Womens Health

Bitter Orange: An Effective Weight Loss Supplement?

With rates of obesity on the rise, the "weight-loss" industry has been under pressure to manufacture products designed to make losing weight quick and painless. In 2001 alone, Americans spent $4.7 billion on energy and weight loss supplements. The problem, of course, is that many of these supplements are at best ineffective, and at worst, dangerous.

Indeed, in 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to ban any dietary supplements containing ephedra, due to health concerns about its potential adverse effects. Since then, many so-called "ephedra-free", "natural weight loss" supplements have come on to the market, the most popular of which is bitter orange. But is bitter orange really a safe alternative?

What is Bitter Orange?

Most preparations of bitter orange, or Citrus aurantium, is made from concentrated extract of an orange peel. However, it also contains a certain percentage of synephrine and octopamine- chemicals that are similar to ephedrine, the banned substance found in ephedra. Although certain preparations contain only 1 to 6 percent of these chemicals, this can vary greatly, with some carrying as much as 30%.

It is with these chemicals that the concern lies. That is because both synephrine and octopamine have been found to cause high blood pressure and heart disturbances, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. In patients with previous heart conditions, the effects could even be fatal.

In addition, there is evidence that suggests these chemicals may interfere with the body's metabolism of many drugs, thereby increasing the amount of the drug in your body as well as their potential side effects.

Is Bitter Orange Effective for Weight Loss?

There is some evidence that bitter orange may be an effective tool for weight loss in animals; however, similar results in humans have not yet been found.

The formula is designed to stimulate beta-3 cell receptors in the body, as stimulation of these receptors is supposed to elicit the breakdown of fat. At the same time, this stimulation is intended to cause an increase in the metabolism, which burns calories. Bitter orange may also act as an appetite suppressant.

The Bottom Line?

With all the potential risks, and lack of documented benefits, it seems bitter orange is destined to suffer the same fate as ephedra. In the meantime, those looking to achieve weight loss should be looking for more sustainable alternatives, such as eating less amounts of healthier foods, as well as getting regular exercise. Revolutionary concept, isn't it?

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