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Dec 11, 2012 by NATASHA LONGO
Green Coffee Beans: Another Adulterated Ingredient For The Weight Loss Market

How many weight loss fads must we endure before we wake up and smell the coffee? Green coffee bean extract has been touted for its weight-loss benefits, however when something suddenly becomes so ubiquitous throughout the media, it's benefits are bound to be exaggerated and its purity tarnished by imitations and adulterated ingredients. When prices begin mysteriously dropping, it's a sure sign the players are out for your money at the expense of your health.

One of the most influential of ingredient popularizers--Dr. Mehmet Oz, featured green coffee bean extract on his TV show in early September. Dr. Oz has become somewhat of a salesperson, shill and puppet for the corporate machine to help push bogus products on the marketplace. If you have a pure and effective food ingredient demonstrating health benefits, one of the best ways to to create an entire industry of cheap knockoffs with substandard ingredients is to get exposure on the Dr. Oz show. That will instantly guarantee the transformation from unique, pure and natural healing supplements to a marketplace saturated with low-quality, ineffective and dangerous imitations.

The marketplace reacted in a similar fashion as it has to other ingredients that Dr Oz has featured, like astaxanthin, raspberry keytones and Garcinia cambogia. Demand soared, and a flurry of new products featuring green coffee bean appeared on shelves and, in particular, online.

If you haven't already, please see Dr. Eldon Dahl's interview where he explains how product quality is being sacrificed for convenience and price point ultimately creating an entire industry filled with supplements of non-therapeutic value.

So what's in the bottle?

What exactly was in those products was of interest to the Futureceuticals staff, especially when they saw the prices being quoted for some of these extracts in the marketplace.

"What we were seeing were some suspiciously low prices in green coffee extracts out there on the market," John Hunter, general manager of FutureCeuticals, told NutraIngredients-USA.

"We know what the going rates for commodity materials. Green coffee just has an expense unto itself as a commodity. It can only go so low. When you combine that with processing, the ethanol or water extraction, you go through the algorithm and you come up with a reasonable price.

"We were seeing prices below what was reasonable," Hunter said.

Spiked with CGA

Green coffee bean extracts are standardized to the marker chemical chlorogenic acid (CGA). As has been noted with other commodities subject to economic adulteration, shady dealers have apparently spiked their low-quality offerings with this marker chemical to enable them to clear the first bar of testing.

"The conversations that we were having with suppliers we found that it may the case of some of the cheaper materials were being adulterated by extracting chlorogenic acid from mulberry leaves or coffee bean plant leaves themselves. These are cheaper sources of CGA. This was being added back into the green coffee bean extracts to reduce the price," said Brad Evers, director of marketing of FutureCeuticals.

They purchased two such extracts on the open market, one of which only cost $18 per kilo. (Hunter said a more reasonable price for a quality green coffee bean extract would be in the high $60s to $80 a kilo.) They then subjected the two purchased green coffee bean extracts and Futureceuticals' own extract to a battery of tests, including FTIR, UV and HPLC. They tested for chlorogenic acid levels and caffeine content.

The results showed that one of the purchased extracts consisted of 15% non green coffee bean material, and the other came in at 20%. Possible adulterants included CGA derived from the aforementioned mulberry and coffee plant leaves as well as from bamboo.

Trying to level the playing field

Hunter said the company conducted the research with the aim at providing better information to the marketplace, and to try to level the playing field between responsible suppliers and companies that are pushing adulterated product. With such a wide variance in price, the possibility certainly exists that some formulators looking to cash in on a trend are knowingly buying bad product.

Which brings up the flip side of the Dr Oz Effect. After being mentioned on the show, the demand for ingredients ramps up faster than botanical supply chains can respond. Demand for astaxanthin, for example, increased almost ten fold after its appearance on the show in 2011. This makes a wide open playing field for economic adulterers.

There may very well be a possibility that large corporations are responsible for many of the small subsidiaries which produce the low-quality products. Could it all be a planned event that high-level executives orchestrate by using the Dr. Oz show as a platform for the launch of such products with high profitability? Sounds very plausible.

Hunter said confusion in the marketplace could account for the existence of some the of the adulterated product. But as for outright collusion, Hunter wasn't willing to go there.

"There may be people out there who don't care. I would prefer to believe that they are just out there trying to get the best price and they don't know," Hunter said.

"We need to assure in our industry that materials that claim to be something actually are that something. We all know that there are guys with white hats and guys with black hats in this industry."

Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.

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