Category Archives: Natural Supplements

When Green Tea Is A Bad Thing

Green tea has been talked about as some miraculous supplement. Year after year, they have talked about all of the benefits, saying that it can help you to lose weight, lower your cholesterol, and so on down the line. However, in other news, the benefits of green tea have been downplayed to a considerable degree, and more than that, there are some who suggest that it may not be as safe as they want you to think.

The American College of Gastroenterology and offered new recommendations about green tea, suggesting that it could actually cause toxic liver failure.

Catechins are key here. Yes, they have been called out for being healthy, fat burners, cholesterol lowering antioxidants even. The problem that many don’t realize is that it’s very possible to have too much of a good thing. Catchins target the mitochondria powerhouse cells, and they stop them from metabolizing your food for energy according to research, which could lead to jaundice, hepatitis, or liver failure according to study authors including Herbert Bonkovsky MD.

The National Institutes of Health estimate that unregulated supplements have a direct connection to 20% of drug-related liver injuries. Despite what you may think, it takes a surprisingly small dose to do this much damage. So it’s best to tone it down. You should limit yourself to a maximum of 500mg per day, if even that. Proceed with caution as some supplements researchers tested had 700mg in just one capsule.

Bonkovsky says, There isn’t any need to take these supplements, and when you look at the actual scientific evidence, the benefits of green tea are small to nil. A bit harsh? You would think, but then again, I tend to trust the research of a qualified doctor over the commercials simply designed to sell you something.

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Does Green Coffee Help You To Lose Weight?

Alongside green tea, green coffee bean has become quite the hot commodity in the weight loss world. The caffeine increases natural fat burning and metabolism while healthy antioxidants reduce inflammation and improve health. You can buy both at Starbucks, and the fact that it fights tiredness and fatigue certainly doesn’t hurt. There are even some who say that it doesn’t have the same side effects as some other forms of caffeine, even normal coffee.

As far as the energy based benefits, I think that’s pretty obvious. Green coffee bean has plenty of caffeine. What about the rest of it though? Does green coffee bean really have any weight loss or health benefits?

There are plenty of supplements ranging from big brands like Hydroxycut down to a generic brand you might find at Costco or Walmart. There are studies, all of which have been funded by companies who are interested in selling green coffee bean products (surprise!). These studies do often find that people were more likely to lose weight when they used a higher dose of green coffee bean such as 400mg, but is this actually true, or are the results simply biased?

The caffeine in the green coffee bean used in these studies has an effect on energy, but it wouldn’t have actually been enough on its own to explain the substantial benefits and weight loss supposedly found. Scientists explain this by saying that green coffee bean has an ingredient known as chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that changes how the body responds to sugar. This ingredient may help to reduce the risk of diabetes (as coffee is known to).

It’s something that is still under investigation, and I would like to see an independent trial funded by the government (or someone who isn’t trying to sell us green coffee bean, a miracle supplement….). However, only time will tell if this is actually going to happen.

Workout Supplements That Actually Work

Walk around a health food store, and you will see a plethora of workout supplements that claim to do the impossible, or at least to help you to up your workout results. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of hot air being blown around, and if it sounds too good to be true, it is. But your gym and health food store make millions off your beliefs if you believe a product works.

Now tame your expectations. There is no miracle supplement, but the good news is that there are some that do promote results. There are some that can help you to build more muscle and work out more effectively or be less sore after workouts. It’s the small stuff that counts.

  1. Creatine Monohydrate

    Bodybuilders have been taking all sorts of creatine for years. But if you haven’t heard, many have also suffered the creatine bloat. It works with water to protect and enhance your muscles, aiding your recovery, and not just for serious bodybuilders. For weekend warriors, or according to a recent study, elderly people who want to be in better shape, it could work wonders. An analysis of 10 studies on older adults found that those following a strength training program gained 3 extra pounds of muscle over 3 months when they were using creatine.

