carries PGX Daily Singles and Softgels, composed of a proprietary complex of “highly purified fiber composition processed using advanced proprietary technology” that include konjac root.

White Kidney Bean Extract
White kidney bean extract has been touted as a “carb-blocker” by Dr. Oz and others, and purportedly will stop your body from absorbing extra calories as fat. Studies have confirmed the principle behind the supplement, which inhibits digestive enzymes, and clinical trials have suggested that along with diet and exercise it can improve weight loss in individuals with carb-heavy diets. However, long-term larger studies have not been done as of yet. Willy West carries Dieter’s Choice for Carb Control from Terry Naturally, which is made with Max-Phase Phaseolamin from Purified White Kidney Bean Extract.

Will Any of These Supplements Work?
That’s a tough question. Some of them may prove better than placebo, but the studies are far from conclusive. Also, a cursory examination of the reviews on Amazon.com suggest great disappointment on the part of many purchasers of weight loss supplements. Some are quite angry that they have “wasted” their money. While there are some who claim to have lost weight, we have no way of knowing whether they were also adopting healthier eating habits or taking other supplements or medications.

Supplements are exactly what the name suggests: supplemental. They cannot really substitute for proper diet and exercise. While it pains me to say this as a member of the Health and Wellness staff (supplements are our specialty!), if you are looking to improve your health, the best place you could go is actually the Produce aisle. We would be delighted to speak with you about all the amazing dishes you can make with fresh vegetables and we have lots of great cookbooks to get you started.

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