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Can you use forskolin for weight loss?


The process of losing weight can be incredibly difficult. Studies have shown that only 15% of people succeed with traditional weight loss methods. Those who fail tend to look for solutions in dietary supplements and medicinal plants. These include forskolin, a natural herbal compound positioned as an effective weight loss supplement. In this article, we will examine forskolin and the scientific evidence available about it in detail.

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What is forskolin?

Forskolin is the active ingredient contained in the root of Coleus forskolia (tropical mint), a tropical plant belonging to the mint family. In traditional phytotherapy, this plant has been used for centuries to treat various disorders and diseases. Modern scientific research has confirmed that some of these benefits are true, or at least not unreasonable. As a weight-loss supplement, forskolin found its popularity in the U.S. after its properties were actively discussed on the television show "The Dr. Oz Show" in January 2014.

Forskolin is the active ingredient contained in the root of the Coleus forskolia plant. Retailers position it as a weight loss supplement.

How does forskolin promote weight loss?

Many studies have been conducted on forskolin's effect on fat metabolism. For the most part, these have been laboratory and animal studies, so the results do not apply to humans. Simply put, forskolin stimulates the release of stored fat from fat cells. The same thing happens when the body needs to use body fat as energy. The release of stored fat by itself is not enough for weight loss. This process must necessarily be accompanied by a caloric deficit. In other words, to lose weight, energy expenditure (the number of calories burned) must exceed energy intake (the number of calories consumed).

Weight loss supplements maintain a caloric deficit through the following effects:

  • Appetite suppression.
  • Reducing the efficiency of digestion.
  • Increased metabolic rate (fat burning).

As far as we know, forskolin does not cause any of this. However, human clinical trials have produced some promising results. Forskolin can help reduce fat while maintaining muscle mass.

Forskolin stimulates the release of stored fat from fat cells, but such an effect does not necessarily lead to weight loss.

Does forskolin really promote weight loss?

So far, there have been only two small studies on the effects of forskolin on weight loss in humans. Both were randomized controlled trials, the gold standard in human research. The largest of the two trials involved 30 obese men who were randomly divided into two groups:

  • Group that received forskolin: 15 people received 250 mg of Coleus forskolia extract (10% forskolin) twice daily for 12 weeks.
  • Placebo group: 15 people received the same amount of placebo tablets.

Compared to the placebo group, the subjects who received forskolin lost much more fat, while their total body weight remained unchanged.

So how did the body composition of the subjects change over the course of the study?

In addition to the effect described above, there was a significant increase in free testosterone levels in the group receiving forskolin. Testosterone stimulates the release of fat from fat cells, which may partially explain the decrease in fat mass that occurred during the study. Increased testosterone levels also lead to an increase in muscle mass. By the way, in the group that received forskolin, there was a tendency to increase lean muscle mass, but the differences were not statistically significant.

In another study, 23 overweight women received the same amount of Coleus forskolia (500 mg/day) for 12 weeks. In contrast to the previous study, in this case forskolin supplementation did not cause any significant reduction in fat mass. However, the results suggest that forskolin can prevent further weight gain.

Thus, taking forskolin supplements for 12 weeks does not promote weight loss, but can potentially improve body composition in men and prevent further weight gain in women. But despite what has been said, the available data are insufficient to make any recommendations. More research is needed.

Two studies have been conducted on the effects of forskolin on weight loss. In one of them, taking the supplement resulted in a significant decrease in fat mass, but body weight remained unchanged.

Other advantages of forskolin supplements

In traditional phytotherapy, Coleus forskolii (a plant containing forskolin) has been used for centuries. It is used to treat conditions such as heart disease, asthma, bronchitis and constipation. In addition, forskolin supplements help:

  • Expand the airways, alleviating asthma symptoms.
  • Increase bone mineral density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Stimulate testosterone production, which helps maintain muscle mass.
  • Laboratory and animal studies note a number of other benefits of this supplement.

Bottom line: Forskolin has been used in traditional phytotherapy for centuries. Little evidence suggests that it helps relieve asthma symptoms, increases bone mineral density, and stimulates testosterone production.

Dosage and side effects

The standard dosage of forskolin is 100-250 mg of Coleus forskolia (10% forskolin) twice a day. To date, no side effects of forskolin have been identified in humans. However, the safety profile of this supplement is not yet fully understood.

Should you try forskolin?

Given the available data, it is safe to say that forskolin does not lead to weight loss. However, one study has shown that in men, the supplement can increase testosterone levels and improve body composition by stimulating fat reduction and muscle gain.

Nevertheless, there is too little data available to draw any meaningful conclusions. In general, you should be skeptical of any weight loss supplements. Some of them look promising in the early stages of research but turn out to be completely useless according to larger and better trials.

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Philip Scott, Editor in Chief
Written: 21.10.2021
Edited: 07.08.2022
Philip is responsible for the selection of authors and the quality of our materials.
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