White Kidney Bean Extract: Help or Hype?

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Reader Question: Does White Kidney Bean Extract work for Weight Loss?  

White Kidney Beans

White Kidney Beans

This question came to me from a reader who is struggling with weight loss.  He has been on a diet for three months and has plateaued and wants to know if this supplement might help.  He has seen ads for a supplement that contains white kidney bean extract and wants to know if it might help?

White Kidney Bean Extract is sold as a carbohydrate or starch blocker.  In other words, this supplement reportedly blocks the enzymes that digest starches in the gut.  This process would result in both an increase in undigested carbohydrates leaving the body and being digested by bacteria.  Hmm, what side effects might that cause?  

Side Effects of taking white kidney bean extract:

  1. The most common side-effects are in the gastrointestinal(GI) tract.  It does not take a genius to figure out what extra sugar being digested or fermented by bacteria is going to do.  It is going to cause an increase of gas in the colon from carbon dioxide and methane.  In other words, this supplement is going to make you toot.  It may also result in bloating and constipation.  The GI side effects should be short-lived.  Drink plenty of water, and you may avoid them all together.
  2. White Kidney Bean Extract can cause hypoglycemia in diabetics.  I recommend that you discuss all supplements with you medical provider if plan to take one.  This supplement is no panacea, and if you intend on taking it to help with your weight and you have diabetes, it can contribute to bottoming out your blood sugar.  This side effect is not a joke and may be life threatening.  
  3. White Kidney Beans

    White Kidney Beans

    The good news is the side effect profile is low for this supplement.  Remember that with all supplements, the ingredients are not tested for purity so I would recommend you avoid them because they may have some hidden ingredients that may cause toxicity.  If you must try this supplement, take only the pure form to reduce your side effects.

Research on White Kidney Bean Extract:

  1. Taking white kidney bean extract can assist with weight loss.  One review article looked that the data of three studies[1].  In these three studies, subjects took white bean extract in variable amounts between 500-1,600 mg.  The subjects lost 4 pounds over eight weeks in the first study, 6.5 pounds over four weeks in the second study, and 7 pounds after taking supplements for 12 weeks in the last study.  In another study, 49 subjects were given the supplement and followed in weight maintenance[2].  The test group lost approximately 6 pounds versus 2 in the control group but most notably 73% were able to maintain the weight loss for 12 weeks effortlessly with continued supplement use.  It is clear that this supplement might help with weight loss, but it is important to note that the pills were a proprietary blend (not a pure product) and the study was paid for by a supplement company.  This sponsorship might indicate a bias.
  2. The supplement appears to be safe.  The side effects found in the research studies is flatulence and diarrhea[3].  The only real concerns are hypoglycemia in those that are predisposed and diabetics.  It may also interfere with medication absorption.  
  3. The truth is somewhat unclear.  There are plenty of studies that make the claim that white kidney bean extract increases weight loss that has failed to meet the mark and this makes these claims fuzzy.  Multiple studies have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to indicate that it helps with weight loss[4],[5]

The bottom line:  Most of what you read on this supplement is pure hype.  To prevent weight gain or help with weight loss for most of us would have to take 3,000-5,000 mg a day in divided doses.  I would not recommend taking this supplement because I think you can get more from learning to eat right and exercising.  In fact, I would suggest that adding fiber and water to your diet would likely be just as successful.  That being said, white kidney bean extract taken before meals may help fat loss by decreasing carbohydrate availability for absorption.  It is likely to work best in those that have a higher carbohydrate intake.  As long as you do not have low blood sugar or diabetes, taking the supplement is likely safe and will probably only give you flatulence, constipation, and/or diarrhea.  The long-term efficacy and safety, however, have not been evaluated.  

Footnotes
[1]Barrett and Udani, “A Proprietary Alpha-Amylase Inhibitor from White Bean (Phaseolus Vulgaris): A Review of Clinical Studies on Weight Loss and Glycemic Control.”
[2]Grube et al., “Weight Reduction and Maintenance with IQP-PV-101: A 12-Week Randomized Controlled Study with a 24-Week Open Label Period.”
[3]Barrett and Udani, “A Proprietary Alpha-Amylase Inhibitor from White Bean (Phaseolus Vulgaris): A Review of Clinical Studies on Weight Loss and Glycemic Control.”
[4]Onakpoya et al., “The Efficacy of Phaseolus Vulgaris as a Weight-Loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials.”
[5]“Scientific Opinion on the Substantiation of a Health Claim Related to a Standardised Aqueous Extract from White Kidney Bean (Phaseolus Vulgaris L.) and Reduction of Body Weight pursuant to Article 13(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.”
Barrett, Marilyn L, and Jay K Udani. “A Proprietary Alpha-Amylase Inhibitor from White Bean (Phaseolus Vulgaris): A Review of Clinical Studies on Weight Loss and Glycemic Control.” Nutrition Journal. Springer Nature, March 17, 2011. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-24
Grube, Barbara, Wen-Fen Chong, Pee-Win Chong, and Linda Riede. “Weight Reduction and Maintenance with IQP-PV-101: A 12-Week Randomized Controlled Study with a 24-Week Open Label Period.” Obesity. Wiley-Blackwell, September 5, 2013. doi: 10.1002/oby.20577
Onakpoya, Igho, Salsabil Aldaas, Rohini Terry, and Edzard Ernst. “The Efficacy of Phaseolus Vulgaris as a Weight-Loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials.” British Journal of Nutrition. Cambridge University Press (CUP), May 18, 2011. doi: 10.1017/s0007114511001516
“Scientific Opinion on the Substantiation of a Health Claim Related to a Standardised Aqueous Extract from White Kidney Bean (Phaseolus Vulgaris L.) and Reduction of Body Weight pursuant to Article 13(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.” EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA), July 14, 2014.
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About the Author

ChuckH
I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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