Coleus is a member of the mint family native to subtropical regions of Africa and Asia, such as India, Thailand, and Uganda. It has a long history of use in traditional medicine, including Ayurveda, where it has been used to support lung, heart, and urinary health, among numerous other uses.1 Its tuberous roots are also commonly made into slightly sour pickles which are served in various relishes in Indian and other continental Asian cuisines.
Like all herbs, coleus contains a multitude of active compounds. However, the tuberous roots of the plant contain its most potent active ingredient, forskolin, which is largely believed to be the most beneficial substance derived from the plant. It has been used extensively in experimental clinical research as a positive control to effectively increase the levels of the important cellular messenger compound cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate).2 Healthcare providers also sometimes give patients forskolin in IV, eye drop, or powder form to treat a range of conditions.
As a supplement taken by mouth it is far newer, and as such, has been subject to less research. I and many others hope that’s about to change!
WHAT DOES FORSKOLIN DO?
In the supplement realm, forskolin is predominantly used within formulations to support fat burning and energy levels, but is also applicable for use in products targeting blood pressure, digestion, and testosterone levels.
One of the most rigorous and promising studies concerning supplemental forskolin was conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas a few years ago.3 They found that overweight and obese men lost more than 7.8 times more body fat, added 35 percent more bone mass, and increased their bioavailable free testosterone by almost 34 percent more when they added 250 mg of a 10 percent forskolin-containing coleus to their otherwise unchanged daily lives, twice per day. In other words, 50 mg of total forskolin per day—as compared to subjects who consumed a placebo—realized a significant improvement in both body composition and testosterone levels.
What makes forskolin so effective is its ability to directly and rapidly stimulate almost all known forms of the enzyme adenylyl cyclase, and therefore significantly affect the concentration of the messenger molecule cAMP. This powerful compound activates numerous other enzymes within a range of cells and tissues, and is indirectly involved in far too many cellular functions to list here.
What makes forskolin so unique, though, is that its actions on cAMP levels are reversible, and it accomplishes this action without the use of other cellular receptors such as beta adrenoreceptors, contrary to other well-known fat burners such as ephedrine. Its relative simplicity and dependability are why forskolin is such a commonly used control arm in clinical trials which are looking to assess the role of cAMP for any reason.
How Does Nutra Forskolin Work?
The creators of Nutra Forskolin claim you can expect to lose 5 pounds of weight for every bottle of Nutra Forskolin you use.
Nutra Forskolin claims to work its weight loss magic in two main ways:
— Increases Intracellular Levels of CAMP: “Forskolin releases fatty acids from adipose tissue, allowing them to be burned for energy, leading to the melting” away of belly fat.
— Dissolves Fat Cells: “This thermogenesis effect is the result of a chain reaction initiated by the chemicals in forskolin. It increases an enzyme in the human body called adenylate cyclase.”
As proof of these two mechanisms, Nutra Forskolin cites the results of a study from 2005. That study was undertaken at the Department of Health and Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Kansas, where forskolin was “proven to be highly effective for decomposing body fat, especially belly fat”, according to the official sales page for Nutra Forskolin.
If you look at the real study, you’ll see that forskolin supplementation genuinely did favorably alter body composition in participants.
However, the study faced widespread criticism because it only involved 30 subjects (15 of whom took forskolin). And, the study did not lead to any actual weight loss. The obese participants simply decreased their body fat percentage and fat mass. That’s still an excellent result – but it’s not the instant weight loss results that are promised by the manufacturer of Nutra Forskolin.
There’s also the problem that the University of Kansas study is one of the few major scientific studies on forskolin that has been performed over the years. In fact, there’s only one other major study that sought to measure the effects of forskolin on human subjects. That study was published in the 2012 edition of Obesity Research and once again showed that forskolin could improve body mass composition in obese men while also raising testosterone levels.
Nevertheless, the study still only involved 15 men taking forskolin.
The weight loss evidence for forskolin can be described as promising – but more studies are needed to conclusively determine that forskolin can lead to weight loss.
The lack of evidence supporting forskolin hasn’t stopped the manufacturers of Nutra Forskolin from making some bold claims about the effectiveness of Nutra Forskolin.
One oft-repeated claim is that forskolin will burn away belly fat “from the inside” while leaving your lean muscle intact.
That may be true according to the two studies listed above. But in both these studies, researchers used 250mg of 10% forskolin extract – which is a relatively strong daily dose. Nutra Forskolin never lists its dosage information, which leads me to believe that it’s significantly lower than 250mg of 10% forskolin extract (otherwise, you would think the manufacturer would want to advertise its dosage).