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Life Extension Magazine

August 2002

How guarana induces fat loss


Guarana is an herb that contains a form of caffeine called guaranine, which is 2.5 times stronger than the caffeine found in coffee, tea and soft drinks. What makes guaranine unique from caffeine found in beverages is its slower release. That's because the guarana seed is fatty (even in powder form) and is not readily water-soluble. Therefore the body does not quickly absorb it.

Since the guaranine is released slowly, the energy boost that is experienced from guarana is not like that of coffee with its sudden rush and quick drop-off. Rather, it continues to escalate over hours.

While caffeine from beverages provides a short-lived energy burst that overheats and excites the body, guaranine has a cooling action that revitalizes and relaxes. This is because guarana contains other components that modify the activity of this substance. The end result is more beneficial to the body than tea or coffee.

Caffeine accelerates the effectiveness of CLA, thus making CLA a more potent fat burner. Guarana has been shown to stimulate the migration of lipids so fat can be burned as energy. It is also an appetite suppressant.

Guarana aids in a temporary, natural increase in body temperature and metabolic thermogenesis through nutritional stimulation of the body's ß receptor pathway, which can induce the breakdown and release of stored body fat, thereby allowing stored fats to be turned into energy.

Thermogenesis refers to the body's production of heat, a normal part of metabolic processes. Thermogenesis can be enhanced by certain nutritional substances. When stimulated through appropriate dietary supplementation, thermogenesis is also a mechanism that increases metabolic rate. Stored body fat, if released and available for use, can provide the fuel for this increased metabolic rate. Other active constituents of guarana are theobromine and theophylline, which are called xanthines (a class of thermogenic substances found in coffee, tea and certain beans). They have some effect on increasing metabolic rate, suppressing appetite and enhancing both physical and mental performance. They also act as muscle relaxants and possess diuretic properties.

Guarana increases mental alertness, fights fatigue, and increases stamina and physical endurance. Native to Brazil, guarana is taken daily as a health tonic by millions of Brazilians. It is reported to help overcome heat fatigue, detoxify the blood and is useful for flatulence and obesity. In body care products, it has been used for its tonifying and astringent properties, and in the treatment of cellulite.

In the United States, guarana holds a GRAS-status (Generally Regarded As Safe). In 1989 a patent was filed on a guarana seed extract that was capable of inhibiting platelet aggregation in mammals. The patent described guarana's ability to prevent the formation of blood clots and to help in the breakdown of clots that had already been formed. Clinical evidence was presented in conjunction with the patent in 1989 and again in 1991 by a Brazilian research group demonstrating these antiaggregation properties. Guarana has a long history of use as an energy tonic and for mental acuity enhancement.

Clinical studies on guarana

In a study published in the June 2001 issue of the Journal of Human Nutrition Diet, guarana extract induced weight loss over 45 days in overweight patients taking a mixed herbal preparation containing yerbe mate, guarana and damiana. Body weight reductions were 11.22 pounds in the guarana group compared to less than one pound in the placebo group after 45 days.[22]

Guarana extract and fractions decreased platelet aggregation up to 37% of control values and platelet thromboxane formation from arachidonic acid up to 78% of control values. When platelets hyperaggregate and/or when excess thromboxane formation occurs, an arterial blood clot can develop, resulting in a heart attack or ischemic stroke.[23]

In a 1997 study, guarana increased physical activity of rats, increased physical endurance under stress and increased memory, with single doses as well as with chronic doses. Interestingly enough, the study revealed that a whole guarana seed extract performed better and more effectively than did a comparable dosage of caffeine or ginseng extract.[24]

Another Brazilian research group has been studying guarana's apparent effect of increasing memory. Its antibacterial properties against E. coli and Salmonella have been documented as well.

A 1998 toxicology study with animals have shown that guarana is nontoxic at even high dosages of up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. This same study demonstrated guarana's antioxidant properties saying, "Guarana showed an antioxidant effect because, even at low concentrations (1.2 microg/ml), it inhibited the process of lipid peroxidation."[25]

A major advantage to taking guarana in an oil base capsule is its relatively slow release into the body. In a study published in the journal Pharmacology Biochemical Behavior, a comparison was made of the absorption of caffeine from coffee, cola or capsules. Based on saliva caffeine concentrations, the absorption from capsules was about 40% slower than that of coffee or colas. These capsules were not oil-based, yet the rate of caffeine absorption was still significantly slower than coffee or cola.[26]


The effect of CLA on blocking excess absorption of serum glucose and fatty acids into adipocytes (fat cells) is remarkable. CLA induces a reduction in the size of adipocytes. One reason people gain weight as they age is that their adipocytes literally become fatter.

Another cause of increased body fat storage is the proliferation of adipocytes. While CLA helps block the absorption of fat and sugar into adipocytes, it does not reduce the actual number of adipocytes present. Guarana has been shown to specifically reduce the number of adipocytes. When CLA was combined with guarana, there was a 50% reduction in adipocyte number.

While many published studies document the fat-reducing effects of CLA, the fact that CLA may protect against cancer, vascular disease and Type II diabetes makes it a preferred supplement for health conscious people to use daily.

In response to the study showing an added benefit when CLA is combined with guarana, a new supplement has been formulated that contains potencies of CLA and guarana that have demonstrated fat-losing effects in published studies.

See related article:
An analysis of whether cancer patients should take guarana


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