The Green Coffee Caper

Nutrition Action Healthletter, March 2015 | Go to article overview

The Green Coffee Caper


It's not often that you get a glimpse into the underbelly of the world of supplement marketing. But here, thanks to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, is a blow-by-blow account of how an unproven compound raked in millions. The only losers? The consumers who shelled out good money for it.

1

2010

Applied Food Sciences of Austin, Texas, wants to sell its green coffee bean extract to supplement manufacturers as a weight-loss aid.

2

2010

AFS hires Mysore Nagendran, a researcher in Bangalore, India, to run a clinical trial of the extract. Nagendran recruits 16 overweight adults to take the company's extract (in a higher 2010 and lower dose) and a placebo for six weeks each (with a two-week break between each of the three six-week periods). The participants are instructed to cut calories and exercise.

3

2010

Nagendran repeatedly changes the weights of the participants, mixes up when they got the green coffee or the placebo, and changes the final weights of 11 of the 16. He also calls the trial "open label." That means the participants knew whether they were getting the extract or the placebo, which makes the study worthless. The FTC later concludes that Nagendran's study either "was never 2010 conducted or suffers from flaws so severe that no competent and reliable conclusions can be drawn from it."

4

2011

Nagendran is unable to get his study published in a scientific journal. So Applied Food Sciences hires two University of Scranton professors to rewrite the results and present it as their own research. Nagendran gives them two contradictory versions of his data, and he changes the final weights of 6 of the 16 participants. The two professors accept Nagendran's account and don't 2011 ask to see the raw data.

5

Jan 2012

The Scranton professors succeed in getting the rewritten paper published in the journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity. The paper claims that participants who took the green coffee extract lost an average of almost 20 pounds, and that 6 of the 16 dropped from overweight to normal weight.

6

Apr 2012

Dr. Mehmet Oz announces to his television viewers that "a staggering, newly released study" reveals that green coffee bean extract "may hold the secret to weight loss that you've been waiting for."

People who took the extract "lost an astounding amount of fat and weight --17 pounds In 22 weeks--by doing absolutely nothing extra In their day," Oz marvels. …

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