Forskolin. It sounds like it might be a body part—when I first read the word, I looked twice and realized that many consumers use Forskolin for weight loss effectively.
What is Forskolin?
Forskolin is a supplement that is marketed for weight loss, as well as for cancer, glaucoma, allergies and asthma, heart failure, intestinal spasms, painful period cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infection, high blood pressure, chest pain, difficulty falling asleep, and convulsions.
The Indian Coleus (Coleus forskohlii) is a tropical plant with the active compound forskolin found in the root. This active compound stimulates the release of fat stored in fat cells, which is basically the same thing that happens when you exercise or otherwise make a demand for energy that is greater than can be met by glucose metabolism.
Other proven effects include lowering blood pressure, decreasing bronchial spasms, strengthening the activity of the heart, and making platelets less likely to clump together.
Forskolin has been used for hundreds of years in traditional herbal medicine, for a variety of conditions. One of those conditions is obesity.
Okay. If an herb has been used for centuries, maybe we can safely assume that it isn’t dangerous. Surely people would have noticed if people died or got sicker after taking it. But just because something is safe, does not mean that it works the way that weight-loss marketers claim that it does.
What Does the Research Say About Using Forskolin for Weight Loss?
Forskolin was featured on the popular and controversial Dr OZ Show in January 2014. As often happens with products featured on the show, sales jumped tremendously after that. But, as Dr. Oz admitted in a Senate hearing later the same year, most of the products he features have little to no effectiveness. Is this the case with Forskolin?
Forskolin stimulates the release of stored fat from fat cells. In other words, forskolin mimics the effects of exercise, EXCEPT that there is no energy demand to burn up the fat released.
This means that forskolin will have no practical effect on weight loss, unless you are already in a calorie deficit and/or exercising. If you are in a calorie deficit or exercising, or both, forskolin may have a small additional effect.
For men, a small placebo controlled randomized controlled trial (the gold standard in research) found that although there was no significant change in weight, total body fat decreased and lean muscle mass increased. This change in body composition seems to be linked to increased testosterone production, which is known to stimulate lean muscle mass.
In a second study, for women, there were no significant effects on fat loss or body composition, although there seems to be a small effect of protecting against weight gain. They didn’t lose weight or fat mass, but at least they didn’t get fatter!
Is Forskolin a Good Choice?
It depends. If forskolin is the only weight loss strategy you are using, I can almost guarantee that you are going to be viciously disappointed. It simply doesn’t work very well at all when used alone.
However, if forskolin is used in addition to lifestyle changes, like walking ten minutes a day, or going to the gym, or eating more vegetables, or cutting back on sugar intake, or eating fewer calories, THEN you will probably see some positive results.
Forskolin will cause fat molecules to be released from fat cells, but unless your body then burns off the fat, the fat that was released will eventually be pulled right back into the cells it came from.
How to Use Forskolin for Weight Loss
That means you need to intentionally build in ways for your body to burn off the fat, or forskolin will be ineffective. Here’s a quick review of the ways you can do that.
- Get moving. Even 10 minutes of walking every day will build lean muscle mass if you are out-of-shape. The biggest effect comes from 20 minutes of more intense exercise (enough to increase your heart rate) 3 to 5 times a week.
- Get into a calorie deficit. Although weight loss is a lot more complex than simple calories-in-calories-out, this is still an important part of the equation. If you are taking in more energy in food than what your body can work off, you will gain weight. If you are taking in less energy than what your body is working off, you will lose weight. The simplest way to move in the direction of a calorie deficit is to cut out snacks between meals, and limit desserts to once or twice a week.
- Get hydrated. Drinking plenty of pure water helps your body flush out some of the fat cells that have been released, improves metabolism, decreases appetite, curbs cravings, lifts brain fog makes you feel better, and gets rid of toxins, among other good things. Did we mention that it also flushes out fat molecules?! Drink water!
- Ditch the fast food. Between high fat ingredients, non-food ingredients (aka fillers), and ginormous portion sizes, fast food is a fast track for weight gain. Brown-bagging won’t cost more, and your body will thank you for it.
Forskolin can be effective as part of a comprehensive weight loss strategy but is not very effective when used alone. So, get moving, get into a calorie deficit, get hydrated, and ditch the fast food.
If you decide that forskolin is a good choice for you, you can do so knowing that your body is actually going to be able to do something about the fat molecules that are released when you take forskolin.
As Dr. Oz said (as reported by Forbes magazine)
“If the only message I gave was to eat less and move more, which is the most important thing people need to do, we wouldn’t be very effectively be tackling this challenge, because viewers know these steps and they still struggle…So we search for tools and crutches for short-term support so people can jump-start their programs.”
So. If you need a tool as a crutch to help you begin to move more and eat less, forskolin is at least a safe option, which can’t be said for all weight loss supplements on the market. As always, use responsibly, don’t drink and drive, and check with a healthcare professional before using.
Have you tried Forskolin? If not would you consider it? Share your thoughts below on this topic as well as your experiences with supplements.