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 Just recently I posted about the diet drug sibitrumine which has been withdrawn from the market by the FDA.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.