Forskolin for Weight Loss: The Real Deal or Just Another Hyped Supplement?
Isn’t it exciting to hear about a weight loss supplement that can simply melt away fat and leave muscle mass unaffected? The answer is, of course, “yes.” However, your follow-up question should then be, “Does it really work?” And the answer to that question is rarely as positive as the initial assertions may sound. This is no different in the case of forskolin, a compound found in a plant in the mint family.
One Google search for “forskolin” yields an unending stream of websites reporting that people have experienced massive weight loss with no side effects when taking supplements of the extract. Everyone from TV doctors to nutritionists praise it as the best new weight loss answer, but its real effects may surprise you. While it may not have mythical fat-burning power, forskolin is very useful and has several benefits, both related and unrelated to weight loss and management.
So, read on, and discover the real benefits and truth about forskolin supplementation for weight loss.
Is Forskolin Truly a ‘Magic’ Weight Loss Supplement?
There’s a current trend of using forskolin supplements to lose weight — a trend that exploded when a popular weight loss television doctor introduced it as “lightning in a bottle” and “a miracle flower.” It’s hard to ignore when the assertions many nutritionists and people regularly taking forskolin make include such things as losing 10 pounds in one week with no other significant changes to diet or exercise routine.
I continue to passionately support the statement that “food is medicine.” Scientifically, the impact of food and natural substances on our bodies is much greater than we have been led to believe. Solid scientific studies and research back up this claim (even when “modern” medicine ignores it), so it’s important to know what science really says about nutrients like forskolin, especially when the results we’re shown are so incredible.
The truth is that forskolin has various benefits (which I’ll explain a little later), but its role in weight loss is not quite as “magical” as some have insisted.
So, here are the facts:
1. There have been only two reputable studies regarding forskolin and its impact on weight loss in humans and one additional study conducted on rats.
The first human research on its effects on weight loss was conducted in 2005 on 30 overweight or obese men by the University of Kansas. This 12-week study involved each man taking either a placebo or 250 milligrams of a 10 percent forskolin extract orally two times each day. (1)
Later that year, a second human study conducted at Baylor University and published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition was conducted with 23 mildly overweight women. They were given the same dosage as the men in the first study, also for a 12-week period. (2)
In the rat study (from 2014), scientists administered forskolin and/or rolipram to 50 female rats over the course of 10 weeks, splitting them into five control groups, including a control group and four combinations of diet plus supplementation. (3)
2. In these studies, scientists determined that forskolin does not seem to promote weight loss, but it may help prevent weight gain.
The first study on obese/overweight men found forskolin to have a positive impact on body composition, decreasing body fat percentage and fat mass. Other significant results included an increase in bone mass and testosterone levels in the blood. Oddly, the group receiving it actually had higher testosterone levels at the beginning of the study than the control group.
Sounds great, right? Here’s where it gets interesting: Although forskolin did seem to impact body composition, the participants in this study did not actually lose weight. They certainly did not see the kind of results that would lead to claiming forskolin to be a miracle “fat-melting” cure.
A few months later, the second human study was completed, this time on 23 women. Again, these women received the same dosage for the same time period,as the first study. Unlike the first study, researchers found “no significant differences in fat mass or fat free mass,” meaning that body composition was not affected. In addition, no significant differences were found in any metabolic markers or blood lipids (such as increased testosterone found in the first study).
They did postulate that forskolin seemed to prevent the development of new fat mass and that the subjects taking it reported less fatigue, hunger and fullness. Essentially, the placebo and forskolin had identical effects, exempting mild fatigue and satiety markers.
The rat study concluded that “both forskolin and rolipram stimulated lipolysis and inhibited body weight increase by increasing cAMP levels.” In layman’s terms, the scientists found that forskolin did prevent weight gain, even on a diet that caused rats in other diet groups to gain significant amounts of weight. This is in line with the second study, finding that supplementation may help manage weight gain.
What am I getting at here? Forskolin, while offering some benefits and potentially helping manage obesity by preventing additional weight gain, does not “melt away belly fat” — at least, according to scientific evidence.
As always, the most effective way to safely lose weight is to eat a diet of unprocessed, life-giving foods, exercise regularly and use scientifically supported methods of “extra help” in your weight loss journey, such as essential oils for weight loss or safe supplements. It’s not impossible to lose weight fast, but it usually won’t happen because of one unproven pill.
One important conclusion all of these studies also reached is that forskolin did not seem to have “clinically significant side effects.” Near the end of this article, I’ll discuss the potential drug interactions and side effects of forskolin, but these small-scale studies did not find evidence to support any major issues.
Benefits of Forskolin
Now, don’t get discouraged. While forskolin may not be the miracle weight loss drug many are looking for, it does have several benefits that are supported by scientific evidence.
1. Helps Manage Weight in Overweight/Obese People
As I mentioned, forskolin does have promising results in its ability to prevent weight gain in already overweight or obese people. Used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, it can be used to help manage a healthy weight.
Another study supporting it for weight management was conducted on a topical slimming product in 2011. The product contained tetrahydroxypropyl ethylenediamine, caffeine, carnitine, forskolin and retinol. After 12 weeks, circumference of all treated areas (including waist, hips, buttocks and abdomen) had decreased, and the appearance of cellulite decreased significantly by week eight. While this does not directly affect fat mass, it may be worth mentioning for those who are concerned about the physical appearance of body fat. (4)
2. May Be Effective as Part of a Treatment for Cancer
Forskolin activates protein phosphatase 2 (PP2A), an enzyme that causes rapid rates of cell division. A study in 2011 at the University of Madrid found that forskolin’s activation of the PP2A enzyme had anti-tumor effects on rectal cancer tumors, stopping their growth. The results of this study indicate that, depending on the type of rectal cancer a patient has, forskolin may have positive effects on slowing or stopping tumor growth. (5)
Researchers also discovered that forskolin has the ability to cause apoptosis (cell death) in multiple myeloma cancer cells. Additionally, when taken with common (and dangerous) chemotherapy drugs, it reduced the side effects caused by the treatments. (6)
3. Reduces High Blood Pressure
One of forskolin’s most ancient uses is to treat heart conditions, such as hypertension. A study done in India found Coleus forskohlii extract to effectively reduce blood pressure in more than 75 percent of the patients tested. (7) This power against high blood pressure probably contributes to forskolin’s accepted use in improving heart health.
It’s possible to naturally reduce high blood pressure symptoms, and forskolin may be one piece of that puzzle. My recommendation to those suffering from high blood pressure is to reduce intake of foods that make blood pressure higher (such as alcohol, sugar, high-sodium foods and caffeine), start eating foods proven to lower blood pressure (the Mediterranean diet, high-potassium foods, tea, dark chocolate and more), and use other natural blood pressure-lowering methods. There are several supplements and essential oils that have a positive impact in reducing high blood pressure, and regular exercise and stress reduction also play a large part.