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Dina and Carol, both in their 40s, swear by the bee pollen diet. They dropped a significant number of tough-to-lose pounds and enjoyed renewed energy levels. Are the benefits of bee pollen too good to be true?
Defining the bee pollen diet
Everyone knows that the first step to losing weight is to reduce calories, and that's where bee pollen comes in. "Ingesting bee pollen curbs cravings," says Dr. John Salerno, a NYC physician and pioneer in the field of complementary medicine.
"The bee pollen diet consists of adding in fresh bee pollen to the foods you consume or by taking a bee pollen supplement," adds Dr. David Dragoo, health expert at Money Crashers. The supplement is the more common option for those seeking weight loss benefits.
Shanna Israel, holistic lifestyle expert and founder of Vertical Wellness, explains that the meaning of "bee pollen diet" varies. "Pure bee pollen is known as a 'perfect food' and can have health benefits if you are not allergic. Some people relate a bee pollen diet with weight loss supplements, but there are many people that use pure bee pollen in smoothies to get the health benefits of added vitamins, minerals and proteins. It depends on whom you ask."
The power of pure bee pollen
"Bee pollen has been purported to speed up the metabolic process and caloric load," says Dr. Salerno, "and one of the components of bee pollen, [the amino acid] phenylalanine, acts as an appetite suppressant."
As a product of nature, pure bee pollen has a high nutritional value and contains the essential components of life. "People have reported losing weight by taking bee pollen, along with improved mood and energy levels and better digestion," says Dr. Dragoo, "and it has also been used as a skin protectant."
Israel adds that pure bee pollen is packed with vitamins. "Various doctors and practitioners have used bee pollen for acne, rejuvenation of skin cells and helping allergies," she says. "People have reported that bee pollen has helped them with hay fever, seasonal allergies, energy and migraines."
Bee pollen supplements are less than pure
There are many brands of bee pollen supplements on the market, and the contents of their products vary. "For the most part, they are made of bee pollen, fiber, lotus seed, Chinese yam and wolfberry fruit," says Dr. Dragoo.
"Like any supplement, there are various ingredients that vary with each brand," explains Israel. "Some supplements add ingredients that are potentially harmful. If you are looking for pure bee pollen that does not include these additional ingredients, you can find a great selection at your local farmers market."
Zi Xiu Tang, the industry's most prominent name, touts the product on its website as a "high-quality bee pollen supplement" that will "satisfy you with the surprising results." According to the site, the bee pollen supplement contains an active ingredient that can "penetrate deeply into the cells… to eradicate fat out of the body and improve the human endocrinology and small vessels to change the figure of an overweight person."
The Zi Xiu Tang site also claims that "in addition to removing fat from the body, it also improves the micro-circulation function and has a beautifying effect that clears the skin of blemishes." Removing fat from the body? Sounds too good to be true.
So, what's the catch?
"Recently, the FDA found that Zi Xiu Tang contained sibutramine, a prescription medicine that was removed from the market for safety reasons," warns, Dr. Salerno. "This drug is known to increase blood pressure and pulse rate and can cause stroke or heart attack."
Additionally, says obesity physician and clinical exercise specialist Dr. Charlie Seltzer, "Bee pollen can increase the risk of bleeding if used in combination with blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin). It is also possible that bee pollen can increase uterine stimulation and should thus be avoided by pregnant women."
The frightening list of cons doesn't end there. "[Bee pollen supplements] should never be consumed for a long period of time," says Dr. Dragoo. "Some supplements may cause dehydration, and others have been found to contain small amounts of certain heavy metals, which are very dangerous to the body."
Supplements aside, pure bee pollen is not for everyone either. "People can be extremely allergic to bee pollen," cautions Israel. "Make sure to test a little bit before taking a full serving. Reactions can be severe."
Use common sense
"The jury is still out on the effectiveness of the bee pollen diet," says Israel. "However, if there are known ingredients that can be harmful, it's not worth doing." Decreasing your intake of calories while increasing activity levels is still the safest and most effective way to lose weight.
"There are no scientifically confirmed benefits of consuming bee pollen," says Dr. Dragoo. In addition to offering weight-loss benefits, "it has been touted as being able to help with a variety of conditions, ranging from asthma, allergies, controlling cholesterol levels and even to offset the effects of chemotherapy — but there is no proof of any of that. If it does work for some folks, the connection between consuming bee pollen and impacting whatever ails them is not supported by science."
The bee pollen diet "simply does not work," says Dr. Seltzer. "It is a waste of money and may be dangerous for certain people. No fads or gimmicks work in the long run. A healthy lifestyle is the only way to maintain a healthy weight."