Amended Bitter Orange - Ephedra in Disguise? So Why Do People Still Take It ?

If you read my last article about bitter orange, it was pretty clear how I felt about the herb. I'd read the available research concerning bitter orange, and while there was some evidence supporting bitter orange, the overall picture did not look good.

So that's the picture I painted, however, there were some facts that I was unaware of at the time, which I felt you might be interested in if you're researching bitter orange.

In order to lay these out, I want to answer four questions:

1. What Is Bitter Orange Really ?

2. So does Bitter Orange act similarly to ephedrine ?

3. What about the reports of adverse ill effects of bitter orange ?

4. Is bitter orange safe to use and does it work ?

It's a bit long, but what the heck !

What Is Bitter Orange Really ?:

The Bitter Orange extract found in popular fat burners, is made from the unripe fruit of the citrus aurantium tree. The fruit is picked when they are a dark green in color, halved, dried and then milled into a powder. This makes the herb Zhi Shi1. Bitter orange is the western name for Zhi Shi.

The bitter orange herb contains five alkaloids (see alkaloid definition5), the most dominant of which is Synephrine (the compound I referred to in my last article), structurally similar to ephedrine. However, while they are similar, they're not the same.

Both synephrine and ephedrine stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and at a cellular level, affect alpha cell receptors, and to a lesser extent, beta cell receptors6. Ephedrine will affect beta(1), beta(2) and beta(3) cell receptors, however, of the beta-cell receptors, synephrine appears to only affect beta(3) cells, those believed to be responsible for thermogenesis or fat burning affects7. Beta(1) and beta(2) receptors are believed to be responsible for cardiac and pulmonary functions.

So does Bitter Orange act similarly to ephedrine ?

Does it ? While previously, I've presented a very black and white view of whether it acts similarly to ephedrine, I am now not so sure.

There is some confusion as to how synephrine affects heart rates and blood pressure. Intravenously injected synephrine will cause increased heart rates and blood pressure, however, orally taken synephrine does not, and synephrine contained in most herbal weight loss supplements are taken orally.

Generally speaking because synephrine stimulates beta(3) cells but not beta(2) and beta(1) cells, it can provide the thermogenic effects without the undesirable cardiac side effects that ephedrine did.

What about the reports of adverse ill effects of bitter orange ?

The American Herbal Products Association has found that there were errors in the reported adverse event reports attributed to the use of bitter orange in September 20043. The association found that numbers reported in the media were in fact duplicates for adverse event reports for ephedrine, and when all was said and done, there was really only one report of an adverse reaction attributed to a bitter orange supplement, where no other ingredient was included in the supplement. In this particular case, it involved a 74 year old woman had been taking prescription medication and two other herbal preparations simultaneously. This one case occurred more than five years ago3.

What about the 55 year old woman reported by Nykamp DL, Fackih MN, Compton AL (2004), who experienced chest pain after consuming a supplement containing bitter orange. Researchers in this case study had commented "Based on the Naranjo probability scale, C. aurantium is possibly associated with this cardiovascular event"4, however, as bitter orange was not the only ingredient in the supplement, it cannot be known whether in this case, that bitter orange was the herb responsible.

Is bitter orange safe to use and does it work ?

Now there are many others, who felt as I did, that bitter orange is another Ephedra waiting to happen, and will have the same consequences. However, when bitter orange is taken in isolation, it does not have adverse side effects.

In fact, when it is combined with other selected herbs, it may have benefits for health and weight loss. Research performed with 20 individuals over six weeks found no adverse reactions occurred when citrus aurantium was combined with caffeine and St. Johns Wort2. They also found that the individuals who were given the supplement (group A) lost an average of 2.9% body fat. "In terms of actual fat loss, group A lost a significant amount (3.1 kg), whereas the control group demonstrated a tendency toward fat loss." So, this study has demonstrated that there are weight loss benefits involved here, but also the control group who received nothing exhibited a tendency towards fat loss, suggesting that if the study had been extended beyond 6 weeks, the control group would have lost body fat as well.

Conclusions:

2004 was not a great year for bitter orange in the media. It has successfully battled reports of adverse events alleged to be a result of consuming bitter orange. These numbers proved to be incorrect.

While synephrine the main alkaloid of bitter orange, is chemically similar to ephedrine, it is not the same as ephedrine and differs in the way it reacts pharmacologically within the human body.

Although at first look at the research, bitter orange presented with dangers that I wanted to warn against, a more in-depth look has revealed that bitter orange by itself is not dangerous. The citrus aurantium extract standardized for synephrine (3-6%) is accepted as safe7.

