Bitter Orange Weight Loss Pills

Bitter Orange (also known as Seville Orange, Sour Orange and Zhi Shi) has been used as a remedy for a number of maladies, and also for weight loss.
It became more popular for weight loss once ephedra was banned as a weight loss substance due the health risks ephedra poses.   Many people think if something is a herb, then it’s safe.  But this isn’t necessarily so.  Bitter Orange contains a chemical compound called Synephrine.  This is a compound that is in a class called Sympathomimetic agents.  They mimic the effect of the sympathetic nervous system, causing the fight and flight response, and increasing heart rate and blood pressure and thermagenosis – which is the rate that the body burns fat.  Another class of  Sympathomimetic agents, are hormones called catecholamines. These are also involved in stimulating the sympathetic nervous system.  The catecholamines include norepinehprine, epinephrine, serotinin, dopamine.

They work in the body like this

  • norepinephrine and epinephrine are the flight or fight hormones
  • These hormones gets us ready for action and keep us in a state of high alert
  • They increase heart rate, blood flow and release energy from our body store
  • Bitter Orange stimulates the release of these hormones
  • After their release these hormones should be taken back up to the cells in the brain
  • Sympathomimetic agents prevent this from happening and an overflow catcholamines can occur
  • When that happens, heart rate and blood pressure stay elevated, and cause heart  problems

In addition to being risky
there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claims that Synephrine promotes weight loss. Actually it may not be any safer than Ephedrine Alkaloids in Ephedra, which as we know has been banned in herbal supplements because it causes strokes and heart attacks. Just recently I posted about the diet drug sibitrumine which has been withdrawn from the market by the FDA.  Sibutramine also contains sympathomimetic agents which a recent study showed caused 16% of the people that took it to have heart attacks and strokes.  This week comes the news that a Bitter Orange supplement called “Slimming Beauty” which is sold over the internet and manufactured by Beautiful Health inc.,  has been found to contain the substance Sibutramine.  This is maddening and saddening.  Slimming Beauty claims to be 100% herbal.  This is not true because Sibutramine is a controlled drug not a herb. If you are like me, you probably feel pretty angry at the manufacturers for combining two potentially dangerous agents and selling them to the unknowing public who trust that the product is what it says it is, especially since it bears the symbol of GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice).  The GMP symbol is obtained by manufacturers who have met the certification guidelines under the National Products Association  – good manufacturing practice certification program.   This means that manufacturers need to make sure that the supplement is processed in a consistent manner and meet quality standards such as avoiding contaminats in the product (heavy metals, pesticides, bacteria, toxins, molds and anything that isn’t meant to be in it). Also, GMP means making sure that the right ingredients are in the product, in the right amount.

The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements
and manufactures don’t need to get approval before putting them on the market.  They can also say that the product can ‘do’ things, like meet a nutritional deficit, and can link them to bodily actions – like weight loss, or supporting health (for example fish oil and cardiovascular health).  The manufacturer only needs to have some research to back it up.  They are then required to put a disclaimer on the product indicating that the statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.   In earlier posts I have touched on how difficult it is for scientific research to produce a body of evidence that doesn’t show mixed results. It is no surprise then, that its often easy to come up with some positive research about a product.  In regard to the public, the FDA is responsible for monitoring the safety of the herbal products, and if something is found to be amiss, they can take legal action or require that the product be withdrawn from the market.  Which is fortunately what happened with Slimming Beauty.

If you want to try natural weight loss products
just remember that not all herbs are safe.    You really need to know what you are doing when you ingest herbs and other supplements.   Herbs are the historical basis for modern pharmaceuticals and have been used to heal and to hurt through out the ages.  If you are considering any herb for any conditions its wise to find out about it.  The National Standard is an excellent source but you need to pay for a subscription.  Two  reliable sources which are free are  National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Dietary Supplements.  They will provide background, and scientific evidence, cautions and uses for the herb.

So once you know about the herb and decide you want to take it
how do you find a quality herb that contains what it is supposed to contain and nothing else that might just be fillers, or worse still, cause harm to you?  I recommend looking for supplements that contain verification by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP)

The USP offers a voluntary dietary supplement verification program
which allows credible manufacturers to prove their product is what they say it is.  They must conform to quality manufacturing criteria and allow random testing of their products, from off the shelves.  In other words, they just can’t get ready for a test.  What they have produced is what will be tested  at any time.  As said, this testing process is voluntary, and those that participate are able to display the USP seal.  When you see this seal you know that you are getting a quality, pure and potent product – not laced with drugs or contaminated in anyway.

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4 Responses to “Bitter Orange Weight Loss Pills”

  1. Tom says:

    What’s your opinion on St Johns Wart for depression/anxiety? Is it completely safe?



    • Glenda says:

      Hi Tom, thanks for your question. St Johns Wort, like any other herb can be helpful but it can also have harmful effects. The current state of research reports that it is likely to be beneficial for mild to moderate depression. But-and this important-if you take any meds for health conditions, including depression then there can be serious interactions. If you are considering taking St Johns Wort, you may like to check out this site. If you are taking meds, always check with your doctor before adding this particular herb to your health regime.
      Best in Health, Glenda

  2. rita higham says:

    A well respected government agency called the “German Commission E” approves of bitter orange for appetite suppression, dyspepsia. A clinical trial conncluded that bitter orange was “the best thermogenic substitute for ephedra” Journal of Medicine 2002. The fruit extract comes from unripe oranges and its enjoyed thousands of years of safe usage esp. in chinese medicine where it is known as Zhi Shi. Pls ad.

    • Glenda says:

      Hello Rita, Thanks for your question.
      I am all for safe and healthy adjunts to weight loss. And there is evidence that bitter orange works as a weight loss substance. The level of evidence is not that strong however. It is level C, which indicates Uncertain or Conflicting Scientific Evidence. This means the trials have been small with no statistical power, or there is conflicting evidence from several randomized trials with no clear evidence from a majority of the trials or other reasons the evidence is classed as uncertain.

      The main thing to remember with any herb or supplement is that it is not necessarily safe. The natural active ingredient in bitter orange is synephrine, which does cause short term weight loss and does raise heart rate and blood pressure in healthy people and can increase problems in those with existing heart issues – as definately could the case with people who are obese and trying to lose weight. It may be safe for one person, but definately may not be safe for another.

      The Natural Standard Data base includes 56 different research studies on Bitter Orange and the one you mention is included (J.Med. 2002;33(1-4):247-264 Citrus aurantium as a thermogenic, weight-reduction replacement for ephedra: an overview).

      There are several case reports of supplements containing bitter orange resulting in increased heart rate, fainting and dizziness and abnormal heart rate behavior called prolonged QT syndrome that increase the risk for dying suddenly. There is a 2006 study which showed statistical significance for rises in heart rate, stystolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure for up to 5 hours in healthy young adults after a single dose of bitter orange.
      Ann Pharmacother. 2006 Jan;40(1):53-7. Epub 2005 Nov 29.
      Blood pressure and heart rate effects following a single dose of bitter orange.
      Bui LT, Nguyen DT, Ambrose PJ.

      I am here for you Rita

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