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updated: 1/16/2013 10:02 AM

Ask the Nutritionist: Discovering the benefits of green coffee bean extract and steel-cut oats

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Q. Would green coffee bean extract help me kick-start my new weight loss effort?

A. Green coffee bean extract has gotten a lot of publicity as a weight loss aid recently, but a 2011 analysis of the research on the topic found just a few small clinical trials that lasted from 4 to 12 weeks. The studies indicate GCBE may promote weight loss of one-half to one pound per week, yet we have no data about what would happen to weight if people were to use GCBE beyond 12 weeks, or what happened to the participants' weight once they stopped taking the supplement.

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In these studies, even those on placebo lost some weight, which suggests that you can also get a motivating start to weight loss by other methods. For example, you could make a substantial cut in your calories from one particular source (perhaps regular soft drinks, sweetened tea, high-calorie coffee drinks or large amounts of juice). This is not as easy as popping a supplement. But steps like this help you lose weight and form the foundation for new habits you'll need to lose weight and maintain the loss.

If GCBE works for weight loss, it may be due to a natural compound called chlorogenic acid, which is higher in green coffee beans than roasted beans. However, when ConsumerLab.com tested GCBE products, four of the eight samples had less (none to 80 percent) chlorogenic acid than the extracts used in the studies. So far, it seems to be a relatively safe product in short-term use, but if you want to try it, check with your doctor to make sure there are no specific risks for you.

Realistically, though, considering how the cost adds up, you might invest the same money in a fitness class, some walking shoes or a session with a Registered Dietitian for a kick-start with more lasting benefits.

Q. Is steel-cut oatmeal more nutritious than other kinds of oatmeal?

A. Despite its super-nutritious image, steel-cut oats are similar in nutrition to other forms of oatmeal that don't contain added sugar or sodium.

All forms of oatmeal are whole-grain, containing the same vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber (including the soluble fiber shown to lower blood cholesterol). Both steel-cut and rolled oats are classified as low in glycemic index (GI), an estimate of how a carbohydrate food affects blood sugar.

Traditional oatmeal is referred to as rolled oats, because the whole-grain oats are softened by steam and flattened on rollers to form flakes. Steel-cut oats, also known as Irish or Scotch oatmeal, are oats cut by steel blades into small pieces without being flattened. Quick-cooking (one-minute) and instant oatmeal are steamed, cut and flattened in progressively smaller pieces to cook more quickly.

The real differences between these kinds of oatmeal are their cooking times and textures. Steel-cut takes longest to cook and has a heartier, chewier texture. Instant oatmeal may seem lower in fiber than other forms when you check label information, but that's only because a single packet usually makes a smaller serving.

The nutritional disadvantage of flavored instant oatmeal is that in equal size servings, the sugar, sodium and calorie content is often substantially higher than other oatmeal options.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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