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Raspberry Ketone – "Miracle in a bottle to burn your fat."

Every time I look into a new supplement, I get the same rush of feelings. Excitement when I read about something that may help people live longer. Concern as I see that supplement promoted by quick-buck scammers before reliable data is available. Then disappointment, when I learn the supplement failed to live up to the hype or expectations.

Should you take raspberry ketone?
Red raspberries are a healthy food.
But what about raspberry ketone?

Those are exactly the range of emotions I felt when I started looking into a supplement called raspberry ketone. Raspberry ketone is the phenolic compound that gives red raspberries their distinctive smell. Up until around 2012, it was used almost exclusively by food and perfume companies to make things taste and smell better. Now it's marketed as a miracle weight loss drug and sold in supplement form.

(Red raspberries are also known as European raspberries or rubus idaeus. The chemical names of raspberry ketone include frambinone, oxyphenylon, rheosmin and rasketone)

The excitement started back in May 2005. That's when Chie Morimoto published a study in Life Sciences showing that mice, who were put on a high-fat diet, gained much less weight if they were also given raspberry ketone. The study concluded with the statement, "Raspberry Ketone prevents and improves obesity and fatty liver."

Not much happened for several years, until Dr. Mehmet Oz started talking about it. On April 19th, 2012 Dr. Oz posted on his website, "Raspberry Ketone: What Science Says." In that post he said, "[Scientists] concluded that raspberry ketone prevents and improves obesity and fatty liver in certain animal models." He went on to say, "more detailed studies are called for to determine a mechanism for raspberry ketone."

But did Dr. Oz wait for further studies? Nope. He started promoting raspberry ketone as "the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat." Those are his exact words in a video promoting this "miracle" weight loss supplement. In that video, he brings "expert" Lisa Lynn on to talk about it. She claims raspberry ketone will, "slice it [fat] up inside the cells, so it burns fat easier."

That's when Dr. Oz pulls out the props and demonstrates how raspberry ketone, "excites the fat cells into giving up their fat." He does this by dropping a couple of red balloons into a tub of liquid nitrogen and watching them shrink. He explains that raspberry ketone "helps your body think it's thin, ...so your body metabolically will start going in the direction which it should be."

It sounds wonderful. Too bad Dr. Oz and the promoters of raspberry ketone ignored several important facts.

First, the mice in that 2005 study were given dosages of raspberry ketone that was 4,761 times greater than estimated human intake. Raspberry ketone supplements generally provide 100 to 200 mg daily. If you were to match the levels given in the mouse experiment, you would have to take THOUSANDS of mg daily. Far higher than has ever been tested for safety in humans.

Second, the 2005 study only showed that mice failed to INCREASE their weight as much, while on raspberry ketone and a high-fat diet. They didn't study to see if mice would LOSE weight just from taking raspberry ketone alone.

Third, the study was only conducted on mice. Since 2005 there have been exactly ZERO studies on humans testing raspberry ketone against a placebo, in a double-blind trial. If you're a mouse, a rat, or cells in a petri dish, there's evidence that taking massive amounts of raspberry ketone will allow you to eat fat without gaining much weight. But for humans? No proof AT ALL.

Dr. Oz then says, "I think this is worth experimenting with." How nice of him. He wants me to buy a product and experiment on MYSELF with an unproven supplement. Why don't the companies that make it want to conduct any clinical trials? Why should I spend money to be a guinea pig?

Because supplement companies realize it doesn't work and they don't want to do anything to hurt sales. The money they make is more important than your health. Do not buy raspberry ketone supplements, you're throwing your money away. You can watch the Dr. Oz video for yourself below. (The original video was removed so we had to replace it with this "video of a video" showing Dr. Oz's presentation.)

UPDATE 5/7/2015

When researchers watched 40 episodes of the Dr. OZ Show, they found solid evidence for only about 1/3 of Dr. OZ's recommendations. You might have fun watching the show, but DO NOT take the products he recommends. If you really think it might help, talk to your doctor first.

-The BMJ - Published Online Dec. 17, 2014

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Updated 4/18/2015
Updated 5/7/2015
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  • Dr. Oz Called Out as Quack!

    Dr. Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University wrote a letter that clearly describes the unethical things Dr. Oz has been doing. The letter was sent to Columbia University, where Dr. Oz is a member of the faculty. The intent was to have Dr. Oz removed from the staff because, as Dr. Miller said, "a person who endangers patients and is a menace to public health should not be on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution."

    Here's some of what the letter said:

    "We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery.

    "As described here and here, as well as in other publications, Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops. Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.

    "Thus, Dr. Oz is guilty of either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgements about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both. Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz's presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable."

    The letter certainly won't cost Dr. Oz his position on the faculty, but it's important that we stand up to these liars and quacks.