    Creatine helps with short bursts of energy, and ultimately, you lift heavier weights, do more reps, and therefore get better results. It won’t do everything for you. But it helps you to complete the work that you need to build more muscle.

  2. Betaine

    Betaine is typically found in whole grains and spinach. Men who took this supplement as part of a 6 week program were able to gain more muscle and reduce body fat percentage. The placebo group in a 2013 study didn’t see any differences. Betaine increases protein synthesis, and this builds muscle after difficult workouts. As you can see here, exercise is still required.

  3. Fish Oil

    Fish oil has been touted for its heart health and cholesterol balancing benefits, and it may also have some real muscle and fitness building benefits to boot. A study in the American Journal Clinical of Nutrition found that overweight subjects taking a daily omega-3 fish oil supplement lost more than the placebo group. As Roussell describes it, When that research first came out, people talked a lot about fish oil being a weight loss supplement, but that’s not quite what’s going on. The exercise regimens in the study were heart-rate based, so the subjects had to hit certain heart rate targets during their sessions. The fish oil artificially lowered their heart rate, so they needed to work harder to hit their targets – and thus burned more calories and lost more weight.

    Definitely not the fitness supplement or weight loss supplement most think of. However, if you think about it, anything that inspires you to work harder is going to inspire you to burn more calories. The heart health benefits are just icing on the cake when you think about it that way.

  4. Quercetin

    Quercetin comes with incredibly powerful antioxidant benefits, fighting inflammation and harmful free radicals. It can also aid in healthy oxygen delivery to your muscles, which could lengthen your workouts. This means more calorie burning and better results. An analysis of 11 studies in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that it had a small, but measurable impact on exercise performance.

  5. Whey Protein

    Of course, there are other protein supplements, and I don’t discourage plant based supplements for protein. However, the large majority of the research has focused on whey protein. A lot of this could be applied to protein supplements with the right amounts of protein in general. This said, protein feeds the muscles and reduces soreness while also rebuilding muscle. Not bad, and yes, protein is an essential nutrient your body needs.

    When it comes to the comparison though, some researchers do believe that whey protein is superior. Seltzer explains, Whey protein is more rapidly absorbed by the body compared to other forms of protein, and it creates more of an insulin response. Insulin is an anabolic (muscle building) hormone. Exercise inherently breaks muscle down. But whey protein will help reverse that and allow for faster recovery. Regardless of what kind of protein you choose, make sure it has higher amounts of protein, and be careful of those that have high doses of carbs.

  6. Caffeine

    It seems like the thing that gets you up and going in the morning, and especially if you’re running a morning workout, guess what’s a great motivator. That said, it’s not just for those of us who are not morning people. Seltzer says, When taken before exercise, we know that caffeine helps improve performance and power output, decreases symptoms of fatigue, helps you work longer and stronger, and acts as a mental focusing agent.

    The difference between getting up and going for your workout at any time of day and not going is huge. However, at any time, if you need that extra boost, caffeine can get you moving. This of course assumes that you don’t have heart problems or other medical issues that would cause more problems for you when taking caffeine.

BCAA’s And Your Muscles

What’s the big deal about BCAA’s (branched-chain amino acids)? Why are we always hearing about them and seeing them in all of those muscle supplements.

Amino acids are in short, the building blocks of protein and your muscles. They stack together to feed and build your muscles. Your body can make its own amino acids, but many come from the foods you eat such as meat, eggs, and other proteins. BCAA’s in particular are in limited supply in your body, and they are the limiting factor in your body’s ability to build more muscle.

Regardless of what your fitness goals are, more muscle is key to your success. Muscle tones your body, burns fat, helps you to improve your athletic performance, and more. Muscle building is typically slow, and it can easily accelerate fat loss, but unlike fat loss, it cannot be accelerated in the same way.

