Science-backed slimming supplement hoping to rival diet drugs

Related tags Placebo group Obesity

A Swedish R&D company has launched a slimming pill based on a
green tea concentrate that it claims is almost as effective as the
weight loss drug Xenical, without similar side effects, writes
Dominique Patton.

Bringwell International says two human clinical trials have found its product, called CUUR, to reduce weight in moderately overweight people, also making lifestyle changes, by up to 58 per cent more than a placebo group.

The supplement appears to be about 70-80 per cent as effective as Xenical, the pharmaceutical developed by Roche and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1999, Anders Struksnes, business strategy manager for Bringwell, told

Although Xenical made some €140 million in sales in its first year on the Swedish market, it has severe side effects, including abdominal cramps and diarrhoea, and other diet drugs developed since have failed to prove much more acceptable to consumers.

Nevertheless, in 2002 the market for anti-obesity drugs reached $520 million in the United States, Europe and Japan. More than half of this is in the US, being driven by an obesity epidemic now thought to rival tobacco as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US.

Bringwell's new supplement is made entirely from herbal compounds - yerba mate, the Ayurvedic herb coleus forskohli, betula alba (birch leaves) and a proprietary green tea extract. It was developed by obesity expert Professor Marcin Krotkiewski from Sahlgrenska Academy, the same centre that worked on Xenical.

The company says it has tested each compound individually in animal tests and as a blend in animal and human trials. The green tea extract works in a similar way to Xenical by inhibiting production of the enzyme lipase, which breaks down fat. It also reduces the breakdown of carbohydrates and cholesterol.

"Research on the product has been carried out to meet GCP standards, the same structure of development and research as in the testing of drugs,"​ noted Struksnes."This means that it could be registered as a natural medicine in some markets,"​ he said.

The product was recently tested in a multicentre study on 220 patients and is currently in a phase 3 trial at Sahlgrenska Academy.

In reseach to date, a group of moderately overweight groups on a diet for three months, lost as much as 8.51 kilos when simultaneously taking CUUR while a placebo group following only a diet lost 5.47 kilos. In addition, the CUUR group experienced a significant reduction of LDL cholesterol, appetite and fat mass compared to the placebo diet group.

"It surprised us that the results of the studies on humans would be so positive,"​ says Professor Krotkiewski. "Even a weight reduction of less than 10 per cent would produce great health-related benefits."

Bringwell launched CUUR on the Norway and Sweden markets at the end of last year, and entered Finland this year. So far, it claims to have made sales worth between SK7-10 million (up to €1.08m) in one and half months on the Swedish market.It is now seeking marketing and distribution partners in Europe, the USA and Asia, although the European supplement market could prove a tough prospect in the face of forthcoming regulation on health claims, likely to ban all those related to slimming.

However, Professor Krotkiewski says that CUUR must not be considered as a miracle drug that will alone solve problems of overweight.

"CUUR is a supplement that will lead to faster results, improve the quality and ease the implementation of slimming diets and lifestyle changes."

A Datamonitor report suggests that 230.6 million people across Europe attempted a diet in 2002. Of these, only 3.8 million were expected to succeed in keeping off the weight that they have lost for over a year. An effective product clearly has a large, constant market.

Bringwell, which listed on Stockholm's SME exchange three years ago, also makes a cosmeceutical ingredient, based on the fatty acid CLA.

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