Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Dr. Oz really knows how to get people talking about health and nutrition, which is a good thing, I guess. He’s definitely increased awareness. But it does seem, at times, that he maybe goes overboard a little in his promotion of certain foods and supplements.

To be fair, though, it’s not just Dr. Oz: Other health-care professionals and researchers have jumped onto the supplement bandwagon in the past, and lo and behold, you suddenly see the supplement of choice plastered all over the Internet and hear it mentioned in water cooler chat at the office. This week, I’m highlighting two such supplements that everyone’s currently buzzing about.

Raspberry Ketones
A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Oz hosted Lisa Lynn, a weight-loss “expert,” on his show to discuss (and promote) raspberry ketone supplement. No, raspberry ketones are not the same as blood or urine ketones (end-products of fat-burning). Raspberry ketones are natural substances found in raspberries (in very small amounts, by the way) that give raspberries their delicious aroma. The food industry uses them for flavoring and scenting foods. It was mentioned on The Dr. Oz Show that it would take 90 pounds of fresh raspberries to get the amount of ketone that’s in a supplement form. So, because of this, the raspberry ketone that comes in supplement form is actually concocted in a lab.

The hype. Google “raspberry ketones” and you’ll be amazed at the number of Web sites and advertisements that pop up on your screen. What’s the big deal? Raspberry ketones apparently can promote weight loss by revving up metabolism. How? By boosting levels of two different hormones, norepinephrine and adiponectin.

Norepinephrine is a cousin of epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). Both of these hormones are involved in the “fight-or-flight” response (imagine being chased by, say, a saber-toothed tiger). They speed up your heart rate, stimulate glucose release, boost blood pressure, and raise body temperature. These effects can increase metabolism, or the rate at which you burn calories.

Raspberry ketones supposedly also increase levels of adiponectin. This is another hormone that’s made by fat cells and interestingly, increases insulin sensitivity. The thinking behind higher levels of adiponectin is that glucose levels in the blood are lowered, thereby decreasing the chances of glucose being stored as fat.

The reality. Raspberry ketones are on the FDA’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. But in terms of their fat-burning ability, the only research to support this claim dates back years…and that study was done with mice. Not humans. So we really don’t know if this supplement works. And it’s not without some possible serious side effects: increased heart rate and blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, agitation, and maybe hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Avoid taking this supplement if you have high blood pressure or thyroid issues. We don’t know enough about it how it affects diabetes control, either.

The verdict. Basing weight loss claims on years-old mice studies is not much to go by. The side effects may not be pleasant, let alone safe. And the raspberry ketones don’t exactly come cheap. I suggest waiting this one out until we learn more and see if it’s truly a fat-burning miracle.

Glucocil
Another supplement that’s getting a lot of attention lately is Glucocil. This supplement is targeted to people with Type 2 diabetes, and its claim to fame is that it can reputedly stabilize postmeal blood glucose levels, decrease carbohydrate absorption, decrease appetite, and promote weight management. Pretty hefty claims for a supplement whose key active ingredient is mulberry leaf extract.

The hype. Glucocil consists of a blend of ingredients. Besides mulberry leaf extract, this supplement contains alpha lipoic acid, banaba leaf extract, chromium picolinate, cinnamon bark powder, gymnema sylvestre extract, fish oil, and a few other things thrown in for good measure. Glucocil’s Web site clearly lists the research — but only for each separate ingredient. Nowhere on the site could I find research citing the effectiveness of the actual supplement. Maybe it’s available by contacting the company, but you’d think this would be on the Web site. As far as mulberry leaf extract goes, a few small studies (mostly done with rats) show some reduction in glucose after ingesting it, but not enough to boast about.

The reality. At this time, it’s hard to recommend taking this supplement because we just don’t know enough about it. We don’t know if the blend of these ingredients actually live up to Glucocil’s claims of glucose and weight control, nor do we know if the amount of ingredients in this supplement are in the right proportions to be effective. The Web site states that people under the age of 18, pregnant women, and people with liver and kidney problems should not take Glucocil. Also, they state that if you take insulin and don’t have cardiovascular, liver, or kidney problems, you can “consider” taking Glucocil. Side effects include “minor GI discomfort,” such as gas and loose stools.

The verdict. My advice is to hold off on taking Glucocil. The science behind this supplement seems a little weak. Certainly, if you have heart, liver, or kidney disease, avoid taking it. And keep in mind that a one-month supply will set you back between $35 and $50. Let’s wait for more information to support its effectiveness.