Benefits of BCAA’s

So what’s so special about BCAA’s above other amino acids? BCAA’s include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They have a chemical makeup that looks like a tree branch, giving them greater details. BCAA’s in particular help to prevent muscle breakdown, building proteins so that you are getting more faster than you break them down. Leucine is the key BCAA here.

From there, BCAA’s give you fuel for exercise. When you are working out particularly hard, BCAA’s are able to act as fuel for your muscles, helping you to burn more fat and slim down. Various studies have shown that BCAA intake can improve leanness, generally being more associated with a leaner body.

BCAA’s can be found in virtually every protein supplement, drink, powder, as well as fish, eggs, lean beef, chicken, and turkey. However, if you don’t want your entire diet to center around BCAA’s, supplements can be extremely useful and easy to supplement into your day.

Herbs That Can Damage Your Liver

There are plenty of studies that supposedly show that herbs keep us young, heal our hearts, help us to lose weight, and there are some bold companies who have gotten sued and paid millions for claims about curing or even warding off cancer. The problem is that anything can go too far, and in excessive amounts, comfrey for example could actually send you to the hospital, which is why it’s no longer sold in the US. Even excessive amounts of green tea can do some damage to the liver.

This has been a significant enough problem that the American College of Gastroenterology has cautioned consumers specifically about too many natural or herbal products. They caution against the all too common idea that natural products are naturally safer than prescriptions, which just isn’t always true. In fact, according to Dr Herbert Bonkovsky of the Carolinas HealthCare Systems in Charlotte, they’re often not.

Bonkovsky says, Currently, there is not actually very much effective oversight. It’s pretty much up to the manufacturer of these supplements to guarantee what’s actually in there. This could mean companies using much more than the safe dose of a natural ingredient, or it could mean using undisclosed prescriptions or other illegal ingredients. Recently, a number of companies were fined and punished for including the discontinued prescription sibutramine and phenolphthalein, a laxative that was pulled for its potential to cause cancer. The American College of Gastroenterology specifically warns about 5 herbs:

  1. Green Tea

    Green tea is widely seen as a healthy way to boost your metabolism and lose weight. In fact, there are some who recommend 8 cups a day, which is fine. However, the extracts that you get in supplements are concentrated formulas with catechins. Experts now say that catechins can deplete some of the protective molecules in cells such as glutathione that are there to protect us from injury. A high dose of green tea extract can lead in susceptible persons to actually quite severe and even fatal liver injury according to Bonkovsky.

    He continues, We don’t really fully understand the basis for the susceptibility, but it seems likely to be a combination of genetic factors…but also maybe related to their diets, to whether or not they have been drinking alcohol. The FDA has rejected a number of the health claims made by companies trying to push green tea products.

  2. Comfrey

    Technically, this is not supposed to be sold in the US anyway, but it has a toxic substance called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can actually damage your liver. It can even be fatal. Comfrey is not supposed to be sold in the US, except in creams or ointments. But even in this form, I would be careful at the very least.

  3. Kava Kava

    This particular herb comes from the Polynesian islands, and it’s typically thought of as their way to get drunk essentially. There are some religious kids who use it because it’s not technically alcohol, and they can get the same effect, liver damage and all. It has been used to treat anxiety and insomnia, but it is banned in Germany, Switzerland, France, Canada, and Britain due to the effects on the liver.

  4. Skullcap

    Traditionally used by Native Americans, skullcap has uses for anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Chinese skullcap is a different species, but both have been tied to potential liver damage. This is often used in products with multiple herbs. So it may be combinations that actually do the real damage, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for.

  5. Chaparral

    An extract of the creosote bush, chaparral is believed to help people with everything from skin rashes all the way up to cancer, though of course I would be very careful about the cancer idea. It is suspected to cause liver damage due to a compound called NDGA, and it may be related to an allergic or immune reaction to the substance as well. However, the cases have been severe enough to lead to emergency liver transplants.

