Forskolin For Weight Loss

This week I had a patient bring in a bottle of a weight loss supplement, saying it had helped her brother lose a bunch of weight.  She told me she was thinking of taking it but wanted my opinion.

The supplement was called forskolin and though I had heard of it I didn’t know much about it.  Always willing to dig into supplement weight loss claims, off I went to the research database!  What info is out there about forskolin for weight loss?

I didn’t find much, to be honest.  I only located two studies published using human subjects.

One study administered 250 mg of a 10% forskolin extract twice daily to 15 men, with 15 men as controls taking placebo.  Over 12 weeks, the men taking forskolin lost an average of 4.5 kg (9.9 pounds) of fat and gained an average of 3.7 kg (8.14 pounds) of lean mass, compared to no significant change in those taking placebo.

Interestingly, the authors found a small increase in testosterone levels in men taking forskolin.  In addition, there was a significant change in free testosterone in the men taking forskolin compared to those taking placebo.  Since testosterone increases muscle mass and decreases fat mass, and low testosterone contributes to obesity in men, this may explain some of the changes seen in the men taking forskolin.

The authors had the subjects fill out diet journals and found no difference before and after the study in how the subjects in either group ate.

The other study administered 250 mg of a 10% forskolin extract twice daily or placebo to 19 overweight and obese women.  Over the 12-week trial there was no effect on weight, body composition or any other measured parameter in either group.

What side effects have been reported with use of forskolin?  There is a risk of low blood pressure (producing dizziness and possible fainting episodes) and high heart rate (with palpitations).  People taking blood thinners or medications for blood pressure or heart or lung conditions shouldn’t take forskolin without talking about it with their doctor.

What does all this mean?  There is very little evidence that forskolin is helpful for weight loss.  More research is needed to explore the risks and benefits.

Anyone looking for a proven effective weight loss program should consider Shaklee 180.  Green tea extract is effective at increasing metabolic rate, leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that preserves muscle mass, and modest calorie restriction is most effective for gradual loss of fat tissue.

There are so many supplements out there marketed to produce “miraculous” weight loss.  Beware of inflated claims of amazing results.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is (and might be dangerous to boot).

QUESTION: Have you ever tried forskolin?  What was your experience?


Raising Teenagers

I’m feeling thoughtful today.

Last night I drove my son and three other teenagers from our church youth group to drop them off at a weekend retreat.  Four teenagers half-yelling over each other in my car was quite an experience.

Most of the ride was spent discussing music.  They have a wide range of interests, some of which I share (and some of which I sincerely don’t).  Scanning through radio stations and stopping at songs one or another wanted to hear.  At one point someone broke out with “Is this the real life?  Is this just fantasy…”

Someone is raising their kids right.  All four of them knew every word to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  There was a very enthusiastic five-person a cappella rendition.  I think I’m a cool mom now, LOL!

When we got to camp and unloaded the pile of bags and pillows and sleeping bags (and food!) from the back of the truck, Chris grabbed his stuff and took off towards the boys’ cabins without a backwards glance.

Finding myself asked to move my car so other parents could unload, I figured the best thing to do was just to head home.  On the one hand I couldn’t be happier that my son is comfortable enough with 100 other teenagers and a few harried (but very dedicated) adults to head off on his own.

A tiny part of me, though, watched as time did that weird telescope thing that time does for parents as their children grow.  I saw myself prying him off my leg when he was two and didn’t want to stay at the day care.  And I wondered, when did this happen?

My son is growing up.  He is 14 now and a freshman in high school.  He tops me in height by several inches.  His hands and feet are bigger than mine.  He is learning things in school that I never learned and never will.

A very large part of me is intensely proud that Chris is doing this growing-up thing so well.  He is smart and caring and occasionally as awkward as a half-grown puppy, all arms and legs that don’t always do what he wants them to do.

He is also beginning to prepare for Confirmation and to try to figure out what path God wants him to take in his life.  Since my primary job as a parent is to get my kids to heaven, this discernment is a very important process to me, but I can’t do it for him.  All I can do is pray for him and encourage HIM to pray and listen for the whisper that will show him the path meant for him.

What I wish all you other parents out there could tell me is, do all parents raising teenagers feel this way?  99% terrified pride and 1% sadness that I will never again be as central to his life as I was when he was two?  Happy excitement that his world is getting bigger by the day paired with fear about all the dangers he will be navigating soon?

Is it normal to want to kiss one more boo-boo?  To tuck him in and try to find his head under the pile of blankets for one more good-night kiss?  To have him reach to hold my hand in the parking lot one more time?

When my mom was my age she was a new empty-nester.  Both her daughters had left for college.  I’ve got quite a few years before both my boys will be out of the house, but this weekend I can all too easily look forward to the day when my firstborn will head off to college and spread his own wings.

I think I need to call my mom.

QUESTION: If you have kids, did you feel this way when they were teenagers?  Any advice for me?


What To Do After The Election

Tuesday night I, like many other Americans, sat up watching election coverage.  As the results came in and the outcome became clear, most people felt shock.  Some in a good way, some in a way that felt like the end of the world.

Now that the election is over, there are a lot of people who are frightened and angry.  I bet some of YOU are frightened and angry.  At the very least, I know you have friends, family members, coworkers and acquaintances who are frightened and angry.

As we move forward as a country after the election, there are things we can do to help each other NOT be frightened and angry to this degree.  Even if you disagree politically, presumably these are your friends and family members you are speaking with, right?  People you love, or at least people you like.  People whose friendships you don’t want to lose.  No one should lose a friendship years in the making to a political event.