As with any dietary supplement, always check with your health-care provider before taking it. Supplements can interact with medicines and may not be safe if you have certain chronic conditions (including diabetes!). Tell your provider about all the supplements that you take, keep close tabs on how your supplements affect your blood glucose, and report any adverse effects.

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Comments
  1. Sounds good but what about coconut oil? That seems to be all the rage now and I’m hearing conflicting reports about it. Can you help?

    Posted by Amy |
  2. Hello Amy,

    Thanks for your question. You can read Amy Campbell’s take on coconut oil in the blog entry “The Coconut Craze: Coconut Oil.”

    Best,
    Diane Fennell
    Web Editor

    Posted by Diane Fennell |
  3. well I heard of the raspberry ketones…I am glad that I did not rush out and buy it. I also have HBP along with diabetes.

    Posted by PAT |
  4. Dr. Oz did say,before you go out and buy this, please consult your healthcare providers. So, we must take caution for ourselves. Do our own research for what ever illnesses we might have long term.
    That is why I am doing my own research for myself to make sure that it is safe for me to take these supplements.

    Posted by Nae |
  5. I take a raspberry ketones supplement, and I’ve definitely seen a difference.

    Posted by Ramelle |
  6. I also watched Dr Oz’s show on Rasberry Keytones and as most ran out and bought some. The second night I was unable to sleep at all. The third day, I felt like I was going to black out and couldnt keep my sugar level safe. I am type 1 diabetic. After a couple of hours and lots of sugar to maintain. I researched more on this stuff and found this article:

    Raspberry ketones supposedly also increase levels of adiponectin. This is another hormone that’s made by fat cells and interestingly, Increases INSULIN SENSITIVITY. BE CAREFUL IF YOU ARE DIABETIC. My bad for not looking into this further before taking it.

    Posted by Kimberlie |
  7. Thank you for looking into this. I was curious about Raspberry ketones and will reconsider now!

    Posted by Jonas |
  8. I have an under-active thyroid, and take medication. I purchased Raspberry Ketone 500 mg. Are they safe for me to take?
    Thanks

    Posted by Sherry |
  9. Hi Sherry,

    Given that there’s a possibility that raspberry ketone could affect your thyroid, my advice would be not to take this supplement. At the very least, talk with your doctor before doing so.

    Posted by acampbell |
  10. In the case of raspberry ketones, I tried the supplement, and yes, I did lose approx 30 lbs in a little over 2 months, however, I believe the reason I lost it is it drove my glucose level up over 500..That landed me in the hospital for 2 days with insulin shots, etc and insulin injections when i was released. I quit taking the raspberry ketone, and my glucose levels went down to where I dont need insulin, and my daily dose of metformin keeps it in check…Before raspberry ketones A1C was 6.7 , taking them my A1C shot to almost 13, now it is back down to 6.5

    Posted by Mike Baginsky |
  11. Thanks for sharing, Mike. I’m sorry this happened to you. Raspberry ketones have not been well studied, so one obviously needs to be very cautious about these types of supplements.

    Posted by acampbell |
  12. Do you have any articles on the effects of Garcinia Cambogia and it’s effects on blood sugars? This is another one that I believe has been talked about on the Doc Oz show.
    Thank you,
    Carla H.

    Posted by Carla H |
  13. Hi Carla,

    Garcinia cambogia, also called tamarind, among many other things, is used in cooking and as a medicine. Hydroxycitric acid is the extract from garcinia that supposedly has weight loss benefits. Dr. Oz featured garcinia on his show, primarily as a weight-loss aid. However, there really isn’t the research to back up the claims. There may be a small, short-term weight-loss effect, but long-term results aren’t available. A study done in 1998 with 135 people given hydroxycitric acid failed to show any significant weight loss compared to placebo. I haven’t found any link between taking garcinia and blood glucose control. It’s probably safe to take this short term (less than 12 weeks). Possible side effects include nausea, GI discomfort, and headache. One preparation of garcinia was taken off the market due to liver damage. We need more credible studies to show whether this is effective or not.

    Posted by acampbell |
  14. I just finished a bottle of Glucosil. I started at 365 mg/dl blood sugar, now at 195. Its just herbs, stop the hand-wringing.

    Posted by Big Al |
  15. I have taken Glucocil for 2 days and my blood sugars shot up to 238. I wondered if it is the fish oil??? Help I want to get off of Zictoza.

    Posted by ter |
  16. Hi ter,

    It seems unlikely that there’s enough fish oil in this supplement to cause a spike in your blood sugars. Did you do anything differently when you took this, such as not taking your diabetes medicine, eating something different, etc.? Please don’t stop taking Victoza without first talking with your doctor.

    Posted by acampbell |

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