So, what exactly is forskolin (besides a glaringly obvious, admittedly immature opportunity to make circumcision innuendos)? Forskolin is actually one of those “all-natural herbal extracts” that daytime TV hosts and soccer moms alike can’t seem to stop talking about. In fact, Dr. Oz dubbed the supplement “lightning in a bottle” in reference to its alleged fat-burning properties.
Proponents of using forskolin for weight loss cite studies that show forskolin raises testosterone levels and, therefore, leads to an increase in lean mass with a decrease in body fat percentage. Those in favor of this supposed herbal miracle also claim that it manipulates thyroid hormones and increases intracellular levels of cAMP, a second messenger. For you non-sciencey folks, second messengers are cellular messengers that work with hormones like epinephrine to carry out bodily functions. In particular, cAMP works with glucagon and adrenaline. Theoretically, this may indeed aid in “speeding up the metabolism.” Let’s take a look at some studies that review the supposed effects of forskolin.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. The fact is, only a handful studies have actually been conducted to examine the effectiveness of forskolin in humans as far as weight loss goes. Out of these two studies, one double-blind study showed that some of the subjects had favorable changes in body composition (decreased fat with increased muscle mass) and deduced that the forskolin did raise testosterone levels (albeit not significantly.) That being said, the group that consumed the forskolin also consumed 2386.92 ± 483.69 calories on average as opposed to the placebo group, which consumed 2558.09 ± 579.83 calories on average.
Now, assuming these figures are correct, it makes perfect sense that the forskolin supplement group lost more total-body mass than the control group since they were consuming fewer calories. In the case of another double-blind study, no significant changes in body weight or composition were recorded in either group.