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Maximum Burn


Suppliers look to safety, efficacy and the internet to support the latest in thermogenic ingredients.

Simply put, thermogenesis is the production of heat in the body.

Mitch Skop, senior vice president of new product development at Pharmachem Laboratories Inc. in New Jersey, added to that basic definition that thermogenesis is the creation of heat in the body via burning calories; the more calories burned, the more thermogenesis is in action. “The best calorie-burner is not in a supplement, it is exercise,” he said.“That said, there are many dieters who, for whatever reason, prefer to lose weight and fat with either no or minimal exercise, so therefore, they would indeed find a thermogenic product to be very attractive.”

For natural ingredient suppliers targeting thermogenics, the goal is to provide a product that can safely encourage or increase the body’s own natural thermogenesis and support healthy metabolism.Chief Technology Officer Dr. Jayant Deshpande with New Jersey-based OmniActive Health Technologies said the company’s capsicum and its actives, capsaicinoids, induce thermogenesis upon absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, reach the brain and stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, whereby the secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine is enhanced.

“These hormones cause glycogenolysis in the liver, resulting in the release of glucose in to blood,” he explained, adding that in adipose tissue, norepinephrine enhances the activity of hormone- sensitive lipase, resulting in the breakdown of fat to free fatty acids and glycerol. Glucose and free fatty acids are formed and picked up by peripheral muscle tissues where they get metabolized to produce high-energy protons.“Normally, the high-energy protons are used to generate ATP (adenosine-5’- triphosphate) from ADP (adenosine diphosphate). However, due to the effect of capsaicinoids, there is an increased concentration of uncoupling protein, which reacts with high-energy protons, converting the energy into heat.” 

Thermogenesis vs. Satiety 

Arguments can be made as to which type of weight-loss ingredient is superior— thermogenic or satiety—however, Skop maintains that both are equally efficient as they have different mechanisms that trigger weight loss. “When one is embarking on a weight-loss regiment, one would want to control (heighten and hasten) satiety so they eat less, while also increasing fat burning. In addition, consider cases where one is in reasonable weight parameters but experiences spikes in ravenous appetite; here, a research-supported satiety supplement will assist. Conversely, an athlete such as a bodybuilder, who needs to sculpt for definition prior to a competition, will prefer a fat-burning supplement. So, there are different needs for different folks,” he said.

Regardless of their equal effective footing, the thermogenic product category performed very well last year, outselling other categories, according to Scott Steil, president of Minnesota-based Nutra Bridge, which represents 7-Keto, a registered trademark of the Humanetics Corp. “Overall, the weight-loss market grew 15 percent, but thermogenics outpaced the market,” he said. “7-Keto, the market’s leading non-stimulant-based thermogenic ingredient, posted tripledigit growth rates due to increased use and consumer awareness.” 

“Thermogenic products have been experiencing steady growth,” agreed Deshpande. “With the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banning an increasing list of synthetic and/or dangerous ingredients because of health concerns, consumers have been moving toward options derived from natural ingredients with long-established histories in the human diet like capsicum (a.k.a., red hot peppers),” he said. “Moreover, thermogenic products have been gaining popularity in more than just the weight management and sports nutrition categories.We are also experiencing a growing demand for the inclusion of thermogenic ingredients in products tailoring to the healthy lifestyle market.” 


Thermogenics commonly come from bitter orange, capsicum, ginger, caffeine and EGCG, but since the end of 2012, green coffee bean extract is clearly the ingredient that’s been spotlighted.

New Jersey-based Naturex offers a green coffee bean extract in its Svetol ingredient. Antoine Bily, the company’s R&D director of Nutrition & Health, said it believes that weight-loss product solutions have to act in synergy or to induce thermogenesis/fat burning indirectly.“One of the advancements is a better integration of thermogenic ingredients such as Svetol with other weight-loss ingredients,” he said.

Other effective—meaning those backed by published clinical data—thermogenic ingredients include 7-Keto, fucoxanthin and green tea, added Steil.“While these products have been in the market for a few years, their popularity has risen dramatically due to marketers increased demand for clinically proven products and the increased use by consumers.” 

