Breaking News

No reliable scientific evidence supports the use of dietary supplements marketed as weight loss and blood pressure aids in viral Facebook posts

CLAIM

Exipure weight loss supplement is scientifically proven to be effective; BPS-5 supplement effectively reduces blood pressure

DETAILS

Inadequate support: There isn’t reliable scientific evidence showing that Exipure effectively promotes weight loss or that BPS-5 is clinically proven to reduce blood pressure.

KEY TAKE AWAY

Many types of supplements or homemade remedies are being promoted on social media platforms. However, a closer examination of such claims often proves that they are greatly exaggerated or unsubstantiated by the scientific evidence. To date, there is no miracle solution for long-term weight control; to effectively achieve this goal generally requires increasing physical activity and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

FULL CLAIM: Exipure weight loss supplement is scientifically proven to be effective; BPS-5 supplement effectively reduces blood pressure

REVIEW

Numerous videos posted to Facebook in May 2022 publicized various health-promoting supplements (see examples here and here), claiming that these could aid in weight loss and reduce high blood pressure (hypertension). It’s unclear who or what organization is behind the posting of these ads on Facebook. Health Feedback previously covered similarly dubious yet viral advertising campaigns on the platform, like these ones about CBD gummies, apple cider vinegar, and “keto diet pills”.

These posts contain links to web domains with innocuous-sounding names, such as thefriendshiphub.com, feeling-grateful-today.com, and naturalbloodpressurefix.com. The examples observed by Health Feedback so far led to websites that promote either a weight loss supplement called Exipure or a blood pressure-lowering supplement called BPS-5. These claims are purportedly posted by someone named Ted Bennett, although it’s unknown if this is the poster’s true identity or simply a pseudonym. These websites urge the user to click on a video, whereupon the user is directed to another page to order the supplement.

However, the bold claims are belied by a disclaimer on both webpages, stating that:

“Statements found on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using our products.”

These pages contain a list of scientific references that allegedly support their claims. Health Feedback examined these studies and found that the claims greatly exaggerated or misrepresented these studies; some weren’t even studies. We detail our findings below.

Exipure is marketed as a weight loss supplement that “dissolves fat overnight”—the product on the website is specifically retailed by BuyGoods, a company located in the U.S. The website cited 14 studies relating to the ingredients in Exipure, namely Perilla frutescens (beefsteak plant), kudzu, holy basil, ginseng, amur cork bark, propolis, quercetin, oleuropein.

Ten of these studies were conducted in animals like rats and mice, while two were performed on cells growing in the laboratory (cell culture). While in vitro and in vivo studies such as these are important in scientific research, they don’t reflect the conditions in the human body. Instead, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in humans are the gold standard for determining if a treatment is effective.

Just one study cited in the list was a RCT. That study examined the effects of an extract of kudzu, or Japanese arrowroot, on weight loss in 81 people with obesity. If we take into account the fact that these 81 people were further divided into three groups (placebo, 200 mg extract, 300 mg extract), we can see that the groups are quite small, with 25 in the placebo group and 28 each in the extract groups.

The study reported that the extract reduced body mass index by reducing fat, however, this effect was only seen in the group taking 300 mg of extract. Exactly how much kudzu extract is present in Exipure is unknown. As a dietary supplement, Exipure is less strictly regulated compared to drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulations. The small size of the study also greatly limits the generalizability of the findings.

Overall, the evidence base for the claim that Exipure is effective at aiding weight loss is largely made up of animal studies that don’t necessarily prove that the compounds work in humans. No large RCT examining the effects of the ingredients in Exipure, either individually or in combination, showing any effect, are available.

BPS-5 is promoted as a “blood pressure and circulation support”, marketed on a website named Golden After 50, using “ingredients provided by Mother Nature herself”. The ingredients listed are hawthorn berry, magnesium, GABA, nattokinase, and grape seed extract. The website appears to be owned by Healthy Trends Worldwide LLC in the U.S.

Like the Exipure supplement, part of the marketing tactic is to draw attention to the naturalness of the ingredients as a positive attribute. This is a common feature of health-related claims known as the naturalistic fallacy or the appeal to nature. In other words, “if something is ‘natural’ then it must be good”. In reality, this is a poor line of reasoning; it’s easy to think of many examples of naturally occurring compounds, such as snake venom, that are harmful.

The website claimed that BPS-5 is supported by 17 studies. Two were actually animal studies, while another was a study in 36 people examining the ability of hawthorn extract and magnesium, individually or in combination, to lower blood pressure. However, the researchers actually reported “no evidence of difference between treatments”, although they suggested that this could be due to the low level of hawthorn extract used.

Another study was a RCT examining the ability of Chlorella, a type of algae, to reduce blood pressure based on its rich GABA content. GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter in humans involved in many biological processes, such as metabolism and immunity. It’s also found in plants and insects. GABA is primarily an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it reduces the likelihood that neurons will fire. It’s unclear how much GABA supplements would alter the level of GABA in the body, and whether such supplements could lead to adverse effects. But we know that excessive GABA can lead to problems, like daytime sleepiness.

The study reported that “GABA-rich Chlorella significantly decreased high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension, and is a beneficial dietary supplement for prevention of the development of hypertension”. However, the study is limited in two ways: firstly, patients were being treated with Chlorella extracts, which contain a mixture of various compounds, including GABA. This would make it difficult to attribute any observed effect specifically to GABA alone. Furthermore, the researchers didn’t quantify the amount of GABA that patients consumed, so we don’t know how well it would compare to the amount of GABA present in BPS-5.

The list of scientific references also include studies that are irrelevant to the claim that BPS-5 lowers blood pressure. One study was a Cochrane review of RCTs that looked at the effect of hawthorn in patients with chronic heart failure; it didn’t examine the effect of hawthorn on hypertension. The same goes for a study about the effect of vitamin C and grape seed extract on people who had coronary artery bypass surgery; a study examining the effect of grape seed compound on oxidative stress that included ten people, which didn’t examine blood pressure; a press release about a study reporting magnesium’s importance for vitamin D absorption, which also didn’t study blood pressure; an editorial, which isn’t the same thing as a study, that made no mention of the ingredients in BPS-5.

One was a study about the biochemical properties of nattokinase, an enzyme found in a Japanese fermented bean dish called natto, that didn’t involve animal or human studies; it didn’t examine the effect of nattokinase on blood pressure. Another was a review about the effects of antioxidants on hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. However, that review concluded by saying that “antioxidant therapy has not been shown to be consistently beneficial […] large clinical trials are needed to document the role of oxidative stress in hypertension and the possible treatment of hypertension with antioxidants.”

In summary, the list of scientific studies that supposedly support the claims made by these companies very quickly dwindles to nothing, when we apply a critical eye to the studies themselves. There isn’t reliable scientific evidence showing that Exipure effectively promotes weight loss or that BPS-5 is clinically proven to reduce blood pressure.