But hang on, before you click off this page, to go and find a fat burner with citrus aurantium in it, I do also want to say, that they can't be used as an alternative to good food and exercise.

Herbal supplements such as those containing bitter orange can be helpful but only when used within a weight loss strategy of balanced eating and exercise, and while they may benefit some, it may not benefit others and only your doctor will be able to make that decision for you6. The results may be slower, but a balanced diet and exercise are the keys to permanent and healthy weight loss. So while bitter orange may be helpful, you can obtain the same results without it. What-ever stage you are at with your health and fitness, diet and exercise are the two most important aspects.

If you do decide you'd like to try a supplement containing bitter orange, please consult your doctor before purchasing a bitter orange product.

Essentially if you consult your doctor about bitter orange, as we say in Australia - you can't go wrong, mate. Your doctor will be able to refer you to your nearest dietician and will recommend the best weight loss strategy for your situation.

References:

1. Jones, D., "Bitter Orange or Citrus Aurantium: same difference ?"

2. Colker et. al., (1999) Effects of Citrus Aurantium extract, caffeine, and St. John's Work on body fat loss, lipid levels, and mood states in overweight healthy adults. Curr. Ther. Res. 60, 145 ? 153.

3. American Herbal Products (2004) "FDA Spins Numbers on Bitter Orange AERs" Press Release

4. Nykamp DL, Fackih MN, Compton AL. Possible association of acute lateral-wall myocardial infarction and bitter orange supplement. Ann Pharmacother. 2004 May;38(5):812-6. Epub 2004 Mar 16.

5. Definition of Alkaloids - any of hundreds of compounds found in plants with a nitrogen atom connected to two carbon atoms, and often formed in a ring structure. Many commonly known chemicals and drugs are alkaloids, including nicotine, cocaine, quinine, morphine, and ephedrine.

6. Dharmananda, S., SYNEPHRINE:Is Chih-shih (Zhishi) Toxic? Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon. See the schematic diagram for synephrine at the bottom of the page.

7. Supplement Watch on Synephrine

Other Sites of Interest:

Supplement Watch Newsletter

About The Author

Copyright © 2004 Jenny Mathers All Rights Reserved.

Research resource for fat burning foods and supplements. Fat burning food research information allowing you to take the guess work out of fat burning.

In The News:


KSL.com

Sen. Hatch disputes HBO story on dietary supplements
KSL.com
SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch is rebutting an HBO "Real Sports" story that ties him and a law he championed to several soldiers who died after taking dietary supplements sold on their bases. In a segment that aired Tuesday, correspondent Soledad ...
Op-ed: Supplements are regulated and safe, despite HBO's claimsSalt Lake Tribune

all 3 news articles »

Deseret News

Sen. Orrin Hatch calls HBO story on dietary supplements 'inaccurate'
Deseret News
Orrin Hatch is rebutting an HBO "Real Sports" story that ties him and a law he championed to several soldiers who died after taking dietary supplements sold on their bases. In a segment that aired Tuesday, correspondent Soledad O'Brien reported that ...
Senators Urge Justice Department to Step Up Actions against Adulterated ...Natural Products INSIDER (blog)
A Gathering Storm in the Dietary Supplement WorldJD Supra (press release)

all 5 news articles »

Today.com

Are you getting enough? 5 important things to know about vitamins
Today.com
Once upon a time, the only source of vitamins was from food. Now shelves are filled with all kinds of vitamin supplements, with choices ranging from pills and chewables, to gummies and liquids. While the goal of taking vitamin supplements is to promote ...
Do We Need Food Supplements?The Jewish Voice

all 3 news articles »

Health.com

Well | Many Probiotics Taken for Celiac Disease Contain Gluten
New York Times (blog)
Now these experts say they may know why: More than half of the top-selling probiotic supplements they analyzed contained gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that is harmful to people with celiac disease. The authors of the study found ...
Some Probiotic Supplements May Contain Unlabeled Traces of GlutenHealth.com
Probiotic Supplements May Contain Traces of GlutenHealthDay
'Gluten-free' probiotics often contain gluten, study findsFox News

all 109 news articles »

Natural Products INSIDER (blog)

Keeping Sports Nutrition Supplements Clean
Natural Products INSIDER (blog)
With sports nutrition supplements, the end users are a dynamic bunch composed of well-informed—and sometimes well-misinformed—goal-oriented, diligent fitness enthusiasts. They have an insatiable appetite for peak performance through regimented ...


