Carbohydrate Blockers – Are they really worth buying?
What are carb blockers?
One of the reasons why many of us find it difficult to stick to a low calorie diet plan is that most diets require you to reduce, or even eliminate, the consumption of carbohydrates.
Seeing that potatoes, bread, rice and pasta (all carbohydrates) tend to form the basis of most of our meals, this really is no easy task.
Carbohydrate blockers are diet pills designed to block the absorption of carbohydrate, causing a percentage of these offending foods to simply pass through the body without causing weight gain.
If carbohydrate blockers are actually effective and cause no adverse side effects, they could play a significant role in helping people to lose weight, without having to cut out this staple of western diets.
So how exactly do they claim to work?
The most widely used ingredient in this type of diet pill is an extract from the white kidney bean, Phaseolus Vulgaris (sometimes referred to as Phase 2®). Its role is to prevent the enzyme alpha-amylase from binding with starches.
The normal function of alpha-amylase is to bind with the starch in carbohydrates, before breaking it down into molecules that can be absorbed by the body. By preventing this process from taking place, carbohydrates will simply pass through the body unabsorbed.
Just as importantly, carbohydrate blockers can reduce the level of insulin secreted by the pancreas in response to the consumption of carbohydrates. Since it is insulin which converts carbohydrates to fat, which is then stored by the body, the effect of Phaseolus Vulgaris on insulin can be helpful both as part of a weight loss programme and for diabetics.
The mostly widely used carbohydrate blockers
The three most popular over-the counter carbohydrate blockers sold through Amazon are DeCarb (currently on offer at $15 for 60 tablets), CarbStopper Extreme ($23 for 60 capsules), and XLS Medical Carbohydrates Binder ($39 for 60 tablets). Each is based upon extracts from the white kidney bean. Customer reviews are mixed, with overall scores being 3 stars for DeCarb, 4 stars for CarbStopper Extreme and 2 stars for XLS Medical.
Popular Carbohydrate Blockers:
Carb Stopper Extreme
One medically prescribed carbohydrate blocker is Acarbose (in Europe this goes under the name Glucobay), which is used primarily to treat Type 2 diabetes. It is not prescribed as a weight loss remedy except in patients with Type 2 diabetes, however, and is thought to contribute to inflammatory bowel disease and possibly jaundice.
What are the side effects of Cabohydrate Blockers?
The most common side effect of carbohydrate blockers is flatulence, which is widely reported. Whilst flatulence may cause embarrassment, it does not adversely affect overall health. Other users cite bloating, nausea, lower abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea.
Side effects seem to be significantly less for carbohydrate blockers than for fat blocker drugs, and, it is suggested, tend to decrease as the body adapts to the drug.
A safety review of Phaseolus Vulgaris conducted by Cantox Health Services International concluded that this extract is safe at doses up to 10g per day.
Sensible precautions when using carbohydrate blockers is to take a vitamin supplement a couple of hours before or after the diet pill, which should prevent potential vitamin deficiency should vitamins be blocked from absorption along with the carbohydrates.
Have there been any clinical trials?
A number of scientific studies have investigated the role of Phaseolus Vulgaris in weight loss. Early studies in the 1980s suggested this extract from the white kidney bean was ineffective as a weight loss tool.
However, more recent studies suggest Phaseolus Vulgaris might well have a role. A study in Italy by Ballerini showed that participants lost an average 6.45lb in a thirty day period.
Later trials reported by Vinson et al suggest that more concentrated extracts of Phaseolus Vulgaris taken in higher doses are effective in weight loss. The earlier conflicting results are explained by their use of lower doses. A study by Celleno et al, published in the International Journal of Medical Science in 2007 supports the findings of both Ballerini and Vinson.
The most recent peer-reviewed article by Barrett and Udani reviews the earlier clinical studies on Phaseolus vulgaris and concludes that the extract “has the potential to induce weight loss and reduce spikes in blood sugar caused by carbohydrates through its alpha-amylase inhibiting activity”.
The manufacturers of carbohydrate blockers would have us believe that products based on Phaseolus Vulgaris will enable us to enjoy all the advantages of a low carbohydrate diet without any of the pain. The reality is perhaps less clear-cut.
Certainly the results of limited clinical trials appear encouraging, although a significant proportion of the studies so far conducted have been carried out by manufacturers rather than independent researchers.
On that basis further independent and peer-reviewed research must be completed before the enthusiastic claims of the manufacturers for carbohydrate blockers will be shared by the scientific community as a whole.