While it took a while for science to connect these two particular dots, the link between stress and weight gain is now pretty well established. Researchers now believe that this is due to the effects of a hormone called cortisol, which rises in response to stressful situations and which signals to the body that it needs to store energy as fat, particularly abdominal fat. The theory is that if a person can learn to control or lower their stress levels, they will not only engage in less “comfort eating”, they will also lower levels of this hormone and make it easier for the body to lose weight. This can help them lower the risk of developing diseases like diabetes or high cholesterol.
This is where the tree barks come into play.
What about the tree barks?
There is a patented blend of extracts from the Houpou Magnolia and the Amu Cork Tree. Both Asian natives that have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years, according to Nutra Ingredients USA. In TCM, it was believed to help treat a “stagnation of qi”. In modern times, we are using it to help control the chronic stress which is part and parcel of modern life. Researchers believe that the effectiveness of this blend comes from two active ingredients in particular: berberine from the magnolia and honokoi from the cork tree. Both of these compounds, in clinical studies, have proven to help with stress and anxiety.
This blend was created in 2000 by Next Pharmaceuticals, which has many anti-stress supplements to its credit, but was recently approved by Health Canada (in 2013). This says a lot about this supplement’s usefulness in and of itself: the process of getting HC approval is a strenuous one and requires a substantial burden of proof about quality, safety, efficacy and research published in peer-reviewed journals. To its credit, this blend remains the only such supplement for weight gain and stress to receive HC approval.
What Research Has Found
The blend of the Houpou Magnolia and the Amu Cork Tree gained approval under strenuous Canadian standards – and popularity on the US market – partly because of the repeated research which has found a link between it and positive patient outcomes.
Below are some examples.
- In a 2013 study, later published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers studied 56 participants. These volunteers were athletes whose bodies were constantly under the stress of their training. Half of the group was given a supplement of this barks blend for 4 weeks while the other half was given a placebo. The athletes were tested, before and after, for mood state and cortisol levels in their saliva. At the end of the study, it was found that the athletes who were given the supplement had much lower levels of cortisol in their systems as well as reduced feelings of stress, tension, anger, depression and fatigue.
- The Human Clinicals site reports a 2008 study published in the Nutrition Journal, the blend was used on a group of overweight, premenopausal women with self-reported histories of weight gain through stress eating. The women were tested for mood, sleep issues, appetite and cortisol levels. At the end of the 6 weeks, it was found that while the supplement had not affected appetite or sleep, it had reduced both perceived anxiety and cortisol levels.
- Finally, the Human Clinicals site also notes a 2006 study from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, obese patients taking it were also found to have lower levels stress, increased weight loss and decreased cortisol levels by the end of the study.
In short, this appears to be one supplement that does have scientific backing for its claims. And these claims are important, since according to the National Institute of Health, 2 in 3 Americans are now overweight or obese, putting themselves at a far greater risk for serious conditions like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, joint disease and certain forms of cancer.
The researchers writing about the barks blend have declared it to be a worthwhile supplement to take for those whose weight problems largely stem from using food to cope with chronic stress. For those who want to achieve weight loss goals in a natural, healthy manner, it is certainly worth talking to a naturopathic doctor or similar professional about supplementing with it in order to support a weight loss regimen and reduce the risk of these serious chronic conditions.
About the Author
Brian W. Wu holds a PhD from the University of Southern California and is a current 4th year medical student. He has been freelance writing for over 4 years and aims to make health an engaging conversation. Learn more about him at his personal site and his project Health Stories for Kids.