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Originally published Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 6:47 PM

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Green-coffee-bean extract shows potential for weight loss

The results of a controlled study showed overweight young adults took a low dose of green coffee-bean extract and lost an average of 17.5 pounds in 22 weeks and reduced their overall body weight by 10.5 percent.

Los Angeles Times

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LOS ANGELES — When roasted at 475 degrees, coffee beans are sometimes described as rich and full-bodied. But for the full-bodied person who is not so rich, unroasted coffee beans — green as the day they were picked — may hold the key to cheap and effective weight loss, new research suggests.

In a study presented Tuesday at the American Chemical Society's spring national meeting in San Diego, 16 overweight young adults took, by turns, a low dose of green-coffee-bean extract, a high dose of the supplement, and a placebo. Though the study was small, the results were striking: Subjects lost an average of 17.5 pounds in 22 weeks and reduced their overall body weight by 10.5 percent.

If green-coffee extract were a medication seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration, these results would make it a viable candidate — more than 35 percent of subjects lost more than 5 percent of their body weight, and weight loss appeared to be greater while subjects were taking the pills than when they were on the placebo.

But as a dietary supplement, green-coffee extract does not require the FDA's blessing. In fact, it is already available as a naturopathic medicine and antioxidant.

Joe Vinson, the University of Scranton chemist who conducted the pilot study, said the findings should pave the way for more rigorous research on coffee-bean extract's effects. A larger trial involving 60 people is being planned.

Vinson, whose research focuses on plant polyphenols and their effects on human health, said it appears that green-coffee-bean extract may work by reducing the absorption of fat and glucose in the gut; it may also reduce insulin levels, which would improve metabolic function. There were no signs of ill effects on any subjects, Vinson reported Tuesday.

For six weeks, volunteers swallowed capsules three times a day, ingesting either 700 or 1,050 milligrams of green-coffee extract a day or taking a placebo. Subjects did not change their calorie intake over the course of the trial. But the more extract they consumed, the more weight and fat they lost. Altogether, they reduced body fat by 16 percent, on average.

Of the 16 volunteers, six wound up with a body mass index in the healthy range.

One downside is that the extract is "extremely bitter." It would be difficult to take without a lot of water, Vinson reported.

At roughly $20 per month, however, green-coffee extract is much less expensive than any of the weight-loss medications available over the counter or by prescription.

The trial was conducted in India and paid for by Applied Food Sciences of Austin, Texas, a manufacturer of green-coffee-bean extract.

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