Calorease is a relatively new weight loss product and is entirely comprised of a fiber source called FBCx™. FBCx™’ is a patented form of “alpha-Cyclodextrin” (sometimes known as α-dextrin, α-cyclodextrin, α-CD, alphadextrin or alpha cyclodextrin), which is a grain-based soluble fiber.
What makes it a little more interesting is that it seems to demonstrate some fat-binding characteristics.
FBCx™ was recently featured on the Dr. Oz show in a feature called “How to Get Your Fat to Eat Itself.” According to Oz, and and the makers of Calorease…
“FBCx can absorb 9 times its weight in fat and can bind up to 500 fat calories per day.”
Sounds great, right?
Well, I don’t want to rain on your parade, but it sounds just a little too good to be true. One thing that got the “spider senses” tingling were the weasel-words, “can” and “up to.” For instance…
“FBCx can absorb 9 times its weight in fat and can bind up to 500 fat calories per day” refers to a theoretical, outer limit. But it’s not the same as saying: “FBCx absorbs 9 times its weight in fat and binds 500 fat calories per day.”
In other words, your results may vary.
And with most supplements that sound just a little too good to be true – especially ones that get breathess recommendations from Dr. Oz – there’s one good place to start our detective work…
With the clinical data.
“The weight loss benefit of FBCx was discovered by two professors from the Department of Nutrition and Food Science and Department of Pathology, of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
They discovered FBCx in their jobs as faculty at Wayne State University. A pure research project to satisfy the curious minds of scholars turned out to be much more exciting than they had dreamed. The original research project with an obese animal model identified that one gram of FBCx binds and eliminates up to 9 grams of dietary fat. It also showed the beneficial effects of FBCx on body weight management. These beneficial effects have been further verified in clinical trials.”
This is not exactly what I’d call “accurate.” The professors Joseph Artiss and Kai-Li Catherine Jen didn’t discover a “weight loss benefit of “alpha-Cyclodextrin” because in the initial study, weight loss was not actually measured… rather, a reduction in weight gain was! And it’s not as if they were the first ones to ever look into this supplement; some of the benefits of alpha-Cyclodextrin were already known to researchers.
In fact, their study was pretty underwhelming if you want to call a spade a spade; it was performed on rats, and showed no significant weight loss benefit at all, but a reduction in weight gain. It did, however, show an improvement in LDL cholesterol levels and some fatty acid profiles. Again, no surprise here, especially on the cholesterol side of things; soluble dietary fiber has long been known to have a small effect lowering cholesterol levels.
In addition to this initial study, the study’s authors were involved in 3 additional published studies on FBCx. This later study showed a weight “maintenance benefit” and a reduction in blood lipids, this one showed a very minor weight loss benefit and the same blood lipid benefits, and this one performed in 2013, showed a reduction in postprandial blood triglyceride levels.
But where’s the human-based clinical data that justifies the claim that 1 gram of FBCx binds with and eliminates 9 grams of dietary fat?
There isn’t any.
It’s based on the original rat study, which did not actually detect any differences in fat excretion ( they reference this study, which did), but instead, calculated this ratio based on the difference in body weight gain among treatments.
Ph.D. student Marcial Guevara Zubillaga obtained much more modest results with alpha Cyclodextrin…
“Intake of ACD by the dogs decreased fat digestibility by approximately 1 percentage unit, which represents a reduction of absorption of ~0.5 g fat for a mean ACD intake of 9 g/dog/d. Therefore, this effect appears to be not as strong as previously reported.”
Of course, this isn’t human-based study either. It’s dogs. So make of it what you will.
But what about the apparent weight loss benefit?
Well, there is a weight loss experiment detailed in the patent application…
 To determine if .alpha.-cyclodextrin added to a high fat diet resulted in weight loss, .alpha.-cyclodextrin was added to the high fat diet of a test subject, i.e., a 50 year old male human volunteer, five feet seven inches tall with an initial weight of 267 pounds. The .alpha.-cyclodextrin was added to the subject’s diet in a proportion of one gram Of .alpha.-cyclodextrin for every nine grams of fat that were estimated to be consumed by the subject. FIG. 8 demonstrates the change in the body weight of the subject over a period of. 200 days, approximately 6 months.sub.– By 6 months the subject’s body weight was reduced by 32 pounds. In addition to the weight loss, within the first two weeks of the study, the subject’s elevated blood pressure fell to the point where he was forced to reduce his prescribed beta-blacker by one-third. His blood triglycerides were also assayed during this time and his blood serum triglyceride levels were decreased by 23% within the first month and 46% by the end of six months. The effects of the .alpha.-cyclodextrin on various parameters are set forth in Table 2.”
… but it was only performed on a single individual.
There is a second study (labeled “FBCx and Weight Loss in Adults” on the Calorease site), the full text of which is available here.
How did it fare? Well…
- The extra weight loss seen during the active phase was slight (roughly a pound on average over the course of a month); and considerably less than what would have occurred with a reduction of “up to” 500 calories/day absorbed. If this clinical trial announcement is anything to go by this mechanism (in humans) is still strictly hypothetical.
- There were no significant differences in measured body fat or waist circumference between the active/control phases.
In other words… meh.
Interestingly enough, there’s ZERO discussion of the “9x claim” in this study that we see in the advertising.
When I checked in with our Elissa Lowe, our Scientific and Technical Advisor, about FCBx™, she had this to say…
One of the things stressed in the patent app, is that the stuff doesn’t work particularly well if dietary fat is low. Dietary fat needs to be high-ish – roughly 100g/day. Assuming the consumption of a diet calculated to maintain weight (including 900 calories of fat), the steady-but-unremarkable weight loss reported above is roughly consistent with a reduction in 500 fat calories a day. Of course, it’s a “one-off” data point, but it does fit the basic claim. And, I would expect a higher fat diet to be more satiating than a lower fat one, so I guess I could see where this stuff might be useful for modest weight loss… pending more and better human based data.
While I have no specific quarrels with the science that’s been done (and, as an aside, it’s good to see that some science has actually been done), the case for this stuff (so far) as a supplement is fairly underwhelming.
So where does that leave you?
Well, as you can plainly see, despite Dr. Oz’s claims to the contrary, both FCBx’s fat binding and weight loss effects are far from being “written in stone.” As Elissa indicates, FCBx seems to work best in a high fat diet, and if you’re consuming such a diet, the smarter thing might be to address your fat consumption first. It may also mitigate the damage from high fat cheat meals (which is what Oz seems to suggest on his show), but I would argue that unless you are constantly cheating on your diet – which makes it no diet at all, really – the tangible results from such experimentation will be inconsequential.
Of course, it’s not cheap either – a month’s supply will set you back $50.
It is worth an experiment?
That is a call only you can make. But now at least you can do so with an accurate assessment of the product’s effects.