Vitamins You Shouldn’t Take

If you’re taking a comprehensive multivitamin, you’ve been taught not necessarily to look too closely at the ingredients list, but to assume you need all of these vitamins. Sure, they may make you feel nauseous because of the vitamin overload, but it makes you healthier, right?

The problem has long been that we know that while yes, you need vitamins in your diet, the artificial diet supplements you swallow may not be as good for you as you think. In fact, experts highly encourage getting the majority (if not all) of your vitamins through your diet. I’m not saying that you can’t take vitamins, just that too many people depend on them to supplement an unhealthy diet. These are vitamins you may want to take with a little more care:

  1. Calcium

    Especially if you’re older, you need to amp up the calcium in your diet. In addition, it wouldn’t hurt to take a calcium supplement just for a little extra help. Calcium supplements, when used incorrectly, can actually be dangerous though. Older bodies, especially those over 50, may actually have more difficulty absorbing calcium, leading to absorption by the arteries and a hardening of the arteries, stroke, and heart disease. In other words, if you are going to take calcium, especially as an older adults, do it under a doctor’s supervision.

  2. Prenatal Vitamins (If You’re Not Pregnant)

    I had a friend in jr high who insisted that she took prenatal vitamins that helped her skin and hair. There are plenty of people who certainly try to market it that way. But if you are pregnant, you don’t actually need that overload of vitamins. Prenatal vitamins have a lot more iron that can lead to an overload of iron, which comes with plenty of nasty side effects. It could also lead to constipation, nausea, and vomiting, all of which are not so pretty. Actually, prenatal vitamins may be a good part of the reason why some women suffer morning sickness (some morning sickness just is what it is). Pregnant women need the extra nutrients for baby, you don’t.

  3. Creatine

    I know, you’ve heard all about creatine and its muscle building effects. Creatine surrounds your muscles with water, ideally to stop soreness and help you to recover faster. Unfortunately, it can lead to a lot of stomach upset and bloating. In addition, excessive use can actually lead to dehydration and kidney damage over time. It may also aggravate the symptoms of asthma. There are even some who recommend only taking creatine under medical supervision. This may be a bit far for most of us, but it never hurts to be careful.

  4. Vitamin C

    If you get too much vitamin C, you’ll probably just pee it out. It comes with plenty of healthy benefits with all of its germ fighting, antioxidants, and it’s an essential vitamin. Unfortunately, too much vitamin C could actually increase your risk of kidney stones. Ya, ew. It’s weird, but in general, you’re probably already getting enough vitamin C too.

  5. Soy Isolate

    Soy isolate is often found in protein bars and shakes, and it’s great for women. Unfortunately, the soy cell looks a lot like estrogen to the body (it’s not actually estrogen). So for men, it can actually have some side effects (if you eat a lot). We’re not talking Jeremy Piven growing moobs here, unless you’re getting an extreme amount that you could only possibly get in a lot of supplements. A normal diet won’t go that far, and let’s be honest. If you say you’re just eating a lot of tofu, there’s something else going on.

    Still, because of the similarities to estrogen, soy supplements may be something to skip on for men.

  6. Yohimbe

    Okay, so I worked in the natural diet supplement industry, and I’ll admit, I wrote a lot of crap, leaving out the bad to promote certain products for money. It happens. When it comes to yohimbe, it’s one of the things that I just didn’t mention A LOT. Yohimbe (sometimes called yohimbine) has no proven muscle building effects.

    What it does have is some pretty serious health concerns for users. Countries like the UK and Australia have actually banned this particular ingredient. There are people who knowingly try to order it anyway from within those countries, but it typically gets stopped in customs. It also doesn’t have any proven benefits in terms of erectile dysfunction. It can aggravate, and some would say lead to, serious heart arrythmias, liver problems, heart attacks, strokes, you name it. I’m not sure exactly how much it would take to reach this, but most supplements have a mere 5-10mg, and there are companies who have been sued for these types of problems with yohimbe.