Tuesday, August 11, 2009
What is it? Guggul lipids are derived from the guggul plant, also known as Commiphora Mukul. Guggul lipids contain active compounds called guggulsterones. Guggul has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years.
Guggul is best known for its effects on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It has been used to reduce total cholesterol levels while increasing HDL (the "good" cholesterol) levels. Guggul is also prescribed for weight loss in some Ayurvedic texts. Regarding for weight loss, guggul is supposed to stimulate the thyroid gland to increase production of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormone levels are often suppressed in people from certain nutrient deficiencies, long term low calorie intakes, certain diseases, among other factors.
A "slow" thyroid is often a key area of concern for people trying to lose weight. A slow thyroid (often referred to as sub#clinical hypothyroidism) will make it very difficult for a person to lose weight or keep it off long term. There are many health risks associated with an underactive thyroid and guggul may be able to help with that issue. Companies are selling guggul as a way of possibly increasing thyroid activity and thus making it easier to maintain a higher metabolic rate and improve weight loss
What does the research have to say?
The majority of research with guggul has focused mainly on its effects on cholesterol levels. Studies on both animals and people suggest guggul is as good, or better, than many of the current lipid reducing drugs currently prescribed to people for reducing cholesterol levels.
The exact mechanism of how guggul achieves its cholesterol lowering effects has not been fully elucidated. It may be related to guggul's supposed effects on the thyroid gland as increased thyroid activity is associated with a reduction in cholesterol levels.
One recent study in mice suggests guggul lowers cholesterol levels by being an antagonist of the FXR receptor, a nuclear hormone receptor that is activated by bile acids. Guggul decreased hepatic cholesterol in mice fed a high#cholesterol diet but was not effective in mice lacking an FXR receptor. This fact leads researchers to conclude it's the inhibition of the FXR receptor which is responsible for this herbs cholesteroMowering activity. It's clear however that guggul has additional effects.
For example, research has shown guggul's lipid lowering activity is related to an increase in LDL breakdown (catabolism), as well as other possible mechanisms have been examined. For example, studies with guggul have seemed to show it inhibits certain enzymes involved with cholesterol storage and clearance while increasing the fecal excretion of sterols and bile acids. Other interesting research suggests guggul may be protective to heart tissue; may have strong anti inflammatory properties, and for some odd reason, helps cure acne
As far as weight loss is concerned, little has been done to examine this assertion, although studies from older Indian research mentions weight loss as an effect from the use of guggul lipids. Animal research looking at its effects on the thyroid appears to show thyroid activity increases but human studies are limited or inconclusive. The one recent study that examined weight loss and guggul combined with other compounds is covered in the next section.
What does the real world have to say?
General feedback has been limited and mixed. Most people report no weight loss from taking guggul as the only weight loss nutrient, but very few people have tried it for that use in my experience.
There is no doubt that guggul lipids are an interesting topic with potentially useful applications, such as reducing total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The lack of modern research examining the effects of guggul on weight loss, combined with lack luster feedback, is a problem but certainly does not mean it is worthless.
The mixed feedback may be due to several of the following issues: •
(a) Thyroid is clearly essential for the regulation of metabolic rate/weight loss, there are many factors that have to be considered, such as GH, UCP's, insulin levels, neurotransmitters, androgens, leptin levels, estrogen levels, and about a hundred other variables, so people are not going to find thyroid output and
function as the be all and end all of fat loss. It is definitely however one important and worthwhile angle to pursue.
(b) While there is still some debate, guggul does appear to positively affect thyroid output, but the effect may not be great enough to cause weight loss. The thyroid is not the only regulator of the body's metabolism or our ability to lose fat. It's very possible that guggul is useful as part of a formula that combines other nutrients (See next section on guggul and phosphates mixtures for further info).
For people interested in trying this product, research on guggul for reducing cholesterol generally used 50#75mg of guggulsterones per day in divided doses. There does not seem to be any major known side effects at this time. However, anything that has the potential to greatly alter thyroid metabolism has the potential for problems in certain people. In particular, if a person has clinical hypothyroidism and is being treated with synthetic thyroid medications, the addition of guggul could have some negative and unknown interactions.
Best advice is for people who are using thyroid meds to avoid guggul products, or be willing to work closely with a doctor to fine tune the dosage of their medications (assuming the guggul has any effects). For people not using thyroid meds, there should not be any issues. However, I would still recommend cycling this product 6*8 weeks on and 2*4 weeks off as a good though unproven schedule.