Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lipozene and the Obesity Research Institute

NOTE:  After knee surgery last week I've been subjected to a lot of television watching, fertile grounds for scams and claims that demand skeptical dissection.  There will be a few reports along this line over the coming weeks.

Lipozene. The commercials claim rapid weight loss.  They appear highly clinical and are quite persuasive. Lipozene is packaged and pitched with an implicit claim of miracle weight loss drug status. The product and the clinical claims come from the Obesity Research Institute. The Obesity Research Institute LLC is a Los Angeles based company founded in 2003 that has sold several ill-fated products such as fiber-thin and Propylene.  A quick search of the scholarly literature shows no formal published research results from the Obesity Research Institute, so this appears to be a company and not a place actively engaged in scientific research.

I was particularly drawn into the commercial when I read the blue italic print under the Lipozene name.  It says, Amorphophallus konjac, which just happens to be one of my favorite plants.  So Lipozene is just a derivative of A. konjac, actually the ground up corum (bulb). The bulb has high levels of glucomannan, a carbohydrate that swells massively when wet.  It is used as a gelling agent in some Asian cuisine. This explains the role of this compound in Lipozene.

As a diet compound glucomannans have been shown to be mildly effective in weight loss.  The most compelling data come from 1984 and the International Journal of Obesity (8(4):289-93) where Walsh and colleagues gave 1 g of glucomannan or a placebo in a double blinds study.  Over eight weeks the glucomannan group lost significantly more weight (5.5 lbs over 8 weeks).

The red flag for me is that this paper is from 1984 and there is no evidence of a successful replication or expansion of the study.  This was a dead end.  In the field of weight loss, we'd expect more labs to pile on to these findings and do their own trials.  In reality, they probably did, and didn't see the same results.  Independent replication is the Achilles Heel  of flawed or just plain wrong studies.

Other studies, mostly by Dr. Dan Gallaher's lab at the University of Minnesota, do show a positive effect of glucomannan in lowering blood lipid profiles, increasing their presence in the feces. Serum cholesterol decreases. His work spans many similar compounds and I absolutely trust these data.

But these are the best tests. Recent evidence tests glucomannan and outside of small, uncontrolled studies there is little treatment effect in weight loss.  It does appear to promote relief from constipation, lowers blood lipid profiles and probably can be regarded as safe. The mild effects in weight loss probably stem from the swelling of the compound in the gut, leading to an increased feeling of satiety in those that use it.

The problem for me comes from the fact that this is a ground up plant bulb and it can be purchased for a much lower price than from Lipozene.  Google "glucomannan" and you'll find hundreds of vendors.  Also, check for complaints against Lipozene and the Obesity Research Institute.  I won't go into detail here, but a quick check shows a history of lawsuits and unauthorized charges, at least as evidenced by the web results.

So the Obesity Research Institute straddles the scientific fence with this claim.  With a foot in reality and the other in hyperbole, they stretch the science to sell a familiar plant compound as a magic bullet for weight loss.  Testimonies abound on the web, for and against the product.  The science tells a different story.  Clearly some positive effects, but not a consistent record of promoting weight loss over placebo in well-constructed studies.

7 comments:

x24 said...

I noticed "amorphophallus" in the active ingredient as well. I also guessed that the "Obesity Research Institute" was right next to the "Ponds Institute" and adjacent to "The Halls of Medicine" and "the Church of God"

Now; I'll do anything to lose weight except diet and exercise, but if it seems to good to be true it probably is. It probably works as well as eating styrofoam...

(that does not work)

Anonymous said...

I just got lipozene 7 days ago and it does appear to work with eating lite meals and very mild exercise. It even began to clear my skin, my only problem is that they give you 60 pills. Those 60 pills are not a two month supply like the commercial says it's a week supply. So, I I have to pay 49.00 per week to lose weight, plus exercise, eat lite and wear a Kimora gerdle just to see results. Before lipozene I already had a problem with my stomach swelling for no reason and now the swelling is less. I'm a vegetarian and I rapidly gain weight....WHAT THE HELL! Any suggestions? ar8915@wayne.edu

Rudy Reyes said...

I can tell you this. My wife and i are big people and Aginst my better judgment bought propolyene. Took it for two months straight without any notiable loss. They also make unauthorized charges to my debit card durring this trial for some Bs coupon program. Worse than that even after they charged us for this bs program they never told us about it not a single phone call no email or mail nothing! So essentially we were paying for something we didn't know exsisted and caught the charges on the second month. We got our momey back because i called them up and threatened leagal action. And they promptly refunded my money or that and the useless product. I got lucky there where others it seems did not. Later on i noticed they stopped selling it altogether and most likely used a buisness DBA using another name to do biz by. And they didnt even have the forsight to use all new people in the new commercials LOL thats funny. They even used similar product name as the first. PLZ DONT WASTE YOUR TIME AND MONEY. We now enjoy a gym membership and are trying to eat better. There just isnt a magic bullet whwn it comes to losing weight there isn't. I strongly believe that our government needs to stop these snakeoil salesmen in their tracks and make everything go through proper testing. Instead of preying upon peoples insecurities and worries. None of it works, period. -Rudy of portland.

Kevin M. Folta said...

Rudy, So sorry to hear that you struggled with this nonsense. You did get to a good reality in that the gym and the food are the real solutions. The good news is that it might be a lot of effort and changes to get to your target weight, but at that point it becomes part of your lifestyle and you'll be not just a better weight, but also healthier all around. That's most important. Best wishes always to you and your wife.

Anonymous said...

It is plain and simple when it comes to weight gain and loss.

You can NOT put anything in your body to take weight off.

Every gimmick out there uses Jedi mind tricks on the brain to help you from putting things in the body.

Gastric bypass, pills, hypnosis, it all uses the same principle; it tells your brain that you are full.

If there is any weight loss to be had, you HAVE to put less calories in your body than you burn off in a day.

6washburn12 said...

Trying to lose weight by ingesting Lipozene is like trying to lift a bucket while you are standing in it. It counterintuitive and makes absolutely no scientific or medical sense. The so called Obesity Research Institute is nothing more than a broken down virtual shack that only exists in the virtual world, Lipozene is a junk product and it manufacturers are laughing all the way to the bank.at our expense.

Anonymous said...

The issue here is deceptive advertising, nothing else. Webster defines "Institute" as "a society or organization having a particular object or common factor, especially a scientific, educational, or social one." So rightly/wrongly, an "Institute" implies scholarly pursuit -NOT a manufacturer/distributor. The ad makes it sound like this bogus "Institute" did some controlled studies and came up with some scientific conclusions. Of course, that's all total BS as the "Institute of XYZ" is the name of their company, and nothing else. So fat people are conned into spending $50 or $100 for something that cost at most a few pennies to produce - the ground-up root of some plant bulb that swells up in your stomach. These people (and all others like them) should spend life in prison. And dear overweight people - go see a real doctor, but be prepared for a lifestyle change more like "Biggest Loser" and less like popping a few pills. There is no easy way out - you have to move more and eat less. Eat more lean protein because it does help control your appetite.