Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) is also referred to as ‘Seville orange’. It grows on very pretty looking ornamental fruit trees that are fairly common in many parts of the world, especially in the American southwest. As far as the fruit itself goes, it’s orange in colour and ostensibly looks quite sweet but in actual reality is remarkably bitter due in part, to the fact that its acid content is very high. Many people are fond of taking its peels and cooking them to make high quality marmalade.
This fruit has been used since ancient times in Chinese medicinal concoctions as well as amongst the indigenous tribes of South America (centered around the Amazonian jungle). It has traditionally being used as a natural remedy for illnesses of the digestive tract such as constipation, nausea as well as many other forms of indigestion.
Weight loss properties
Bitter Orange rose to prominence as a potent weight loss tool when its peel was extracted and added to herbal weight loss supplements back in 2004.
Before Citrus Aurantium was discovered as a popular weight loss product, ephedrine was commonly used for the same purpose, however ephedrine was banned due to its propensity of increasing blood pressure, palpitations increased heart beat and anxiety along with a host of other side effects. Its place was taken by Bitter Orange and now it is the mainstay of many ‘ephedrine free’ weight loss supplements that are currently available today due it its ability to suppress the appetite while increasing the metabolic rate of the body.
How it acts on the body
Its supplements contain a substance called ‘synephrine’. This substance stimulates the nervous system and targets certain receptors in the body that in turn force fat cells to break down their accumulated fat layers and release it in the blood stream as a form of energy. They also help give satiety signals to the body that makes you feel full even in the middle of a meal, effectively curbing your appetite and preventing you from further caloric intake.
Trails and usage
In a six week study, two different groups of people were chosen. One was given a placebo while another was given a weight loss supplement that contained as its key ingredient ‘Citrus Aurantium’
The researchers reported a 1.4 kg (approximately 3.5 lb) weight loss in the groups that was given the supplement group while the alternate group, that was given only a placebo lost only 0.9 kg (approximately 2 lb).
In another clinical trial it has been seen that the key compound in Bitter orange ‘synephrine’ curbs the appetite while simultaneously increasing the metabolic rate thereby the body expends more energy. This is because the alpha and beta adrenergic receptors in the body help stimulate the release of fat from its deposits in the body. (Source).
Safer than Ephedrine?
The reason why Bitter Orange extract has been so widely marketed is because it is supposed to work in much the same way as ephedrine but without its myriad side effects. However as yet there is insufficient data to conclude if that really is the case. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes that there have been incidents where ostensibly healthy people have suffered from fainting spells and even strokes after taking supplements contained synephrine. In fact Bitter orange (synephrine) is considered a banned substance by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Citrus Aurantium contains substances that have the potential to both speed up the heart rate and raise blood pressure, which is why using it as a dietary supplement should be undertaken after through consideration of the side effects, especially when combined with caffeine. While this combination may certainly boost the weight loss properties of both but at a cost, which would mean a corresponding increase in side effects. If you already suffer from high blood pressure and/or have a heart condition you should avoid this product or take it only after prior consultation with your health care advisor. This holds especially true if your are already on anti blood pressure medicine since this substance is known to interfere with heart rate medication
Due to lack of identifiable data and studies regarding safety evidence, pregnant or lactating women should aim to avoid products that contain bitter orange.
There is no specific dosage that has been clearly earmarked as optimal so it is advisable to go by what the manufacturer’s instruction on every specific supplement pill. This is because almost all such pills contain varying levels of Bitter orange mixed with other weight loss substances. As a general rule effective weight loss has been shown with a daily synephrine dose of 32 mg.
The side effects of Citrus Aurantium’ extracts, while not being as severe, are not really all that different from the banned substance ‘ephedrine. On the other hand its weight loss properties when taken in conjunction with Caffeine are definitely quite potent. The final verdict would be to take this supplement only after a though medical check up to ensure that you do not suffer from any blood pressure and heart related illnesses.