SmartLEAN seems to be one of the better weight loss supplements. Unfortunately, it is overhyped. It is also unnecessary. Here is why.
My morning newspaper came today with a nearly full-page ad for a product called SmartLEAN, accompanied by a photo of a man who looked to weigh more than 500 pounds. That is an attention getter, isn’t it? I found it somewhat ironic that, in digging out the details on this product, the only clinical research on this product involved premenopausal women.
Before I get too far in analyzing the product, however, here is the basic information on what this supplement contains (15-day supply):
Oh, and the headline of the ad was:
‘just overweight’ suddenly becomes ‘grossly obese’
What exactly is it that makes a combo product of brown seaweed extract and pomegranate seed oil a ‘breakthrough’? Well, nothing really. But I get ahead of myself. Now let’s look at some of the relevant details, starting with what I found on the company website. (I hope you love details like I do, because here comes a huge bunch of them.) The SmartLEAN page is: SmartLEAN at PatentHEALTH.com.
The FAQs link is a good place to start.
Starting at the top, two patent applications have been filed on compositions related to the SmartLEAN formula.
At one time the inventors on the first patent application owned National Bioscience Corp., which was purchased by the Spanish company, Polifenoles Naturales, S.L., which is the assignee on the second patent application. So far so good.
Both applications are for compositions and uses of combinations of fucoxanthin and pomegranate seed oil. They are not to be confused with drug patents or anything else that makes medical claims, including weight loss claims, within the purview of the FDA. The bigger curiosity for me is why the more recent one has not yet been approved. One of the inventors on the earlier application passed away in 2007, which probably slowed down its back and forth progress through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
A minor curiosity about these applications is they do not mention Laminaria japonica, which is one of the brown algae in the ingredients list (see Supplement Facts above). Hmm.
Now how about the research?
The summary of results is accurate according to the research publication that the FAQs page alludes to. (I found it a bit annoying, though, that the full reference information was absent and I had to dig it out — poor me!. It was really aggravating, on top of that, to discover that the company website cited the WRONG YEAR for the publication. Tsk, tsk!)
Here are the abstract and correct reference data for the article:
Note that the product under investigation here is referred to as Xanthigen. This is the fucoxanthin plus pomegranate seed oil combination that forms the basis of the two patent applications. Still no mention of Laminaria japonica.
One objection that I call to your attention is that synergy of ingredients was not evaluated. The experiment was not designed to evaluate potential synergy. The claim that, “Pomegranate Seed oil works synergistically with Fucoxanthin to help further improve metabolism and lower body weight,” is, therefore, without merit. The marketers behind SmartLEAN are probably responsible for this bit of overhype, since research scientists would not make this mistake (would they?).
The questions that I have about these results are whether Xanthigen (fucoxanthin plus pomegranate seed oil) is better than fucoxanthin alone. It is not clear. Of course, without adding in the pomegranate seed oil, there wouldn’t be much reason for pursuing new composition and use patents in the first place.
Some other interesting studies relate directly or indirectly to SmartLEAN, which I think are worthwhile in evaluating this product. They are as follows:
This is potentially exciting news. What it means is that an enzyme that helps brown adipose tissue (BAT, or brown fat) do its thing also occurs in white adipose tissue (WAT). The reason that this is exciting is that we have very little BAT, so getting WAT to do the same thing as BAT, which is a fat that speeds up fat metabolism, means that we can speed up fat metabolism in the type of fat that we have too much of. Did I say that clearly enough?
The reason that this is only potentially exciting is that the study did not involve humans. It involved rats and mice. Further studies will have to be done, using human subjects, before we can be sure that the results in this study apply to us.
This might be the basis for the wild-eyed marketing claim that I found about SmartLEAN, saying that it makes WAT turn into BAT. That is just silly. Those marketing guys again! Nevertheless, enhancing the enzymatic similarity between the two is pretty cool.
I threw this in because it points to one of the weaknesses of reductionist science — i.e., tabbing one ingredient as the ‘active one’. Fucoxanthin has attracted a lot of attention. However, it may not even be the most active compound for inhibiting the formation of new fat cells, as this abstract points out. Fucoxanthinol, a metabolite of fucoxanthin, seems to be a more active ingredient here. (At least that is what all that scientific gibberish really means.)
Okay, I promise that this is the final bit of scientific stuff here. One interesting thing about this article is that one of the authors, V. Badmaev, is the Director of Scientific and Medical Affairs at Polifenoles Naturales, S.L. He provided the ‘interview’ in the newspaper ad that I found on SmartLEAN this morning.
I’ll cut through to the important points of this article: 1) It looks as though Xanthigen has multiple mechanisms of action (not surprising for a combination formula); 2) Xanthigen performs better than either fucoxanthin or pomegranate seed oil, at least at the level of molecular markers. This may indicate a synergy, although synergy has still not been evaluated directly. Still no mention of Laminaria japonica.
This is a great start, though. Just keep in mind that inducing changes in molecular markers is not a clinical result. It is a biochemical result, which is not the same thing.
I probably should shut up now, since I have had my scientific fun for the day. If you have stuck it out this far, then kudos to you.
One more thing…
SmartLEAN is expensive stuff! The website offers a 1-month supply for $58. Fortunately for you, Undaria extract, standardized for fucoxanthin, and pomegranate seed oil are very common supplements that can be found for much less than the cost of SmartLEAN.
Overall I’d say that research is pointing in the right direction on fucoxanthin and on pomegranate seed oil (lots of references on PubMed). It just seems unnecessary to buy into the marketing hype about SmartLEAN as the best way to get these two ingredients into your supplement program.
Updating SmartLEAN weight loss supplements,