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Tests turn up adulterated green coffee bean extracts

By Hank Schultz , 07-Dec-2012

Research conducted by ingredient developer Futureceuticals has demonstrated the existence of adulterated green coffee bean extract in the marketplace and has also teased out the probable adulterants.

Green coffee bean is a weight management ingredient that has generated a lot of interest lately.  A study published in the January 2012 in the Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity journal turned in some eye-popping results. The 16 adults who participated, all considered obese by BMI measurements, lost an average of almost 18 pounds over the course of the 12-week study, amounting to about 10% of their overall body weight and 4.4% of their overall body fat.

This and other results got the attention of that most influential of ingredient popularizers—Dr. Mehmet Oz, who featured the ingredient on his TV show in early September.

The marketplace reacted in a similar fashion as it has to other ingredients that Dr Oz has featured, like astaxanthin, raspberry keytones and Garcinia cambogia.  Demand soared, and a flurry of new products featuring green coffee bean appeared on shelves and, in particular, online.

What was in the bottle?

What exactly was in those products was of interest to the Futureceuticals staff, especially when they saw the prices being quoted for some of these extracts in the marketplace.

“What we were seeing were some suspiciously low prices in green coffee extracts out there on the market,” John Hunter, general manager of FutureCeuticals, told NutraIngredients-USA.

“We know what the going rates for commodity materials.  Green coffee just has an expense unto itself as a commodity. It can only go so low.  When you combine that with processing, the ethanol or water extraction, you go through the algorithm and you come up with a reasonable price.

“We were seeing prices below what was reasonable,” Hunter said.

Spiked with CGA

Green coffee bean extracts are standardized to the marker chemical chlorogenic acid (CGA).  As has been noted with other commodities subject to economic adulteration, shady dealers have apparently spiked their low-quality offerings with this marker chemical to enable them to clear the first bar of testing.

 “The conversations that we were having with suppliers we found that it may the case of some of the cheaper materials were being adulterated by extracting chlorogenic acid from mulberry leaves or coffee bean plant leaves themselves. These are cheaper sources of CGA. This was being added back into the green coffee bean extracts to reduce the price,” said Brad Evers, director of marketing of FutureCeuticals.

FutureCeuticals , based in Momence, IL, purchased two such extracts on the open market, one of which only cost $18 per kilo.  (Hunter said a more reasonable price for a quality green coffee bean extract would be  in the high $60s to $80 a kilo.) Boris Nemzer, PhD, Futurecueticals’ director of research and development, subjected the two purchased green coffee bean extracts and Futureceuticals’ own extract to a battery of tests, including FTIR, UV and HPLC. He tested for chlorogenic acid levels and caffeine content.

His results showed that one of the purchased extracts consisted of 15% non green coffee bean material, and the other came in at 20%.  Possible adulterants included CGA derived from the aforementioned mulberry and coffee plant leaves as well as from bamboo.

Trying to level the playing field

Hunter said the company conducted the research with the aim at providing better information to the marketplace, and to try to level the playing field between responsible suppliers and companies that are pushing adulterated product.  With such a wide variance in price, the possibility certainly exists that some formulators looking to cash in on a trend are knowingly buying bad product.

Which brings up the flip side of the Dr Oz Effect.  After being mentioned on the show, the demand for ingredients ramps up faster than botanical supply chains can respond.  Demand for astaxanthin, for example, increased almost ten fold after its appearance on the show in 2011.  This makes a wide open playing field for economic adulterers.

Hunter said confusion in the marketplace could account for the existence of some the of the adulterated product.  But as for outright collusion, Hunter wasn’t willing to go there.

“There may be people out there who don’t care. I would prefer to believe that they are just out there trying to get the best price and they don’t know,” Hunter said.

“We need to assure in our industry that materials that claim to be something actually are that something. We all know that there are guys with white hats and guys with black hats in this industry.”

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