I have to be honest; had a couple of site visitors not alerted me to this product, I’d never have heard about TonaLean and Dr. David Williams, despite the fact that his official web site describes him as…
“… one of the world’s leading authorities on natural healing.”
Nevertheless, his weight loss offering TonaLean is generating a bit of buzz and since several people have shown interest in the product – wondering specifically if the claim (“lose 30 lbs in 90 days”) is accurate, I thought I’d better take a look.
So what’s the scoop with TonaLean?
Well, to begin with, it’s a relatively simple product containing a mere 3 ingredients. That’s good. The fewer the ingredients in a formula, the greater the likelihood they are included in a dose potent enough to actually accomplish something.
Like pharmaceuticals, the effectiveness of the sort of ingredients normally found in over the counter fat burners and weight loss products are entirely dependent on dose and potency.
Supplement retailers often under-dose their products, although proprietary formulas sometimes make this difficult to confirm.
What’s in it? A full day’s serving (6 capsules) contains…
1) Chromium polynicotinate (200 mcg): Chromium is a trace mineral that plays a key role in insulin function, which is why it is added to many weight loss supplements. Clinical studies are inconclusive when it comes to proving it is helpful for weight loss (see the full review of chromium for links to relevant clinical data) although one study conducted with the niacin bound chromium used in this formula showed a modest benefit. That’s not a reason to get excited though; the study was performed with 600 mcg – 3 times the amount present in this formula.
2) Conjugated Linoleic Acid (3200 mg): Also known as CLA, this non-essential fatty acid has been a fairly popular weight loss supplement for some time (see our complete review here!), largely due to the consistent clinical study data showing it is moderately helpful for dieters. A meta analysis of the published clinical study data showed that a 3.2 gram dose of CLA (the amount included here) was indeed optimal, and concluded…
“Given at a dose of 3.2 g/d, CLA produces a modest loss in body fat in humans.”
The CLA in this formula comes from Tonalin, the patented version of the supplement.
3) GreenSelect Phytosome (300 mg): Any way you want to slice it, green tea is a great supplement, and it exhibits some real benefits for weight loss. These benefits, however, are often exaggerated by retailers.
If you look at some of the clinical studies validating its use, you will see what I mean. For example, in one widely cited study, men consuming 690mg green tea catechins in beverage form lost nearly twice as much weight and fat as did men consuming a low-catechin control beverage. That’s a genuine difference… but in real terms, it meant that the test group lost an average of 5.3 pounds over 12 weeks, while the controls lost 2.9 pounds.
That’s an additional 2.4 pounds over a 3 month period.
Not exactly the stuff of weight loss dreams.
So what is “GreenSelect Phytosome” then?
It’s a special, proprietary green tea extract that outperforms regular green tea.
That’s what the retailers will tell you.
And they will point to a peer-reviewed clinical study to confirm this, even if the journal the study is published in is devoted to “Alternative Medicine” – a status that almost certainly has an influence on the rigor of the peer-review process. This more “relaxed” attitude can be seen in the paper itself… although the general facts are correctly reported on the manufacturer’s (Indena’s) web site…
One hundred patients affected by overweight and obesity have been treated with 150 mg of Greenselect® Phytosome® twice daily (300 mg/day). During the study, all patients (treated and placebo) followed a low caloric diet (1250-1350 Kcal for women and 1650-1750 Kcal for men) distributed in at least 4 meals per day.
Parameters such as body weight, body mass index, waistline, total cholesterol, basal glycemia and total triglycerides were measured at the beginning, after 45 days and after 90 days (end of the study).
The average weight loss was of 6 kg in the diet only group and 14 kg in the treated group. Accordingly, relevant results have been reported in terms of body mass index, waistline and blood parameters.
…the account obscures the fact that no placebo was used for the control (diet alone) group!
This is a methodological issue, as it’s well-known that people respond strongly to pills, particularly those given in a clinical setting. And the study write up makes no mention of blinding, either – how the researchers interact with the subjects and set expectations is critical.
That’s why placebo-controlled trials are also typically “double-blind” – that is, neither the subject nor the experimenter knows which treatments being dispensed are the “real” or “dummy” ones. That way, the experimenter cannot subtly (or overtly) influence the subjects’ behavior.
Placebo-controlled, double-blind studies are the “gold standard.” This one fell short, and inexplicably so, since it would not have been difficult to add this extra layer of care. Thus, this study is suggestive, but far from conclusive.
In the light of past research on green tea, it’s easy to believe that Green Select Phytosome had some positive effect on the subjects’ weight loss, but until a better-controlled study is done, it’s impossible to say if it really is a superior alternative to other standardized green tea extracts as a weight loss supplement ingredient.
So where does that leave TonaLean?
Well the “30 pounds in the 90 days” claim comes directly from the GreenSelect Phytosome results quoted by the manufacturer (the treated group lost 14 kg in 90 days, or about 30 lbs). As we’ve seen, that study, while suggestive, suffers from some methodological flaws.
Incidentally, the participants in the study were also dieting; women were restricted to 1,350 calories and men, 1,850 calories. If you are not restricting calories to a similar level, you cannot expect to achieve similar results.
CLA is a decent, but hardly revolutionary supplement, and chromium? Useful – especially for those who suffer from vacillating blood sugar levels – but no miracle.
The main issue with TonaLean is not its ingredients. The formula isn’t really that bad. Its cost, however, is another story. A month’s supply will set you back $60.
For half of that you can buy…
- Almost two months worth of a potent, proven green tea extract (just under $6.00 for 100 caps at BodyBuilding.com)
- A month’s worth of CLA (about $18.00 for a month’s worth at BodyBuilding.com)
- 3 months worth of chromium (about $6.00 for a 3 month supply at BodyBuilding.com).
… and take them together for your own budget version of this product.
That would be the route I would go, if I really felt I had to try TonaLean.
March 20, 2013
For what it’s worth, Swanson actually carries the same GreenSelect® Phytosome™ green tea extract – 60 600mg caps for $14.99, so for a few extra dollars, you could dupe this formula perfectly, and still be money ahead.