Salt Lake Tribune (blog)

HBO report links Orrin Hatch's dietary supplement legislation to military ...
Salt Lake Tribune (blog)
In a segment that airs in Tuesday's episode of "Real Sports" (11 p.m., HBO), Soledad O'Brien reports on the deaths of several members of the U.S. military tied to dietary supplements sold at their bases — and ties those deaths to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R ...


Philly.com (blog)

What I learned from taking Viviscal hair supplements for 190 days
Philly.com (blog)
My journey with Viviscal, the vitamin supplement specifically formulated for promoting hair growth, began in February. After reading how models and celebrities such as Lauren Conrad and Gwyneth Paltrow all used the product for beautiful, healthy hair, ...


Parade

Get Ready for Summer with 5 Healthy Supplements
Parade
When it comes to health products on the market, really, it's hit or miss. There are so many options; new brands, new products…drinks, shakes, supplements, YIKES, how do you get past the hype? Well, I tried a ton of new healthy offerings the last few ...


Fox News

Healthy woman's stroke linked to drug in sports supplement
Fox News
"This is the first time that we have been able to clearly link BMPEA supplement use with a very serious health consequence," said Dr. Pieter Cohen, a co-author of the report and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. [Wishful ...
Here's Why FDA Is Ordering BMPEA Supplements Off The MarketForbes
Amphetamine-like stimulant in dietary supplement linked to strokeCBS News
FDA Wants BMPEA Sports Supplements Pulled From Store ShelvesTech Times
Medical Daily -Science Times -Times Gazette
all 41 news articles »

What is the Best Prostate Supplement or Formula on the Internet?
PR Newswire (press release)
Best Prostate ®, IMS Supplements, Inc. recommends consumers take care in researching prostate supplement products online. Consumers, who have searched the internet, find it confusing with alleged comparisons and about thirty or more prostate products ...

and more »
Google News

Improve Your Mental Cognitive Abilities

The Connection Between Brain Inflammation, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's DiseaseThe evidence... Read More

Increasing overall Health with Nutritional Supplements

"But I eat healthy," you might say. That may be... Read More

Mineral Supplements - Reasons For Taking

Mineral Supplement ? be healthy.Why is mineral supplement so important?... Read More

Vitamin for Boosting your Immune System

Turmeric, in all honesty is not a vitamin, but it... Read More

Grreen Power

It's green, it's valuable, and it can vastly improve your... Read More

Why Is Vitamin B6 So Important?

Vitamin B6 is the hardest working nutrient in the human... Read More

What Good Is It To Stop Smoking If I Have Smoked For Years?

I often hear people say that they have smoked for... Read More

Vitamin Supplements and Your Child

In a perfect world, your children would eat a balanced... Read More

Fatigue After WLS: Iron Deficiency May Be the Cause

I've been feeling a tired and slow lately. Just don't... Read More

Balancing Your Hormones Naturally -- What To Do First

One of the questions that I frequently get asked is... Read More

The Need For Supplementation

When I began to study nutrition, I too believed that... Read More

Pros And Cons For Vitamin Supplements ? Are They Good Or Bad?

There are a number of pros and cons for vitamin... Read More

Ganoderma Herbal Supplements ? Natures Gift to Humanity

Use of herbs and herbal therapies has been an integral... Read More

Definitve Proof - Supplements Heal

No Money in PreventionI have been recommending a wide variety... Read More

Probiotics and Friendly Flora

You Need Probiotics For Better Digestion and Overall HealthInside your... Read More

Sleep and Vitamins

Vitamins and Minerals Can Improve SleepTaking proper vitamins and minerals... Read More

Suffering From Osteoarthritis Pain? Natural Relief Is Available

It is clearly evident that hyaluronic acid in its oral... Read More

Achieving Youthful Healthy Skin with Vitamins A, C, and E

We all want healthy skin. While the main reasons for... Read More

I Have a Headache!

Actually, my headache is not the result of just thinking... Read More

ImmunPlex: Highest Quality Natural Whey

ImmunPlex? is an undenatured whey protein isolate that contains many... Read More

Glutathione - Your Brains Master Antioxidant Defense

Free radicals and oxyradicals play an important role in the... Read More

If You Want to Enjoy Optimum Good Health A Multivitamin Can Help

It's never too late to change your habits, and if... Read More

Minerals for a Normal Life

Minerals are essential nutrients that serve the body in many... Read More

Amino Acid Usage ? How You Can Benefit

Over the years, amino acid usage has become more and... Read More

Beneficial Effects of Vitamins and Minerals To Your Blood

Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are essential to the health... Read More