Editor’s Note: this review has been flagged for an update — there is no usnic acid in the current version of Lipolyze. This does not necessarily mean it’s a great product that’s worthy of a "thumbs up" now, but it’s certainly a less problematic one.
I was just over at BodyBuilding.com checking out some of the more popular fat burners when I came across Species Nutrition’s Lipolyze. Apparently, it’s one of the top selling “stimulant free products.” However, that’s not really why I decided to review it. The reason why I think it’s important to discuss this product is because it contains an ingredient we haven’t really covered yet… usnic acid.
It’s this ingredient that’s behind Species Nutrition’s claim that Lipolyze is a “calorie wasting” supplement.
You see, usnic acid—which is derived from the simple lichen—is being advertised as an “uncoupling agent.” Basically, what this means is that usnic acid ramps up and enables the “energy creation” processes in the cell, which manifests itself as heat and consequentially, an increase in the metabolic rate.
Of course, as a discerning consumer, you might well ask… “is there any evidence to back this up?” The answer is that the only positive evidence available to date has been obtained through animal studies (see Nat Toxins. 1996;4(2):96-102).
There is no human-based data to validate these claims. Worse, anecdotal reports indicate usnic acid may well be highly toxic to the liver. Animal studies (J Ethnopharm 2004;90:381-7) already demonstrate usnic acid’s toxic effect.
One study (see Ann Intern Med. 2002 Apr 16;136(8):590-5) investigated the possible link between the usnic-acid-based fat burner called LipoKinetix and the hepatoxicity displayed by 7 of its users. It concluded…
“The use of LipoKinetix may be associated with hepatoxicity. Despite extensive evaluations, no other cause for hepatoxicity could be identified in the seven patients studied.”
So there are two “take home” lessons here. First, the evidence justifying usnic acid’s use as a fat burner is pretty flimsy indeed. Second, there appears to be some valid issues regarding its toxicity, especially in the liver. As our scientific and technical advisor Elissa put it…
“Usnic acid looks to be potentially nasty stuff. While a dose in this range is probably safe, I’d also be willing to bet that a “safe” dose would be less effective. Nonetheless, it’s a little scary to see an ingredient like this being used, when there is little evidence of its efficacy, and no good estimate of what a safe level of intake might be, for both short and long-term use.”
This is hardly an ingredient you want to mess around with (it’s also a perfect example of why “all natural” ingredients aren’t necessarily benign and harmless).
What else will you find in Lipolyze?
1. Green tea extract: Standardized for EGCG, one of the most important green tea catechins. Evidence indicates EGCG does elevate the metabolism at a dosage of 300 mg/day (J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Aug;26(4):389S-395S). A daily 3-capsule serving of Lipolyze contains well over this amount. It’s too bad Lipolyze doesn’t contain caffeine though; other studies suggest EGCG is more effective when combined with stimulants (see J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Aug;26(4):396S-402S).
2. Propionyl-L-Carnitine: L-Carnitine has been used in fat burners since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Evidence showing it is helpful is conflicting, and the only positive clinical data has been obtained with vastly greater amounts of carnitine than is included in this product. Additionally, there’s no evidence to indicate this particular form of carnitine is any better at its job than the “ordinary” stuff.
3. Vitamin E: In vitro animal studies indicate the toxicity of usnic acid can be mitigated by the addition of an antioxidant like vitamin E (see Biochem Pharmacol. 2004 Feb 1;67(3):439-51). I can think of no other reason for this ingredient to be included.
4. Guggulsterones Z & E: Derived from guggul, the Z & E isomers are two of the most important, and thought to offer the greatest benefits. A small body of evidence indicates guggulsterones may also have value as a fat burner (see J Postgrad Med. 1995 Jan-Mar;41(1):5-7) specifically by increasing thyroid T3 hormone levels.
5. C-AMP: Also called “cyclic AMP” this compound is known as a cellular regulator. Theoretically, supplementing with cAMP (or the appropriate herbals – i.e., coleus forskohlii or clary sage extract) should ramp up the metabolism and even boost thyroid levels. Any studies I’ve seen to date show that cAMP boosting products have a relatively insignificant effect on weight loss.
Lipolyze is an average, but not particularly inspired product. Its value lies in its EGCG and guggulsterones content, either of which you could purchase for significantly less money. Usnic acid is the dark horse here, and given the very distinct possibility of hepatoxicity, this is not a product I would mess around with lightly.