New Stuff
By Phil Kaplan

"Does "it" work?" still holds its place at the top of the "most common questions" list. Of course the "it" changes from month to month, year to year . . . and as science, infomercials, and supplement sales move forward, there's the inevitable emerging of "new stuff." There are four products that seem to have attracted a great amount of attention based on the volume of "does it work" emails that come in to my inbox relating to them. I'll do the best I can to give you, in short order, the "real story" on these relatively new offerings:


Cortisol is called "The Stress Hormone," and a new product, Cortislim, promises to combat the fat-accumulating effects of this hormone. Cortisol is not "a bad hormone." It has an important role. In times of trauma, it is vital in facilitating survival. I wrote about it in an update on October 3, 2001, shortly after September 11, as stress was in high gear nationwide.

As far as Cortislim being a great aid in reducing fat . . . I am not convinced of its efficacy. In regard to the product's marketing, it is 100% accurate that the hormone cortisol leads to increased accumulation of midsection fat, but that doesn't mean that a supplement can reverse the process. Fat loss is a two step process. It must first be released into the bloodstream from an adipose cell, and then it must be transported into the mitochondria of a muscle cell where it can be burned as fuel. Even if stress induced cortisol elevation contributed to the problem, the solution is in all likelihood going to lie in alterations in nutrition and exercise, even if you're already training intensely and "eating right." I don't see anything magical in Cortislim. It's ingredients include a relatively tiny dose of Vitamin C, a small dose of calcium, and an almost insignificant dose of chromium. It also contains magnolia bark, which according the Chinese Herbal medicine has application in treating some digestive issues (not related to cortisol) and gastric bloating. Despite clever marketing, the most prominent ingredients appear to be green tea extract (caffeine) and bitter orange (synephrine). I think there is virtue in reducing the negative physical impact of stress, but I don't see this being the solution. Exercise to optimize neurotransmission, eat right to provide nutrients for healthy metabolism, and if you want to try cortislim, or another compound, phosphatidylserine, to attempt to limit cortisol induced damage, consider it "the extra."

Click Here for a CortiSlim Update 08-05-04

Body Flex

Greer Childers looks good on camera, especially "for her age," and she has a polished sincerity that makes her a hot infomercial product spokesperson. Body Flex, according to the infomercial, is something she supposedly developed over 20 years of frustration, and now, as all infomercial offerings, "it's easy." The "show" is driven by emotional testimonials from women who were frustrated with their weight, and now, thanks to Body Flex, they look and feel wonderful.

The "revolutionary" program suggests something I'm sure nobody has ever thought of before. Breathing! Now there's a revoutionary idea! What can be easier than sitting on the couch and getting all psyched up to inhale, and then . . . . of all things . . . exhale. They assure you several times on the show that sitting on the couch is perfectly OK during your "exercise" session - after all, we wouldn't want to move too much, would we?

The Body Flex program, which sells for $79.99, comes with videos, with a "patented gym bar," and a tape measure. The first clue that there is a questionable message being sent is the reliance on "how many inches" you can lose. "Losing inches" is an old trick performed by diet centers. By measuring a dozen or more sites, they total up the fractions of inches to come up with a grand total . . . but there's nothing scientific about this. If you measure more sites, you're going to get a higher number of inches! Water loss can quickly facilitate fractional losses that can total up to whatever number the measurer wants to display as a total. If someone who is sedentary and who eats poorly begins to breathe deeply, challenge their body with resistance, and make better food choices, are they going to improve? Sure, but do you need to spend $79.99 to learn to breathe? I believe that money could be far better spend on a pair of dumbbells and some running shoes. The power of the infomercial is the production itself, not the value of the product. Now we're left with the question . . . . "does it work," or more accurately, "does it work as the show promises?" I'll leave it to the FTC to answer that. In an FTC News release distributed in November of 2003, The Federal Trade Commission revealed they had sued the marketers of the BodyFlex+ System for falsely advertising that "BodyFlex causes fast inch loss and fat loss."

