Green Coffee Bean Extract and Chlorogenic Acid (CGA)

As I was perusing my girlfriend's gloriously well stocked vitamin supplement drawer for something good, I came across a bottle of Green Coffee Bean Extract (Life Extension brand).

"What does this do?" I asked her.

"It's supposed to boost your metabolism," she replied. "I haven't used it in a while."

"Does it have caffeine?" I asked, thinking perhaps that was the energy boosting constituent.

"No, I don't think so," she replied. That was enough compulsion for me to begin researching green coffee bean extract (GCBE) for this blog.

I am always on the lookout for non-stimulant based energy boosting supplements, since my life demands a lot of energy for writing and music, as well as surviving the day job that underwrites my writing and music. My supplement of choice for unlimited energy supply with no side effects is the herbal supplement Rhodiola rosea, a non-stimulant adaptogen, but I'm open minded.

Here's what I uncovered...

Green coffee beans are a rich source of chlorogenic acid (CGA), an antioxidant believed to have beneficial metabolic effects in humans, particularly with regard to improving sugar handling and lowering blood pressure (SOURCE). CGA appears to be readily bioavailable in humans (SOURCE) and it is most popularly used as a weight loss supplement (SOURCE). CGA may slow absorption of sugar from the digestive tract into the blood, lowering blood sugar and subsequent insulin spikes (SOURCE). If you are a proponent of the Paleo Diet, this might correlate with weight loss. However, the evidence is not super strong for a weight loss effect from GCBE. Nor is it likely an energy booster.

In a small but well controlled study of 30 overweight people, CGA fortified instant coffee incorporated into the diet over 12 weeks caused significant weight loss in CGA consuming individuals, as compared with subjects consuming un-enriched instant coffee (SOURCE). In another arm of the same study, CGA slightly reduced glucose absorption in 12 healthy volunteers (SOURCE).

Green coffee bean extract might be a valuable addition to a low carbohydrate diet. In rodent (but not human) studies, CGA was shown to lower body weight (SOURCE) and reduce fat absorbed from the diet and stored in the liver (SOURCE).

A 2011 review of clinical trials on GCBE reported that their may be a small weight loss effect, but that the studies were often flawed (SOURCE).

When coffee beans are roasted, chlorogenic acid in the beans is decreased, which is why green coffee beans are used to make CGA rich supplements, rather than roasted coffee beans. I suppose if roasted coffee beans were a good source, coffee drinkers would go insane with glee.

Green coffee beans do contain caffeine, but some commercially available green coffee bean extracts advertise as being derived from decaffeinated green coffee beans, which contain far less caffeine than regular coffee beans (but still some). A popular internationally recognized brand of GCBE is called Svetol, originally from France, and it comes from decaffeinated green coffee beans (SOURCE).

As I often tell my readers, the supplement industry is poorly regulated, so it is impossible to know how much caffeine a GCBE product has, regardless of labeling. But assuming a quality manufacturer like Life Extension has compliant labeling, whatever energy boosting effects this supplement has (probably none) are probably not derived from caffeine, although related alkaloids cannot be ruled out.

Green coffee bean extract appears to be safe (SOURCE). Conversely, direct CGA consumption by humans appears to increase homocysteine levels, a marker of cardiovascular disease, in the blood. However, there is no strong evidence that the elevated homocysteine levels due to CGA increase cardiovascular risk (SOURCE). Obviously, if you are sensitive or allergic to coffee, use your head and avoid taking a GCBE supplement.

With those caveats, I will once again quote my mom on her view of generally recognized as safe nutritional supplements: "Can't hurt, might help."

A good green coffee bean extract should list either green coffee extract or Svetol® on the label and contain at least 45% chlorogenic acid (SOURCE).

Lastly, don't believe anything about GCBE's weight loss effects that come from Dr. Oz. His study has been debunked. It was flawed and the evidence was super weak (SOURCE).


1. What’s the Deal with Green Coffee Bean Extract?
2. Dr. Oz Tries To Do Science: The Green Coffee Bean Experiment
3. Does Green Coffee Bean Extract Work? A Detailed Review


Life Extension Rhodiola

I have always been a big fan of the adaptogen Rhodiola rosea as an herbal supplement. I haven't found a good source of it since I left the vitamin company, the only US distributor of the MediHerb Rhodiola/Ginseng product, which worked gangbusters, but is only sold to health practitioners, not retail.

