Guarana has acquired a near cult following as an energy drink ingredient and as a component of some alcoholic beverages. Not surprising that guarana and weight loss is such a fascinating subject. I’m almost certain that anyone that’s part of the guarana drink fan club will be ecstatic to learn guarana could be a weight loss helper.
Irrespective of your views on guarana as a beverage though, grab your favorite drink and indulge me as I deep dive into the weight loss world of this Amazon plant. I've been doing some research on the topic and am excited to share with you what I've learned. We'll unravel its secrets, explore the research and determine if it truly lives up to its weight loss claims.
Let's get started!
What is Guarana
Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a plant native to and that primarily grows in the Amazon rainforest basin. It has been used for centuries by indigenous people for its stimulating properties. Guarana seeds contain a high concentration of caffeine, making it a potent natural stimulant. In fact, it has one of the highest caffeine contents among all plants. Much higher than the plant most synonymous with caffeine – the coffee bean.
Guarana seeds are usually ground into a powder then used to make beverages, food flavor and other products. The caffeine in guarana is released more slowly compared to coffee, providing a sustained energy boost. Apart from caffeine, it contains other compounds such as theobromine, catechins and proanthocyanidins that have been shown to have stimulant and antioxidant effects. You can call guarana one of nature's best pick-me-ups.
There is a widespread belief that, due to its high caffeine content, guarana aids weight loss. Belief does not always translate to proof. So it should not be too hard to see whether these weight loss claims are founded.
Scientific Research on Guarana’s Impact on Weight Loss
Scarcity of Research
While guarana has long been recognized as a powerful natural stimulant, claims on its weight loss power have been relatively recent. There is not a large amount of research on guarana and weight loss.
Where studies do exist, they are more than likely to involve mice and other mammals. Human studies are few and that is a bit of a bummer. Even where they exist, the studies involve guarana combined with another compound.
It’s not all bad news though. There is a good reason why animal studies exist – results observed in other mammals are often not starkly different from those seen in humans subjected to similar clinical trials.
Few but Near Unanimous
One thing that’s solidly in favor of guarana’s weight loss proponents is that the few studies almost unanimously indicate a positive correlation to weight loss.
We kick things off with a study published in the Phytotherapy Research journal in 2019. Researchers fed Wistar rats with a low fat and high fat diet with or without guarana supplementation for 18 weeks. They found that guarana prevented weight gain and insulin resistance in rats on a high fat diet.
Next, one of the rare human studies. In this instance, 54 overweight subjects completed an 8-week study where they were placed on either a placebo or a guarana-containing herbal supplementation.
The herbal supplement combined guarana, Ma Huang and other ingredients. It comprised 240 mg caffeine and 72 mg ephedrine alkaloids daily. Published in 2001, the study found that subjects on the herbal supplement experience greater weight loss, fat loss and waistline reduction.
While this indicated guarana may have a positive impact on weight loss, it leaves questions on whether guarana would have a near similar effect on its own.
Corroborated by Caffeine Research
If you have concerns about the thin research supporting guarana’s ability to drive weight loss, you could perhaps find solace in the enormous number of studies on caffeine and weight loss. It is after all the high caffeine content that is at the heart of the health benefits guarana is claimed to possess.
And nearly all of these numerous studies show caffeine does support weight loss and fat reduction. This is usually attributed to caffeine’s ability to boost metabolism, energy expenditure and fat oxidation while suppressing appetite.
As with any substance containing such a high amount of a powerful stimulant, guarana does come with some potential side effects. Adverse reactions associated with guarana use include headache and dry mouth.
Due to its high caffeine content, it may also cause agitation, tremors, confusion, anxiety, sleep disruption, dehydration, increased heart rate and hypertension. Guarana may adversely interact with certain medications such as blood thinners. It can be addictive so it is important to use it in moderation.
It's always a good idea to start with the lowest effective dose and gradually increase if needed. Based on results of existing studies, safe daily dosage ranges from 200 mg to 1,000 mg per day.
Guarana-related weight loss research is still in its infancy but does show a positive effect on weight loss. This appears to be corroborated by studies on caffeine and weight loss. More studies, especially involving humans, are needed to confirm current findings.
As with any supplement, approach guarana with caution and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.. Guarana may provide a little boost along the way and should be only one part of a healthy weight loss program. Focus on creating sustainable lifestyle changes that promote overall well-being.