Does Forskolin Actually Work?

Losing weight can be extremely difficult.
Studies show that only 15% of people succeed using conventional weight loss methods.
Those who fail are more likely to seek solutions like dietary supplements and herbal medicines.
One of them is called forskolin, a natural plant compound claimed to be an impressive weight loss supplement.
This article takes a detailed look at forskolin and the science behind it.

What is Forskolin?

Forskolin is an active compound found in the roots of the Indian coleus (Coleus forskohlii), a tropical plant related to mint.

For centuries, this plant has been used in traditional herbal medicine to treat various conditions and diseases.

Modern scientific research has now shown that some of these health benefits may be true, or at least plausible.

As a weight-loss supplement, forskolin gained popularity in the US after being featured on the Dr. Oz Show in January 2014.

How Does Forskolin Help With Weight Loss?

Many studies have investigated the effects of forskolin on fat metabolism.

Most of them are test-tube experiments or animal studies, so the result may not be applicable to humans.

Put simply, forskolin stimulates the release of stored fat from fat cells. The same thing happens whenever the body needs to use body fat for energy.

On its own, the release of stored fat is not enough to promote weight loss – it needs to be accompanied by a calorie deficit.

In other words, for weight loss to happen, energy expenditure (calories out) must exceed energy intake (calories in).

Weight loss supplements can support a calorie deficit by:

  • Suppressing appetite.
  • Reducing efficiency of digestion.
  • Increasing metabolic rate (fat burning).

As far as we know, forskolin does not cause any of these things to happen.

However, clinical trials in humans have provided some promising results. It appears that forskolin may promote fat loss while preserving muscle mass.

Does Forskolin Actually Help You Lose Weight?

So far, only two small studies have investigated the effects of forskolin on weight loss in humans.

Both of them were randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of scientific research in humans.

The largest trial recruited 30 overweight and obese men, who were then randomly assigned to two groups:

  • Forskolin group: 15 men were supplemented with 250 mg of Coleus forskohlii extract (10% forskolin) twice a day for 12 weeks.
  • Placebo group: 15 men took the same amount of dummy pills (placebo).

Compared to the placebo group, men who took forskolin lost significantly more fat, but total body weight did not change.