My girlfriend subscribes to Life Extension nutritional supplements and recently hooked me up with a small bottle of their Rhodiola (without Ginseng) product to try.

Wow. It's phenomenal. I took one this morning with breakfast and my mind has been laser focused all morning and I have tons of energy (but no jitters). Placebo effect? It cannot be ruled out. I am just a case study (N=1), so there is no scientific credence to its effectiveness. But placebo effect or not, I am full of mental energy. Even the Chinese food lunch I had with my work team has not resulted in the usual afternoon food coma.

It's no wonder the bottle has a black label warning that the LE Rhodiola should not be taken by manics or manic depressives.

Rhodiola is not a stimulant in the traditional sense. It is an adaptogen, something that gives you extra focus and resistance to stress. In the old days, it might have been called a "constitutional." Life Extension's marketing says it boosts metabolic ATP production in cellular mitochondria.

Could be...nutritional supplements are notoriously unregulated and while I don't know how well Life Extension does under analytical testing, it's probable some Rhodiola supplements are spiked with additives that act as stimulants. I need to look into that.

Anyway, I am pleased with the Life Extension Rhodiola supplement thus far.


Neither Sitting Nor Standing

I jerry-rigged a standing workstation at work a few months ago. I put the twin flat screen monitors and keyboard on a shelf that was the right height to look directly at the screens and type on the keyboard fairly ergonomically. I read somewhere that a standing workstation is better for health and comfort than sitting at a desk. I don’t find the standing workstation to be perfectly comfortable, but it is definitely better than sitting. My lower back gets a little stiff if I stand in one place too long, but when I sit in one place too long, I have even more issues, with leg discomfort and hunching my shoulders.

I want to say the average person burns 65 more calories a day at a standing workstation. If I had my druthers, I would have a walking or biking workstation, where I could actually move and burn more calories while on the job. This would probably help with the lower back stiffness. When I go to the gym and use the treadmill or exercise bike, I often watch Coursera video lectures on topics I am interested in or read Kindle books. I would have no problem exercising while working. I would just worry about getting the keyboard sweaty.

In truth, I don’t like sitting or standing at work. I want to be moving. Maybe I need to consider a career in fitness training or lifestyle coaching. My life is very good, so I think I have the cred to offer lifestyle advice. But it’s really pretty simple and I don't think it is that hard to do. The basics are as follows (I may have missed a couple things):

1. Avoid debt. Debt is slavery and ruins lives.

2. Eat a healthy, whole food diet. The Mediterranean or Paleolithic diets are good options. Avoid processed foods, dairy, refined grains and empty carbs. Don’t worry about meat and fat too much, just make sure it is healthy (organic or game meats, good fats like olive oil).

3. Exercise. I prefer passive exercise, like walking to the grocery store, riding my bike to work, lifting heavy music equipment when I play shows with my band. But if passive exercise isn’t an option for you, do active exercise (go to the gym or walk on a treadmill, etc.) as early in the day as you can. You get busy later in the day, so if you wait to exercise, the time tends to get away from you or you get too tired out to exercise. Morning workouts also energize you for a good part of the day and make your brain work better and stay alert. Science proved this some time ago.

4. Get good sleep and rest often.

5. Avoid negative people. This one isn’t always obvious, but negative or overly dramatic people will suck the life force right out of you.

6. Don’t smoke, take drugs, or drink too much alcohol. Obvious stuff. There is no high better than life, provided you follow these guidelines. Exercise can give you a natural endorphin high that makes everything feel better. Now, if you are a teenager, you aren't going to listen to any adults. I know this. So experiment. But then realize these things are considered really dumb by everyone except losers and Millenials, and move on.

7. Avoid stress. This often goes hand in hand with many of the above. Your mind and body are like a vessel and this vessel can only hold a finite amount of stress (such as financial stress due to debt or personal stress due to negative people or physical stress due to smoking and poor diet and lack of exercise) before it spills over and causes health problems. Diet and exercise increase the volume of this vessel allowing you to handle stress better. Good sleep helps empty the vessel before it gets too full. Science has proven that stress is really the leading killer of people, because it causes the body to release stress hormones that damage bodily functions. Because stress is caused by all of the above, all of the above are killers.