The rapid growth of the weight loss movement over the last five or so decades has unleashed a sea of magical solutions to obesity with new ones coming up every day. Today, we are going to look at vinpocetine as one of the newer kids on the weight loss supplement block.
I’ll take us through its history (which is often where the rumors of a plant or compound’s efficacy begins) and whether the bold claims of its weight loss power has any scientific basis. At the end of this text, you should know whether taking a vinpocetine for weight management is worth your while.
What is Vinpocetine?
Vinpocetine is a synthetic compound derived from vincamine, an alkaloid found in the leaves of the Vinca minor plant, commonly known as the periwinkle plant. For centuries, it has been used in traditional medicine for its potential cognitive and neuroprotective properties including in the treatment of stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, dementia, and memory loss. Vinpocetine is believed to enhance cerebral blood flow, increase glucose utilization in the brain, and exhibit antioxidant effects.
While vinpocetine is primarily known for its potential cognitive benefits, some proponents have in recent years claimed that it may also aid in weight loss. They argue that vinpocetine can boost metabolism, suppress appetite, and facilitate fat burning. What does the available scientific evidence say about this though?
Scientific Research on Vinpocetine and Weight Loss
Vinpocetine has for decades been studied for its role in cognitive health. Its place in weight loss however remains on the fringes – and the quantity of research in this respect, reflects just that. The little studies that exist involve animals.
One of these is a 2019 study that looked at the effect of vinpocetine supplementation on mice fed on either normal fat or a high-fat diet. Researchers found that in both diets, vinpocetine blocked weight gain. It also reduced the size and mass of fat cells which indicated it could support the treatment of obesity.
Research published in 2022 showed vinpocetine could hold promise for the treatment of obesity. This study was significant because of its approach. Scientists examined an expansive database of FDA approved compounds and shortlisted just nine that exhibited a reduction of fat content in overweight roundworms. Further screening reduced these to just four compounds – vinpocetine was one of these. In fact, vinpocetine was one of only two compounds that was associated with fat loss in all use cases.
Despite these two studies, I remain unconvinced of vinpocetine’s abilities as a weight loss agent. The reliance on animal studies makes the extrapolation of the findings to human weight loss as speculative at best. I hold that there is currently insufficient evidence to support the claim vinpocetine directly promotes weight loss in humans.
Side Effects and Dosage
As far as weight loss supplements go, vinpocetine would easily qualify as one of the most benign. It has such an impressive safety profile that researchers have even been looking at other therapeutic benefits that could be derived from it.
That said, in extremely rare occasions, some users on high vinpocetine dosages may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort, including stomach cramps, nausea, indigestion, dizziness, flushing, headache, and sleep disturbances. In even rarer instances, users may have high blood pressure, and bleeding.
Despite its stellar safety record, vinpocetine can be dangerous for one demographic – pregnant women. One landmark study found it carried a significant risk of causing miscarriage or other fetal harm.
As far as weight loss goes, vinpocetine research and use is still in its infancy. Therefore, no weight loss dosage has been established. However, weight loss supplements typically range from 5 to 30 mg vinpocetine per day.
There is a chance that vinpocetine may indeed have a positive effect on weight loss. But as at this moment, there is no hard and fast evidence to support that. The research is scarce and exclusively involves animals. More rigorous and controlled studies involving human participants are needed to establish a definitive link to weight management. For now, I’d propose a hard pass.