The very first thing to do when someone is emotionally overwrought is to shut up and LISTEN.  As was stated in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, we should listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to respond.  Don’t plan your answer or figure out how to poke holes in their position.

When you have listened, ask questions to make sure you fully understand the person’s concerns.  For instance, “I hear you saying that you feel your vote didn’t count because the election didn’t go the way you wanted it to.”  Or “Because you’re a woman, the result of this election makes you afraid you won’t be safe, is that right?”

Just clarifying your understanding of their concern will help them see that you DO value their point of view and respect their opinion.

Now that you have worked so hard to understand where they’re coming from, DON’T BLOW IT!  Don’t devalue them by explaining how their concern isn’t valid or that their opinion is wrong.  Their opinion isn’t wrong any more than yours is.  Simply empathize.

Remember, your friends’ and family members’ anger and fear over the election outcome is not an attack on you, even if you did vote for Trump.  If these are people you love, if these are people you like, and they are afraid and angry, you will want to help them feel better.  That starts by helping them know they are heard, they are valued, and their concerns are understood.

I really like the #SafetyPin movement that rose out of the Brexit vote.  Wearing a safety pin on your lapel means you are willing to support minorities and women and provide help if they need it.  You are a safe person.  You won’t judge.

BTW don’t engage in arguments with people via Facebook or Twitter if at all possible.  This is the absolute worst place to have a political discussion.  Body language and facial expression can’t be assessed, and you can’t give or get a hug after the conversation.  Pick up the phone and call or, if possible, meet for coffee if someone is really struggling.  Have the conversation offline.


If you feel you need to make a political point (or any other point, for that matter) in response to something someone has said, make sure to make your comment about what was said, not about the other person.  For instance, suppose you hear your friend say “I can’t believe anyone voted for Trump.  All Trump supporters are racist, bigoted, misogynistic homophobes.” (And I have seen that very statement over and over again on Facebook and Twitter.)

An emotional response may be to unfriend or unfollow that person, which I believe is the wrong thing to do.  When we surround ourselves with only people who believe the way we do, we become very rigid in our thinking.

An aggressive response would be to say “Well all Clinton supporters are whiny crybabies who want free stuff and can’t handle being told they can’t have something or that they lost.”  (Again, I’ve seen exactly that statement on social media as well.)  See how that isn’t going to further the cause of respectful and productive communication?

An assertive response might be to say “I have friends who voted for Trump and did so because of the issues, not because they agree with him on everything.  They have never said or done anything to my knowledge that was racist or misogynistic or homophobic.  Do you really believe it’s impossible for someone to vote for Trump without being racist or misogynistic?”  This challenges the statement without attacking the person.


Remember that we’re pretty much stuck with each other, right?  America exists because it has room for all points of view.  Respectful dialog is the basis of our form of government and just because our candidates have not been stellar examples of this goal doesn’t mean that WE should hurl insults at each other.

Treating each other the way we would want to be treated is the key to navigating the days and weeks ahead.  Before you post something, before you say something out loud, stop and think.

Listen first, clarify the person’s concern, be assertive and be kind.  If everyone behaved this way, America would be much better off.


Do Hands-On Dads Have Healthier Kids?

If you’re reading this article, I’d like you to take a moment and think about your own father.  Was your father present in your life when you were small?  Did your dad change diapers and give baths and play games in the backyard?

When comparing fathers of the past and present-day dads, it’s clear that fathers today take a much more hands-on role in the lives of their children and in management of their homes.  With so many mothers working outside the home, dads have more responsibility for meals and child care and household tasks.

Do these changes have an impact on their children’s health?  Do hands-on dads have healthier kids?  New research suggests that yes, they do.  As reported at Obesity Week, in at least one very important measurement, kids whose fathers are involved in their day-to-day lives ARE healthier than children whose fathers are absent or stick to a more traditional fatherly role.

There is an enormous study called the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort which investigated all sorts of social, economical, health and educational parameters of 14,000 American children born in 2001.  Researchers looked at surveys filled out by the fathers of children in the cohort and found an interesting correlation.  (This research specifically looked at fathers who lived in the same household with their children.)

When dads were physically involved in the care of their babies, toddlers and preschoolers, the children were less likely to be obese.  Physical involvement means that fathers changed diapers, bathed and dressed and fed their children.  They were hands-on with their kids!  Dads being more involved with meal preparation was also correlated with lower risk of obesity.

No one really knows what the basis of this correlation is.  It is possible that households with hands-on fathers are more stable and, therefore, happier places to grow up.  15% of the homes studied were below the poverty line.  Fathers worked an average of 46 hours per week and mothers worked an average of 18 hours per week.

It has been thought that dads’ role in the prevention of obesity was limited to encouraging physical activity.  Getting kids involved in sports and encouraging their efforts was thought to be in the father’s sphere.  However, this new research suggests that fathers’ opportunity to promote health in their children may extend to menu planning and meal preparation and the deeper bonding that happens when a dad participates in the nitty-gritty tasks of raising a child.

As a doctor, this research has made me rethink the questions I ask about a child’s father at well-child visits.  In the vast majority of cases the child’s mother brings him or her to the doctor for a checkup.  I will need to be more curious about Dad’s role in taking care of the child, and encourage a more hands-on role for him.

If you have a small child or children at home, whether you are Mom or Dad, please think about the typical tasks you and your partner take on.  Do you split jobs on traditional gender lines?  Or do you switch off?  Taking turns with diapers, baths, dressing and mealtimes will allow deep bonds to grow between a small child and BOTH parents.

Deep and stable bonds with both parents make for happier kids.  It’s interesting that they may make for healthier kids as well.