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While waiting for a friend to show up for coffee, I ran into an ad in a local newspaper. I was thrilled to find the exact ad online! It's for a medication that claims to target and eliminate belly fat, supposedly developed by the well-known cosmetic surgeon, Frank Ryan.

Normally, I just disregard these things, but this one included references to trials and even had footnotes! My curiosity was piqued... Some claims in the ad include:

Abdominal fat is the most stubborn fat to reduce and it is also the most hazardous fat to health. Abdominal fat produces destructive hormones that spread throughout the body. A clinical study has shown that Dr. Frank Ryan’s Abdominal Fat Reducer can reduce your pot belly without changing your diet or physical activity.

Here, the mechanism by which this works is suggested:

How does Dr. Frank Ryan’s Abdominal Fat Reducer work? Paul Klingaman, Executive Director of Endless Youth and Life explained. Klingaman revealed, "It was found in a number of research studies on laboratory animals and later confirmed in human studies, that a substance called Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) decreases abdominal fat in three ways:

[... three ways are listed ...]

... Dr. Frank Ryan's Abdominal Fat Reducer contains the effective dose of CLA.

Continuing on, we have this quote which ends by citing three footnotes:

Studies have shown that Dr. Frank Ryan's Abdominal Fat Reducer ingredients increase the rate of metabolism, which reduces both surface and intestinal abdominal fat and helps inhibit future formation of these abdominal fats. 3, 4, 5

  1. AMJ Clin Nuff. 1989 Jan; 49(1):44-50
  2. AMJ Physol. 1995 Oct: (4pt1):E671-8
  3. Metabolism 2000 Jan: 49:101-7

From my high school health class (which, admittedly, was about 10 years ago), I recall being taught that one couldn't "target" specific fat in the body to burn with exercise. This is using medication, however reading about a method to specifically remove abdominal fat has me skeptical.

Is there evidence to support that the use of CLA in Frank Ryan's Abdominal Fat Reducer (or any of the other ingredients -- they cite Green Tea extract as well) will target and reduce specifically abdominal fat without one changing diet or exercise habits?


Notes

In searching for "AMJ," I was able to find

  • Academy of Management Journal (not likely)
  • Australasian Medical Journal (I was hopeful, but their archives only go back to 2009, so I'm thinking they aren't the AMJ responsible for a 1989 publication).
  • Oddly enough, in continuing to search for this, I ran across this blog post, supposedly written by a doctor, who was also examining this full page advertisement! Her conclusion was not very hopeful.

The Metabolism article has to do with caffeine responses in women... I'm not sure if this implies that caffeine is one of the ingredients in this product, or if they cite the study for some other reason.

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Volume 49 of American Journal of Medicine (AJM) dates from 1971. –  user951 Jan 7 '12 at 16:38
    
"AMJ Clin Nuff. 1989 Jan; 49(1):44-50" should read "AMJ Clin Nutr. 1989 Jan; 49(1):44-50". It is another article about the little known wonder drug, caffeine. –  Oddthinking Jan 7 '12 at 17:51
    
What are you hoping to learn that the blog article didn't tell you? –  Oddthinking Jan 7 '12 at 17:53
    
@oddthinking: while I targeted this, I would love a blanket answer that definitely addressed whether any medication is able to target specific areas of the body for fat reduction. But I'll settle for the answer below that CLA has no chance in hell of getting a guy to lose 21 pounds in 6 weeks. –  Hendy Jan 9 '12 at 2:30
    
@Hendy Then the answer to that is a rather trivial “yes” since targeted drugs exist (even if their design is far from trivial). –  Konrad Rudolph Feb 2 '12 at 15:29
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1 Answer

Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1203-11.

Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans:

After adjustment to the median dose of 3.2 g CLA/d, CLA was effective and produced a reduction in fat mass for the CLA group alone (0.05 +/- 0.05 kg/wk; P<0.001) and for the CLA group compared with placebo (0.09 +/- 0.08 kg/wk; P<0.001)

CONCLUSION: Given at a dose of 3.2 g/d, CLA produces a modest loss in body fat in humans.

With numbers like that, I can easily see how the copywriters missed including that more recent study in their ad. Nine weeks per pound, five months per kilogram is indeed a modest rate of weight loss.

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1  
This is what I was going to write about. Technically the research supports the effect, however it is nowhere near real world relevant. –  Illotus Jan 7 '12 at 23:42
    
Two comments: 1) This is definitely in the right direction, however Frank Ryan's product specifically states that it can target belly fat. I'm curious as to whether such a targeted effect is possible. 2) 0.05kg/wk +/- 0.05kg/wk and 0.09kg/wk +/- 0.08 kg/wk seems like a pretty huge variation! And yes, 0.2 lbs/week doesn't correlate well with the pictured guy in the ad who says he lost 21 lbs in 30 days. –  Hendy Jan 8 '12 at 15:56
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