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What are ketones in the first place?
Raspberries themselves have always been considered part of a healthy diet, given that they're high in antioxidants and low in calories. And ketones come from red raspberries, though they're also found in cranberries and blackberries.
Raspberry ketones are the primary aromatic compound of the red raspberry — in plain English, ketones are the elements that give off that delicious raspberry smell you find in soft drinks and ice creams. You can have the scent without actually having the fruit.
In fact, you can't get a significant dose of ketones from eating raspberries. You'd need to eat roughly 90 pounds worth of fruit to get the same concentration found in ketone supplements.
Chemically, raspberry ketones are biosynthesized from coumaroyl-CoA, which is a key compound in plant chemicals called flavonoids. Ketones are also considered antioxidants, and have a structure similar to capsaicin (that's what gives chili peppers their spice) and synephrine, which is a natural alternative to ephedrine, often used in weight loss supplements.
Both capsaicin and synephrine have shown promise as anti-obesity treatments. (Capsaicin is something we've covered before in our newsletter — see Issue 23 and Issue 156.)
Besides medicinal uses and flavorings, raspberry ketone is used in makeup and as a fragrance. Some people even consider it helpful in correcting hair loss.
Consumable raspberry ketone is a manufactured product and retails through a variety of supplement makers.
Raspberry ketones got a lot of lip service last February after being featured on the Dr. Oz show. The segment was titled "Miracle fat-burner in a bottle" (and who doesn't love that idea?). Stores couldn't keep up with the demand that followed.
A lot of the excitement comes from mice studies where the animals were put on a high-fat diet and given significant doses of ketones for 10 weeks. The mice that got the high ketone doses accumulated less fat than the control group. They also appeared to have a significant increase in fat decomposition.
Because of those animal studies, it's believed that raspberry ketones might help with metabolism. The theory is that they affect a hormone called adiponectin which helps regulate glucose levels and the breakdown of fatty acids.
Some healers refer to adiponectin as a fat-burning hormone that helps enhance sensitivity to insulin and decrease blood sugar levels. It's also known to increase lean body mass.
Adiponectin levels are mostly determined by diet, exercise, genetics, and the amount of abdominal fat a person has. It's believed that by increasing adiponectin, the body is better able to regulate metabolism and keep stored-up fat in check.
But if we overeat or quit exercising, adiponectin levels get overwhelmed by the amount of calories that need to be metabolized. That's when love handles and belly fat start to build.
Ketones and cancer prevention
Here's where the cancer connection comes in. When adiponectin levels start to drop, the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity-related cancers goes up. The chance of developing malignancies also goes up.
On top of that, several cancer cell lines have adiponectin receptors. And in vitro tests of adiponectin showed that it limits cancer cell proliferation and prompts apoptosis (cell death).
Researchers have also found that the less adiponectin a woman has, the greater her risk of endometrial cancer and -- if she's post-menopausal -- breast cancer. And because low adiponectin is also associated with insulin resistance — that early warning sign of diabetes -- and insulin resistance helps determine obesity, a drop in adiponectin levels may mean a rise in dysfunctional fat tissue that could lead to cancer.
So it's clear that adiponectin plays a role both in determining cancer risk and may point toward a possible treatment. Plus, medications that increase adiponectin levels are proving to be useful as anticancer agents. So in terms of understanding and treating obesity-associated malignancies, adiponectin could be an important key.
If raspberry ketones are the best natural vehicle we have for upping adiponectin levels, that's great news. But we don't quite know that yet...
So far, so good — but there's not enough evidence
A problem right now is that high-profile endorsements with little scientific backing are giving raspberry ketones a pretty bad name. From what I understand, they may help you get off a weight-loss plateau or get back on track with your weight loss goals, but they aren't a miracle drug in terms of obesity.
Something to keep in mind is that raspberry ketones aren't considered effective on their own. You've still got to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle if you want to realize the benefits of this supplement. They aren't a magic bullet. They're just one part of a plan to lose weight.
What's more, there are other natural ways to increase your adiponectin levels, besides raspberry ketone supplementation. Exercise and diet go a long way. As I mentioned above, adiponectin levels fall too low in the first place because we eat too much and we're too inactive.
Other tips for increasing adiponectin levels include drinking coffee and taking sweet potato extract or the herbal supplement berberine. Again -- the science of manipulating adiponetin levels is too new to say much more.
If you decide to take the plunge anyway, what dose of ketones should you take? Turns out it's not easy to say. It depends on basic factors like age and general health along with preexisting conditions.
Little is known about side effects (if any) of raspberry ketones. We need more research, as usual. Some medical professionals worry about the connection between raspberry ketones and synephrine, given that synephrine is a stimulant. It's known to cause the jitters at least or high blood pressure at worst.
That leaves the whole safety issue up in the air, although the FDA gave raspberry ketones GRAS status (generally recognized as safe) over forty years ago. I suspect they were looking at small doses used as a food flavoring; they probably weren't considering large, therapeutic doses.
I'm no expert, but this isn't rocket science: If you find yourself feeling too wired or you're having insomnia, cut back on your dose or stop altogether.
Raspberry ketones hold a lot of promise as an herbal medicine for several processes that underlie disease. I look forward to learning more as new findings come out.
Lee Euler, Publisher
"Adiponectin and breast cancer risk." Mantzoros C, et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Mar;89(3):1102-7.
"Fighting Common Diseases Using Raspberry Ketones." By Raspberry Ketone.
"Raspberry ketone." Wikipedia.
"Raspberry Ketone." Find a Vitamin or Supplement, Web MD.
"Raspberry Ketones Help Fat Cells Shrink." By Dr. Rosenberg, FoodTrients.
"Raspberry Ketones: What Is The Evidence Beyond Dr. Oz?" By Christopher Maloney, ND. March 12, 2012. Alternative Holistic Health Answers.
"Raspberry Ketone: What Science Says." Articles, Dr. Oz Show at DrOz.com. April 19, 2012.
"The Role of Adiponectin in Cancer: A Review of Current Evidence." By Maria Dalamaga, Kalliope N. Diakopoulos and Christos S. Mantzoros. Endocrine Reviews. April 30, 2012 er.2011-1015.
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