White Kidney Bean Extract: Spilling the Beans on this Weight-Loss Supplement
To shed pounds, you need to eat less, right?
Well, yes. But what if I told you that a possible solution to weight loss is actually found in a common food?
In fact, you can find it in any supermarket.
It seems totally counterintuitive. Yet if preliminary research is to be believed, this food-based supplement could help you slim down by decreasing the amount of carbohydrates your body absorbs.
But is this product really effective – and safe?
A Beneficial Bean…
White kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are a typical sight in most grocery stores. Canned or dry, they’re a staple in many people’s pantries.
But do they also belong in your medicine cabinet?
Although people have added white kidney beans to meals for millennia, it’s only been recently that scientists have begun exploring their potential as a weight loss aid.
See, legumes in general contain alpha-amylase inhibitor isoform 1 (alphaAI-1), a substance that helps prevent the body from absorbing starches. White kidney beans are particularly rich in alphaAI-1. And that’s spurred manufacturers to market extracts of white kidney bean as “carb blockers”.
But you can’t just eat a hill of beans and expect those benefits. Sure, beans are healthy addition to you diet, but to get their carb-blocking benefits, you need to use an extract in supplement form.
Indeed, preliminary research at UCLA suggests that white kidney bean extract may help prevent carbohydrates from breaking down into sugar. That shows promise not just weight loss, but also for people with diabetes, because it might help control blood sugar.
And since refined carbohydrates play a big role in weight gain for many people, it stands to reason that this supplement could help melt away pounds by blocking those carbs – theoretically.
Theories are fine – but is there actual evidence to support such claims?
Let’s take a look at the research.
New Help for Weight Loss?
Despite the excitement around white kidney bean extract, there are still very few high-quality, peer-reviewed human studies on its potential as a weight loss remedy. However, the few studies that have been conducted do show promise.
For example, a 2007 study of 60 overweight men and women looked at the effects of white kidney bean extract on weight loss. People took either 445 mg of the supplement or a placebo daily before a carbohydrate-rich meal.
After 30 days, the researchers found that people who supplemented with white kidney bean extract had lost significantly more body weight and fat than those who took a placebo pill.1
In another study, 27 obese adults took either 1,500 mg of white kidney bean extract (sold as the supplement Phase 2) or a placebo twice a day for eight weeks. At the end of the study, people who took Phase 2 had lost an average of 3.79 pounds, while those on a placebo pill lost an average of just 1.65 pounds.2
And while a study of 25 people taking 1,000 mg of white kidney bean extract or a placebo initially found no significant differences in weight loss after four weeks, a closer examination of the data did show that people who took white kidney bean extract and ate the highest amount of carbohydrate-rich foods lost more weight—and decreased their waist size more—than those who took a placebo.3
Most recently, a meta-analysis of 6 small randomized, controlled trials found no significant difference in weight loss between people who took white kidney bean extract and those who took a placebo. However, the authors point out that more research is necessary and that different preparations of the extract may not be equal, which could account for the variation in study results.4
A Promising Future…
White kidney bean extract also shows promise for other conditions, although much more research is needed before it can be recommended as a remedy for them.
Four clinical studies have shown potential benefits of white kidney bean on glucose response after meals, possibly because white kidney bean extract helps stop carbohydrates from breaking down into sugar.5
There’s also evidence that this supplement may have anti-cancer benefits: In one recent laboratory study, scientists discovered that white kidney beans contain a substance that appears to kill human liver cancer cells, without damaging healthy cells.6So far, though, no studies have been conducted in humans.
A Few Precautions…
White kidney bean extract seems like a promising addition to a healthy diet and exercise regimen for weight loss – but is it safe?
While it’s true that people have consumed white beans for thousands of years with seemingly no harm, there are few caveats to keep in mind.
First, raw beans in general contain high levels of a natural insecticide produced by all beans called phytohaemagglutinin, or PHA. Not only can PHA trigger side effects such as nausea, stomach pain, bloating, gas, vomiting, and diarrhea, but it also appears to decrease the beans’ ability to inhibit the amylase enzyme. That means PHA may reduce the “carb blocking” abilities of white kidney bean extract.
Fortunately, PHA levels are reduced considerably when you cook beans at high temperatures for about 10 to 15 minutes, so there is little danger you will receive experience these side effects when adding beans to your diet.
But some poor-quality white bean kidney extracts may still contain very high amounts of PHA if this substance isn’t removed or neutralized during manufacturing. And that may result in supplements that are both ineffective and likely to cause digestive side effects.
Plus, you shouldn’t take white kidney bean extract if you have diabetes or take drugs, herbs, or other supplements that lower blood sugar, which could result in hypoglycemia. You may also want to avoid it if you have digestive problems, liver problems, or a kidney disorder.
So what should you do?
A Sensible Weight Loss Strategy…
Due to the fact that white kidney bean extract is showing such promise in early weight loss studies, and since you can’t get the same effects simply by eating more beans, it’s worthwhile to experiment with it yourself and see if it supports your weight loss efforts.
If you do try white kidney bean extract, I recommend you look for products labeled “Phase 2” – the standardized white kidney bean extract used in most of the studies that show promise to date. The recommended dose is 1,500 to 6,000 mg daily before meals. Start with a lower dose and work your way up to see how much works best for you.
But don’t expect this – or any – supplement to melt the pounds away on its own. And don’t let so-called carb-blocking supplements give you license to eat all the carbs you want. Healthy diet and regular exercise are the foundation of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you want to drop a few pounds, focus on eliminating refined carbs and sugar. Stick to high-quality forms of protein (grass-fed, pastured, and free range), and combine that with plenty of low-glycemic veggies. Leafy greens like spinach, chard, and kale as well as broccoli are especially healthy. Match this with intense, interval training 2 to 3 times a week or as often as you can manage.
Then you can add white kidney bean extract to this healthy diet and exercise routine, and see if it supports or enhances your results.
This is one case where the early research is impressive enough that this weight loss supplement may be worth much more than a hill of beans after all.
And remember, keep an open mind to new ideas, but ALWAYS do your own homework…and combine that with common sense to figure out what’s best for YOU.
1Celleno L, Tolaini MV, D’Amore A, et al. A Dietary supplement containing standardized Phaseolus vulgaris extract influences body composition of overweight men and women. Int J Med Sci. 2007 Jan 24;4(1):45-52.
2Udani J, Hardy M, Madsen DC. Blocking carbohydrate absorption and weight loss: a clinical trial using Phase 2 brand proprietary fractionated white bean extract. Altern Med Rev. 2004 Mar;9(1):63-9.
3Udani J, Singh BB. Blocking carbohydrate absorption and weight loss: a clinical trial using a proprietary fractionated white bean extract. Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 Jul-Aug;13(4):32-7.
4Onakpoya I, Aldaas S, Terry R, et al. The efficacy of Phaseolus vulgaris as a weight-loss supplement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Br J Nutr. 2011 Jul;106(2):196-202.
5Barrett ML, Udani JK. A proprietary alpha-amylase inhibitor from white bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): a review of clinical studies on weight loss and glycemic control. Nutr J. 2011 Mar 17;10:24.
6Fang EF, Pan WL, Wong JH, et al. A new Phaseolus vulgaris lectin induces selective toxicity on human liver carcinoma Hep G2 cells. Arch Toxicol. 2011 Dec;85(12):1551-63.
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