My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 8, 2021

The bottom line about using raspberry ketone as a supplement for weight loss

By Operation Supplement Safety at the Uniformed Services University

Raspberry ketone is part of the latest health craze where some have determined it is effective as a dietary supplement for weight loss. In fact, raspberry ketone dietary supplements have been touted as a “miracle fat burner in a bottle” and often show up as an ingredient in supplement products marketed for weight loss. Here is the real “skinny” that you may want to consider before joining the crowds using raspberry ketone since there is no evidence that it is safe or effective as a dietary ingredient for weight loss.

Raspberry ketone is one of several naturally occurring chemicals in red raspberries that contribute to their aroma. It also occurs naturally in other fruits such as cranberries and blackberries, but in smaller amounts. Because the amount of raspberry ketone found naturally is so low, it is also produced in a laboratory (and known synthetically as (4-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-2 butanone) for use as a flavoring agent in some processed foods such as ice cream—it even shows up in cosmetics products. In these small quantities, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies it as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for use in foods. Most people likely consume very small amounts (about 1.8 to 3.8 mg) of raspberry ketone on a daily basis from food. However, the serving sizes on product labels range from 100 to 1,400 mg per day, which is much higher than the amount you would consume from your diet.

What does the latest research say about raspberry ketone?

The latest research on raspberry ketone mostly involves animal and cell cultures. Some studies suggest that rodents given large amounts of raspberry ketone had reduced appetite and gained less weight compared to those not given raspberry ketone. However, the amounts given to rodents in these studies were much greater than what you would get from any food source or product on the market. No studies have used such large amounts of raspberry ketones in humans. In fact, the only research that has been done in humans involves combination products (using multiple ingredients along with raspberry ketone), so even if an effect or benefit were reported, you don’t know whether raspberry ketone or another ingredient caused the effect.

Can raspberry ketone negatively affect a Military Service Member?

Raspberry ketone is structurally similar to synephrine, phenolphthalein, and ephedra. (Phenolphthalein and ephedra are on the list of DoD-prohibited substances.) Some analyses have shown that products listing raspberry ketone on the label could actually contain one of these prohibited ingredients. If this is the case, one of these prohibited ingredients might register for amphetamines on an initial military urine screening test, but subsequent confirmation testing would be negative.

There is simply not enough research to say that raspberry ketone in dietary supplements is safe. In addition, several adverse events have been reported to the FDA regarding the use of products containing raspberry ketone. Military service members should use caution, particularly with products containing raspberry ketone in large amounts (100 mg or higher).

Bottom line about raspberry ketones

There is no evidence supporting the use of raspberry ketone dietary supplements to help military service members reach their health goals for weight loss. In addition, there is no evidence that the amounts recommended on dietary supplement products are safe to use.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article content has been taken from the Operation Supplement Safety(OPSS) website. OPSS is the Department of Defense dietary supplement resource for the military community, leaders, healthcare providers, and Department of Defense (DoD) civilians. OPSS provides evidence-based information about dietary supplements to help the military community achieve human performance optimization. For more information, please visit opss.org.

Resources: 

  • List of DoD-prohibited substances

*Editor’s note: This article is a part of a series from the Human Performance Resources by CHAMP at the Uniformed Services University. Please see the other articles in the series.