Carb Blockers - Phase 2 and HCA

There is a new wave of "carb blockers" on the market. Since the explosion of Atkins and similar diets have turned people against carbs, the idea of taking a pill that prevents those "evil carbs" from doing their dastardly deed is guaranteed to sell products. The question is, will the products actually help? Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) has been sold in health food stores for quite some time playing off of the fact that Hoffman-Laroche researched it extensively considering the release of a weight loss drug. What's important to note is that after investing lots and lots and lots and lots of money, the pharmaceutical giant abandoned the effort. The supplement sellers picked it up as a possible weight loss aid, and while research with rats showed it might have an impact on reducing the conversion of glucose molecules (carbs) into triglycerides (fats), it doesn't live up to the claims the sellers of HCA products make. I've used it, but without any definitive results. When I'm adjusting my nutrient intake with a goal in mind, and manipulating carb intake, on higher carb days I consider it an insurance policy just in case I've taken in more carbs than I need to meet metabolic energy needs. Does it work? I don't know. Most people buying this are not as forgiving as I, and they expect it to do something visible, to somehow make the pounds drop off. If the expectation is high, HCA is certain to disappoint. Still, the concept was great and just putting the words "carb blocker" on a supplement bottle guaranteed sales. Back in the 1970's, Dr. John Marshall suspected that certain proteins in beans had the ability to ingerfere with the enzyme alpha-amylase. Alpha-amylase comes into play after carbohydrates leave the stomach and it works to facilitate the breakdown of starches into sugars (glucose). The thinking evolved with the hope that ingestion of these proteins can prevent the starches from being fully broken down into their glucose components, thus the proteins would prevent glucose from being absorbed. The starch chains would simply remain in the digestive tract until they are excreted. Through the 1980's trails and research studies proved inconclusive and disappointing, and studies seemed to result in . . . ummm . . . what they politely call gastric distress. Over time, as they began to isolate purified phaseolamin from the kidney bean, the gastric issues decreased and the research began to show promise (I've listed a few of the encouraging studies below). Phaseolamin was patented and sold as "Phase 2." Does it work? I'd have to say . . . it might. But I'd have to follow the tentative assertion of possible efficacy with the question, "what do you mean by "work??" It is not a weight loss panacea. It doesn't affect stored bodyfat. In fact, it doesn't have any effect on existing body composition. At best, it can limit insulin spikes resultant from starch intake. My concern with these products is the marketing tends to suggest you can "eat all the carbs you want," and a pill will neutralize them. I find it far more effective to teach people to ingest the nutrients they need, to limit glucose intake and the resultant insulin spike, and to exercise for optimal use of ingested nutrients. Phase 2 might have some promise, but I don't believe it's going to prove to be of great value in and of itself for those seeking to shed the pounds. It absolutely is not an excuse for a lack of control or nutritional discipline.

Layer, P., et al. “Effect of purified amylase inhibitor on carbohydrate tolerance in normal subjects and patients with diabetes mellitus." MAYO Clinic Proceedings 61, 6 (June, 1986) 442-447.

Brugge, W.R. and M. S. Rosenfeld. "Impairment of starch absorption by a potent amylase inhibitor." American Journal of Gastroenterology 82, 8 (August, 1987) 718-722.

Layer, P., et al. “Effects of decreasing intra luminal amylase on starch digestion and postprandial gastrointestinal function in humans." On carbohydrate tolerance in normal subjects and patients with diabetes mellitus." Gastroenterology 91, 1 (July, 1986) 41-48.


Ed Byrd and Anthony Almada were frequent guests on my radio show back around 1994 when creatine was first gaining momentum as a possible muscle builder. Ed and Anthony were the creators of a mass marketed creatine product that through a series of events found its way into the EAS product line as the best selling Phosphagen. I've stayed in touch with Anthony, but have not since had conversations with Ed. Ed Byrd didn't vanish into thin air by any means. He took the supplement industry by storm with his newest release, NO2, and there have since been an entire army of imitators playing up the muscle pumping virtues of Nitric Oxide.

Nitric Oxide (NO) is nitrogen bound with oxygen to form a reactive gas (nitrogen monoxide). In the human body NO2 acts to control blood vessel dilation allowing for healthy blood pressure and circulatory response. Because the nitric oxide molecule is so tiny, it is capable of passing through cell membranes to act as an intermediary in specific metabolic processes. It acts to stimulate brain signal transmission as well as immune function. In order to "maintain" NO levels, you don't necessarily need a supplement. You first have to make certain you're taking in adequate protein as nitrogen is a component of intracellular protein. Keeping a healthy cardiorespiratory system is also vital. NO is synthesized from the amino acid arginine, so there is some study going on in examining precisely how L-arginine supplementation can aid in maintaining optimal NO levels, but the studies are inconclusive at best. Interestingly, Viagra works by acting on the Nitric Oxide pathway to enhance circulation so there is also much interest in L-arginine supplementation as a sexual aid. I believe Ed did a nice job of marketing an expensive product which I don't see as being more than another L-arginine supplement. While I've heard some people swear by it, I haven't personally seen anything conclusive. Anecdotal evidence often comes from strength training athletes who lump together six or seven supplements and if muscle increase is apparent, they "swear by" all six or seven. I'm unconvinced, but open minded. I would welcome Ed Byrd onto my show to discuss this product preparing him in advance that he will be subject to skepticism and scrutiny. Whatdya think Ed?

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