Recent new technology developments have also been beneficial to the category.“There is a great deal of compelling science behind the thermogenic benefits of capsicum, but these peppers are incredibly hot,” explained Deshpande.“Because of this, many consumers, especially those accustomed to a Western diet, are unable to consume the beneficial amounts of these fiery peppers due to both oral and gastric distress. Because of this lack of compliance to a diet including capsicum, advancements in delivery technologies are probably the most promising development.” 

To address this, OmniActive Health Technologies developed OmniBead beadletting technology. This proprietary technology encapsulates the actives in a matrix of excipients so that they may pass through the mouth and stomach intact until they reach the intestines and are released—with no burn felt.

Skop concurred that the beadlet technology was a top breakthrough for the category. “This is key when it comes to advancements—we only get the actual benefit from the ingredient when it can be delivered intact for its full bioavailability.We therefore believe that delivery forms and technology to assure precision of absorption and bio availability will make great ingredients even greater.” 

Jeremy A. Holt, manager of Health Ingredients & Services with Ajinomoto North America in New Jersey, said the company also noted the limited clinical utility of capsaicin (from capsicum) due to side effects, including pungency or “burn.” “Many people simply cannot tolerate capsaicin at levels that would produce meaningful thermogenic and metabolic changes,” he said.

Recently Japanese researchers, who have been at the forefront of research on the bioactive compounds of chili peppers, discovered capsinoids, according to Holt. These substances, produced by certain strains of chili peppers, are structurally similar to capsaicin, but without the noxious sensations of pungency and the associated cardiovascular risk.

“Ajinomoto’s Capsiate Natura is the first and only dietary supplement with natural capsinoids extracted from the CH-19 Sweet pepper,” he said.“Extensively researched, Capsiate Natura has been shown to increase basal metabolism without a burning sensation or other cardiovascular side-effect concerns.” 

Utilizing Ingredients 

Though the majority of thermogenic weight-loss products are delivered as supplements, with capsules and tablets being the most common delivery format, the remaining products include powder drink mixes, ready-to-drinks and chewables.

“Because Capsimax capsicum extract is created using OmniBead technology, there is a variety of applications where manufacturers can now use capsicum that they previously could not,” Deshpande noted, adding that the ingredient can be included in a variety of supplements, as well as powder mixes.

Naturex has also found that most of the requests received are for ingredients intended to go in capsules or tablets.But there has been a shift with food supplements that are becoming closer to functional foods, said Bily. “Our customers are now asking us for ingredients for use in gums, jelly beans and stick packs. We clearly see that ‘pleasure’ is an important word for weight-loss products,” he said, noting that the most convenient food matrix to deliver benefits is instant coffee or tea. “These products have good taste and can be taken regularly at home or at work. Our ingredient, Svetol, is used in several coffee products delivered in coffee stickpacks.” 

Thermogenic Research 

Backing up ingredients with science continues to move the market forward.Some findings include:

• In a 12-week, double-blind, parallel, multi-center trial, 240 women and men with visceral fat-type obesity ingested green tea containing 583 mg of catechins (catechin group) or 96 mg of catechin (control group) per day. The continuous ingestion of GTE high in catechins led to a reduction in body fat, systolic blood pressure (SBP) and LDL cholesterol, suggesting that the ingestion of such an extract contributes to a decrease in obesity and cardiovascular disease risks.

• Supplementation with 400 mg of Svetol daily for 60 days increases weight loss by 5.7 percent compared to placebo, and increases the lean mass/fat mass ratio by four percent. Two synergic mechanisms of action have been proven: Svetol decreases the intestinal glucose absorption and at the same time it inhibits the glucose-6-phosphatase, which stimulates the release of glucose into the blood stream. The liver releases less glucose, inducing the use of fat as a source of energy.

• Multiple clinical studies have shown that 7-Keto produces 200 percent greater weight loss than placebo (with diet and exercise). This translated to an average additional five pounds of weight loss above that produced by diet and exercise alone. Additionally, the majority of the weight loss was pure body fat.

• The safety and efficacy of capsinoids have been researched in nearly 50 extensive studies conducted in the United States, Europe and Japan. One significant double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which was published in 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in abdominal fat and body weight, without increases in heart rate or blood pressure.

