Recently a visitor asked me about Capsiplex, the red pepper based, “clinically proven and endorsed by celebrities and doctors” diet pill everybody is “raving” about. Apparently, he couldn’t find a real review of the product, as all the write ups he found were nothing more than a regurgitation of the product’s sales pitch made by enthusiastic affiliates eager to earn a commission on referred sales (promoting Capsiplex pays well—affiliates earn 30% of sales).
He assumed that perhaps this financial conflict of interest was preventing an “honest” review from being undertaken. He asked that we do the “UltimateFatBurner.com” treatment on Capsiplex.
Of course, he had us at the “doctor recommended” and “celebrity endorsed.” So yes… we’re only too happy to oblige.
So what exactly is Capsiplex?
It’s a product that contains a combination of 4 ingredients: caffeine (200 mg), capsaicin 33.4 mg (capsaicin is the active component of chili peppers that gives them their heat) 20 mg of niacin (a B Vitamin), and 5 mg Bioperine (a proprietary pepper extract added to supplements to improve the bioavailability of the various ingredients).
The first thing you notice when you check out Capsiplex online at the official web site, is that there’s a lot of talk about science, and how Capsiplex is one of the few supplements actually backed by any….
“The unique Capsiplex formula is backed by 30+ years of research, studies and human trials.”
There is also much ado about a clinical study performed at the University of Oklahoma, which was apparently double blind, placebo controlled, randomized, etc, etc.
But despite all the “hullabaloo” made about this study by the retailer and its legions of affiliates, it doesn’t seem to be published anywhere (and the retailers aren’t providing a link or a PDF so we can verify the amazing results for ourselves). After some digging, I found out why…
The actual study wasn’t performed on Capsiplex. No, it was performed on OmniActive’s Capsimax Plus. Capsiplex appears to be a “rebranded” Capsimax Plus (it appears that Capsimax Plus is the actual, trademarked ingredient used. Later, when Dr. Karen Vieira is introduced, her “endorsement” of Capsiplex seems to verify this; it mentions Capsimax 4 times in a row).
And there are two published studies available; this first one—funded by OmniActive itself and performed on 20 exercise-trained men and women—demonstrated supplementing with Capsimax increases plasma free fatty acids, which in essence “suggests” this product may aid in the loss of bodyfat (read the “discussion” element of the study for more on this).
There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about this; it’s consistent with what we already know about red pepper and capsaicin. Caffeine too, has well established, albeit mild, metabolism-elevating characteristics (see Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Jan;49(1):44-50, Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 May;33(5):989-97).
The second, much-ballyhooed study—the one performed at the University of Oklahoma—didn’t even address energy metabolism and calorie burn. No, it was on studying cycling time to exhaustion and muscular strength and it demonstrated no effects.
But what about the claims on the web site?
What about the study that showed 278 more calories were burned before, during and after exercise compared to placebo? (The ad copy claims you can burn 278 more calories per day; that’s based on the assumption you’re exercising vigorously every day; otherwise, this claim is not applicable, regardless of the authenticity of the science behind it).
Apparently this is an unpublished study.
That’s right; it’s not published in a peer reviewed journal, and therefore not available for us (or anyone else for that matter) to review, critique, or evaluate. We have nothing but the retailer’s word to go on for this. And since the study results were discussed in a 2009 trade industry article it’s a bit odd that it hasn’t seen the light of day in some journal, somewhere. That is, of course, unless there may be some details (or lack thereof) that would call the desired conclusion into question.
The remainder of studies referenced were not performed on either the Capsiplex or Capsimax formulas; they deal with studies performed with high doses of red pepper (anywhere from 3-10 grams and more; see study abstracts here, here and here as examples).
Red pepper extracts also seem to help with satiety and possibly a reduced energy/fat intake, although studies validating this last point indicate an adherence to the “maximum tolerable dose” was a necessity.
Nonetheless, the argument here is not that appropriately dosed red-pepper/capsaicin supplements can’t help (especially when they are stacked with caffeine).
What needs to be put into context is just how much they can help.
Our scientific and technical advisor Elissa put it this way…
“It’s like getting a $50 discount on a Cadillac. Measureable and statistically significant, but overall it hardly makes a difference.”
What’s that worth to you, exactly?
Since Capsiplex is shipped from the UK, it sells for 34.25 Euros plus shipping (approximately $48 US + $16 shipping to North America).
We’d argue that’s pretty expensive, especially when you can buy the original Capsimax formula—the formula the studies were actually performed on—for just over $10 at Swanson vitamins
At this price we say; go ahead and try it if you want. Just don’t expect miracles. There is absolutely nothing here to warrant a $64 expenditure, however.
What about the “doctor recommended” claim?
Yes, Capsiplex appears to be “doctor” recommended. Sort of. Let me explain…
Karen Vieira has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. So yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to call her “doctor.” However, she is not a medical doctor, as is implied by the Capsiplex advertising. As our scientific and technical advisor Elissa explains…
“Ph.D.’s merit the title of doctor, but when it comes to public documents, it’s considered proper professional practice to make sure that distinctions are clearly communicated. Thus, my “Superfruits” book wasn’t written by “Dr. Paul Gross” – it was written by “Paul Gross, Ph.D.” Likewise, “Dr. Oz’s” book, “You, The Owners Manual” wasn’t written by “Dr. Oz” – it was written by “Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.”
This is important, since, conceivably, you could pass off someone with a doctorate in English as a “doctor” for the purposes of advertising… which is obviously deceptive. One is “doctor” to one’s students and peers, but not when it comes to presenting yourself to the general public. The FTC has called people on this before.
To be a professional means being precise, so as not to mislead. Thus, referring to Karen Vieira as “Dr. Vieira” isn’t “wrong” per se (she holds a legitimate doctorate after all), but the failure to clarify is.”
Sidenote: Karen Vieira also owns a business called “TheMedWriters.com”, which writes supplement sales copy, compiles product formulas and so on.
And what about the “celebrity endorsement” claims? Impossible to verify, and meaningless even if they are genuine, as personal testimonials are anecdotal—regardless from whom they come.