I am NOT an investigative reporter - just someone curious about irvingia as a way to facilitate weight loss. This has brought me into a world of ‘weight loss supplements’ - I don’t think I ever tried a weight loss supplement in my life, to be honest.
Why I even thought about irvingia was that, to me, Life Extension, the people who send me the magazine where I first read about irvingia, have some level of credibility in my book.
There’s some things about them that don’t jibe completely for me - hence there’s no slavish devotion to them or their cause - if an excellent study came out that said supplements were worthless, I doubt they would trumpet this on their shiny 4-color magazine cover.
But I think they are doing some things right. Yeah, they shill supplements, but they do so responsibly. They don’t push some of the supplements that people hurt themselves with - and they usually mention the side effects of the stuff they sell, and who shouldn’t take it.
That seems pretty responsible to me. A world where individuals are given the information needed to make an informed decision as to the possible risks and rewards of any substance they might ingest seems to me to be a worthwhile goal that they also embrace.
So when they mentioned irvingia, and they breathlessly endorsed it as ‘ more weight loss than any other discovery in supplement history ‘ - I took notice.
28 lbs. in 10 weeks is phenomenal, but ingesting something I never heard of, as well as a cost over $100 for a 10-week supply, led me to do some digging.
As I mentioned, irvingia searches on the Internet didn’t turn up much. Irvingia is a tree nut from Africa used in food. It has a lot of fiber and can act as a ‘bulk-forming’ laxative when eaten.
There have also been some studies, so far they all seem to have been done in Cameroon, that indicate that it might also have favorable blood-sugar and cholesterol profile effects.
I also found that bodybuilders have been the most vocal about this stuff on their boards.
Seems to me that bodybuilders are about the smartest folks you can find when it comes to bodyhacking - they are always looking for ways to get more pumped, and more healthy, and will play with all sorts of supplements to do so.
They have also been scammed a lot by peddlers of supplements that claim to provide bodybuilder nirvana but fail to deliver, so many in their community cast a very skeptical eye to any claim for the next great supplement.
Studies should be looked at as highly suspect Both of these studies on irvingia gabonensis were conducted by Julius Oben, which raises huge red flags to me. Oben is the researcher behind a study earlier this year showing that cissus quadrangularis was effective as a fat loss aid.
After digging around, I found that Oben, the lead researcher, is actually employed at Gateway Health Alliances Inc, which supplied all the testing materials (and probably funded) all of these studies (if you search, you’ll find “All testing materials were supplied by Gateway Health Alliances”). Apparently, they’ve hired Oben as the “Chief Scientific Officer” at Gateway. How’s that for impartial.
In addition, Oben holds a patent on Cissus’ use as a weight loss aid: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-P…S=PN/7,175,859. Oben is the “inventor” and Gateway Health Alliances is the assignee. Apparently Oben and Gateway Health Alliances have been working together since as early as 2000.
In 2006, Oben published a similar study “The use of a Cissus quadrangularis formulation in the management of weight loss and metabolic syndrome”. In that study he used a different product from Gateway Health Alliances called Cylaris. It was a mixture of several ingredients including cissus. Of course, it had amazing results, results that Gateway Health Alliances relies on heavily in their marketing: http://www.cylarisweightloss.com/
This doesn’t mean that Oben’s research is necessarily bogus, but can you tell me why an American corporation is having an obscure university in a poor West African country do all the research on their products, while simultaneously employing the lead researcher? Smells like bad fish to me.
Further, how reputable is “Lipids in Health and Disease”, the journal that these were studies were published in? From a dispute about Cylaris:
Some things to think about.
When you read through all this, it does seem that Dr Oben does have a relationship with the Cylaris product, and the Cylaris product does make similar weight loss claims.
what I found most interesting was the cylarisweightloss.com website - or the lack thereof. There’s nothing there, there’s nothing in Google’s cache - and there’s nothing in the Wayback machine that archives much of the internet.
Was there something here at one time? I can’t find evidence that there was - but the forum poster above implied that there was. This will have to remain a mystery for now.
As to the author’s questioning of the journalistic credentials of ”Lipids in Health and Disease”, I do find this journal listed on the Georgetown University Library website, so at least the librarians there think it’s legit.
Anyway - let’s steer clear of sinister motives - it helps nothing. It’s fun, but it gets in the way of truth.
What follows is conjecture - I am making this up - it’s one potential scenario.
What might be going on here is that we have a researcher that specializes in looking for weight-loss formulations. He came up with one around 2000, and sold it to a company that licensed it to Iovate, where it met with some success. You can read comments about this stuff here.
Fast-forward. Dr Oben has moved on to the study of irvingia. Though perhaps flawed, his studies reveal that something is going on here. Maybe this one is the real deal. He goes to the Life Extension folks, instead of Iovate, and shows them the research. They do their own research on the product and they think that the stuff is the real deal, and launch a product.
Now, if you go to the Life Extension site, these people have a lot more to lose. They sell a lot of supplements, memberships, and even prescription drugs, and in my years reading their magazine, I honestly believe that they believe in what they are doing.
If they were to back this product and put their name on it, and it is garbage, or a dud, there could be blowback. This could harm their reputation and credibility. Life Extension has been around for 28 years. This is from their About Us page:
The Life Extension Foundation is a nonprofit organization, whose long-range goal is the extension of the healthy human lifespan. In seeking to control aging, our objective is to develop methods to enable us to live in vigor, health and wellness for an unlimited period of time. The Life Extension Foundation was officially incorporated in 1980, but its founder has been involved in antiaging research since the 1960s.
My conclusion at this juncture is we can’t be certain of the effects of irvingia - or low carb - or paleo - or vegetarianism - or nearly anything that researchers conclude. Studies contradict each other daily.
Why? Because clinical research is hard. It’s also expensive and time consuming. In addition, researchers are human and suffer from the same cognitive biases that everyone else does. That’s why there’s the concept of peer review.
But peer review can’t save us when the peer holds the same biases, so all research, especially in the life sciences, is pretty much a pointer - a placeholder, an approximation, that stands until a better study, that asks better questions, comes along.
We need to research the decisions we make about our health to the best of our ability, based on the best information we have, knowing that it is lacking, and make informed decisions on them.
This post is just as suspect as all the other information presented here. I suffer from the same biases and blind spots that the researchers do. In addition, I am not a researcher, a science writer, nor a journalist. What this post does is reveal my own research and thought process while considering if I should try irvingia.
We can harm ourselves by doing something - and we can harm ourselves by doing nothing. Be informed to the best of your ability, take action, and for goodness’ sake: take responsibility for your actions.
At this juncture, I see a product that might work. I still have questions, and will probably continue my research.
Lastly, a number of folks out there have mentioned they are trying irvingia. Let us know how you’re doing on it, OK? You can comment on any of these postings, or drop me an email at email@example.com.