“Science supporting both efficacy and safety is always at the top of any supplier’s or manufacturer’s lists,” said OmniActive’s Deshpande. “In recent years, thermogenics were under scrutiny for their impact on heart rate.Thermogenics increase metabolic rate, often resulting in an increase in heart rate; however, Capsimax increases metabolism through heat production with no negative impact on heart rate.” 

Capsicum has long been a part of the human diet, even dating back as far as 500 years, Deshpande pointed out.“Capsicum is also well-known, unlike some other ingredients derived from obscure sources, so consumers feel comfortable with its inclusion in their weight management/sports nutrition/healthy lifestyle products.” 

But going forward, suppliers said the science of thermogenic ingredients must always prove safety first. “When it comes to efficacy, formulators tell us they want to see research that shows demonstrable increase in metabolism as well as significant loss of fat/weight— and preferably not in daily mega doses.Meaning, attractive efficacy in smaller, manageable doses,” said Pharmachem’s Skop, adding that they would also like to see studies done on larger populations, and different populations, such as those 50 to 75 pounds overweight with a BMI over 30, or post-menopausal women who cannot seem to rid themselves of 10 pesky midsection pounds and go down one dress size. “Such research explores ‘real’ population groups with targeted issues, and that’s what the industry needs to focus on when it comes to thermogenic ingredient research.” 

Skop pointed to the ma huang/ ephedra controversy: the ingredient raised heart rates to dangerous levels in many sensitive people. “What we don’t want is anything similar that raises heart rate or central nervous energy stimulation. Our Teavigo, a natural green tea extract made through a proprietary, patented process that concentrates the benefits of green tea leaves, is a great example of an ingredient that does not incur that side effect,” he said.

Maximizing Consumer Awareness 

Consumers are no longer content with taking product claims at face value; they are instead taking matters into their own hands by researching alternate options.That is especially relevant now that there is a great deal of information available at the click of a mouse—both positive and negative—that enables them to make educated decisions from a variety of outlets.“In response, responsible and contentious suppliers and manufactures are now providing compelling science and data to consumers in a variety of multimedia initiatives,” Deshpande noted.

“In general,” Skop added, “the improvement in consumer awareness regarding natural weight-loss ingredients and products is simply the stories in popular health media, especially blogs such as LiveSoWell.com and 3fatchicks.com, that responsibly and positively report how incorporating thermogenics— and other ingredients, foods and exercises—into one’s lifestyle can result in more than simply just losing weight, but a healthy, energized and happy life.

“The mass health media has been, for the most part, pretty supportive and more people are clicking, liking and tweeting their enthusiasm for this messaging,” he said.

Therefore, suppliers and manufacturers need to get their messages where consumers pay attention: social media.“Hire a professional consumer publicist to collect good science stories as well as personal triumph stories from users who lost weight thanks to the product,” Skop advised, adding that that material can be used more expressly for the print media, which also has online components.“If folks don’t know about your product or the ingredient, how can you expect them to sign in and sign on?” 

Other key events that have affected the marketplace include FDA actions regarding the safety of weight-loss products, conversations about new dietary ingredient guidelines, increased enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on marketing claims and a shift in consumer education and attitude (i.e., moving away from looking for the magic bullet to seeking products that help maximize weight loss along with diet and exercise), according to Steil.

“The impact of Dr. Oz on the weightloss category was the story for 2012 and has driven significant category growth,” he added. “It is too early to assess the percent market growth that will result, but my opinion is that it will lead to the best growth rates in the past five years.[Dr. Oz] has been very good at exposing new consumers to the best in class weight-loss products.” 

Despite increased FDA oversight, there are still many “tainted” weight-loss products, many of which are making outrageous claims, said Ajinomoto’s Holt. As a result, more product manufacturers and consumers are demanding products that are substantiated through clinical trials to be both safe and effective.

Skop concluded that as a supplier, his company has not heard any concerns from its customers using Teavigo as part of a weight-loss product, and doesn’t foresee any. “Unless a new exotic herbal thermogenic agent eventually incurs the same type of side effect as ma huang, this category should be safe and quite profitable.”

Non-GMO Project